If you're not as creative as you'd like to be, you might tell yourself that you lack a certain something -- an inborn instinct for creativity, a natural talent for fresh ideas, the personality needed for creativity. But what if the problem wasn't something you didn't have, but something you believed?

If people or teams fail to live up to their creative potential, the trouble problem usually isn't a lack of ability, according to Dealstorming author Tim Sanders. The problem instead is the innovation myths you believe.

In a recent Big Think video Sanders explained that many of us have a warped image of creators and the creative process in our heads -- and our false beliefs set us up for creative failure. Destroy the myths and you'll remove the main obstacles keeping you from optimum creativity. Here are three he feels you and your team should dynamite.

1. Inventors are lone wolves.

Ask the average man or woman on the street for an example of a inventor and you'll likely get a single, famous name like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, or Steve Jobs. But common understanding and reality are very much at odds, according to Sanders.

"A classic example--Thomas Edison. In the invention community, Thomas Edison is a brand. It stands for 14 people. Yes there was a figurehead named Thomas Edison. His name is on 10,000 patents. He did not invent a single thing. He marshaled people together and knew how to spot innovations and put people together like a creative soup," he says. And Jobs? All he did "was notice patterns and put people together to finish projects... If he doesn't have [Steve] Wozniak, there is no original Apple, right. If he doesn't have [Jony] Ive, there is no iPod. If he doesn't have Tony Fadell, there is no iPhone."

So what's the problem with believing great ideas are the products of single minds? "Until you believe that genius is a team sport, you will never give up control," Sanders notes, and according to research the most creative organizations attack innovation in teams. Without the willingness to play with others there can be no teams -- and therefore less that optimal creativity.

2. Everything all depends on a eureka moment.

Forget Newton under his apple tree and Archimedes in his bath, "there is no such thing as a big idea that changes the world," insists Sanders. "There are little ideas that combine with other little ideas that improve themselves into game-changing ideas."

Research proves this is true, Sanders claims, but he also heard it straight from Ed Catmull, president of Pixar. Sanders praised the writer of Toy Story to Catmull, but Catmull was keen to point out the the beloved film didn't spring fully formed from anyone's head. There was no eureka moment. "The movie you saw, was a thousand problems solved," Sanders reports Catmull as saying.

In other words, sit around waiting for all your creative problems to be solved in one flash of inspiration and you'll be sitting around forever. On the other hand, "if we no longer depend on the big idea to fall out of the sky and change the world, we meet more, we think more, we research more, we settle with small pieces of progress that add up to momentum," Sanders concludes.

3. Experts are the source of creative ideas.

Deep expertise has its uses -- if you're trying to land a spaceship on the moon you want the best rocket scientists money can buy on your team -- but one of those uses isn't necessarily generating the most creative ideas.

"Most of the great solutions to vexing problems come from the edges of a domain," Sanders insists. "People that don't know what they don't know. So they're not limited by these false constraints that hold people back that are in the middle of this subject." If you believe that only experts can come up with game-changing ideas, then you're likely to silence some of the very people most likely to come up with the innovations you need.

"The minute you tell someone only experts can weigh in with ideas, everyone who's not an expert stops contributing. In my experience, it breaks down collaboration," says Sanders.

Are you holding back your creativity by believing any of these innovation myths?

Published on: Feb 8, 2016
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