Since creativity is something you produce, not something you do, the question isn't, "How can I be more creative?" The question is, "What do I need to do to produce creative work?" That answer depends greatly on the nature of your work. However, if you work to overcome the following seven barriers, your capacity for producing creative work will go up.
The Seven Great Barriers to Creative Work
- Silos - Every person thinks differently, but no one knows everything. Silos is the barrier of either intentionally or culturally (read: work culture) not asking for or seeking out help, opinions, experience, ideas, or facts from others. This creates a debilitating effect on ideas, motivation, solution-seeking and more. Creative work thrives and dances in interconnected environments.
- No WOO - There are very few work environments that are not social or built around team contribution. Woo is a monicker from Strengthsfinder's personal assessment tool and stands for "Win Others Over"; meaning the quality of likeability. Creative work is highly social work and when WOO is missing, ideas are not shared as freely or as frequently.
- Chicken Little - In the cartoon world, he yells, "The sky is falling." In the real world, Chicken Littles are negative people. They contribute ten negatives to an idea session before even thinking of one positive. This constant focus on what is wrong snaps the oxygen supply from creative work. You have to deal with challenges if problems are going to be solved, but Chicken Littles simply never get to the second part - the solving.
- Run Forrest, Run - This barrier has a Catch 22 title. If there was one thing Forrest Gump did not do, it was run from who he was. He embraced and pursued every aspect of life. However, most people run from the scary, new and risk-laden projects or ideas at work. This is sourced from a variety of things, but one of the strongest sources is a fear of the judgment of others. Creative work requires bold actions and risky moves. Most people run from those things.
- Leftovers - Creative work also requires you to see new things. This is challenging to do when all you see at work are leftovers; projects, ideas, people, concepts, tasks, etc. that were in the fridge yesterday. Very few people are working on brand new, never seen before projects. The standard for most creative work is taking something old, seeing it as new and then making it so.
- My Brain Runneth Over - Fatigue sets in for professionals (in many ways) and creates barriers. One of the most damaging to creative work is the lack of desire to learn more. When learning stops, creative work stops.
- Lost Hope - You can see there is a running theme of emotional content through these barriers - fear, negativity, etc. Lost hope is the strongest emotional barrier and is the nail in the creative work's coffin. Once you decide something great cannot be created, it becomes an absolute certainty. Additionally, once you lose hope that you could ever do creative work, it is decidely so.
Because creative work is so vital to your leadership effectiveness, I encourage you to print this page, give it to someone who knows you well and ask them to give you feedback on whether or not these barriers are negatively impacting your work or personal life.
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