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08/01 Creativity Comment
Risks and Thinking "Out-of-the-Box"
the trick to getting more of those great ideas?
All you have to do is: (a) take greater risks and (b)
increase your ability to “think out-of-the-box.”
These are the most common suggestions.
The problem is: they just aren’t practical
the time we’re adults, we’ve already developed our risk-taking
comfort level and our imagination comfort level.
While these may change under different circumstances (e.g.
very imaginative with a hobby, but not very imaginative at work),
it’s likely that we won’t be able to significantly alter those
comfort levels in our workplace.
Our risk-taking and our imagination comfort levels—in any
given situation—have been ingrained into our personalities, and
it’s very difficult to change our personalities.
instance, George does not want any significant change in his job.
He is satisfied with routine tasks. Elizabeth, on the other
hand, is continually seeking new opportunities and skills.
It’s unlikely that anyone can get George to want to seek
dramatically new, and changing, responsibilities.
And it’s unlikely that anyone can get Elizabeth to relax
into a neatly defined job.
expect to be frustrated when you tell someone to heed the command,
“Take more risk” or “Be more imaginative.”
Well, maybe the person will take a bit more risk at a
meeting where the boss states, “Don’t worry about treading on
toes, or saying something that’s outlandish.”
Or the person will become more imaginative during a
brainstorming session facilitated by an expert who can induce
far-out thinking. But
soon after those meetings, the individual will recover his or her
own risk-taking and imagination comfort levels.
It’s important here to remember the results from my study of hundreds of great ideas (04/01 Creativity Comment). I found the vast majority of these ideas arose, not in meetings, but during times when the individual wasn’t even concentrating on the problem that the idea solved. This means we shouldn’t expect much creativity enhancement during a risk-taking or “out-of-the-box” thinking intervention.
we can’t change personalities, we can change attitudes.
We frequently change our attitudes about art (“After
staring at those ugly patches, the painting looks pretty
interesting.”), food (“I finally can enjoy raw oysters.”)
and people (“That weirdo is actually a nice person.”).
Therefore, to stimulate creativity, I recommend changing
attitudes. As this
Creativity Comments series progresses, you’ll appreciate the
importance of an Innovative Attitude, and how to enhance that
the only way to get those great ideas—while not attending
a meeting that focuses on risk taking or “out-of-the-box”