To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to come up with new ideas--or at least a new way to do an old idea. If you're no better than the competition, you won't succeed. And if you can come up with something entirely new that has no competition? You win.
But creativity is a challenge and doesn't always come from people whom others say are creative. Creativity can come from people who look and act like noncreative people. Creativity can also be stifled. Dr. Sebastian Bailey, author of the new Mind Gym: Achieve More by Thinking Differently, shared with me the following attitudes that can kill creativity and, as a result, keep your business from growing like it should. Watch out for these creativity killers.
1. I know this problem. A donkey is tied to a rope that is six feet long and there is a bale of hay eight feet away. How can the donkey get to the hay if he does not bite through or undo the rope? The answer has nothing to do with using his hind legs or gusts of wind.
To solve this brainteaser, you need to highlight the assumptions you have made about this situation. The other end of the rope isn't tied to anything, so the donkey has no problem getting to the hay.
When you assume you already know the problem at hand, you construe it narrowly and your thinking will be constrained by your assumptions. Analyze everything you know about a problem and check your assumptions and you may discover the problem you actually have is not what you initially thought.
2. I know the solution. We often remember the brainteasers and problems we've been confronted with previously and assume that problems that appear similar can be solved the same way. But this can lead us to rote thinking that ignores the possibility of alternative solutions.
Consider the story of Jake, who liked his job but hated his boss. Jake met an executive recruiter who assured him it would be easy to find another job. After thinking about it, however, Jake went back to the recruiter and sang his boss's praises. A few days later, his boss received a call about a job opening at a new company and accepted. Jake kept the job he liked but solved his bad-boss problem.
3. I'm a hard-nosed realist. When Einstein developed his theory of relativity, he did it in such a way that he left reality behind. He pictured himself chasing after a beam of light and imagined the journey he was going to take. Your thinking is often influenced by the "reality" you inhabit.
While being practical is often a good thing, too often our thinking is constrained by what we presume to be reality. This attitude chains us to convention and prevents us from tapping into the unique and innovative thoughts we might have if we simply stopped taking the constraints of "reality" as a given.
4. I'm an expert. Sometimes your knowledge or expertise can get in the way of seeing new solutions or cause you to make assumptions. This is similar to thinking that you know the solution to the problem before you've fully grasped the nuances of the problem. When you believe yourself to be an expert, you assume you have special knowledge that provides you greater insight into a problem than others possess.
However, this can lead us to assume problems are more complicated than they actually are. Try to see a problem from an outsider's perspective and you may discover the problem is far less complicated.
5. I see things as they are. Look at the clouds outside your window. When you were a child, you would probably find yourself looking at the clouds and seeing all kinds of shapes and figures and developing stories. Many adults, however, look at clouds and see them as nothing more than the threat of rain. Psychologists call this "functional fixedness"--we see things for their main function and thereby circumvent our imagination. To think creatively, we need to stop thinking, "What it is..." and instead think, "What could it be?"
These attitudes are all driven by the desire for compliance, focus, and urgency that many organizations strive for. The problem is that in the process, curiosity, open-mindedness, and experimentation get sidelined, which makes it tough for people to be creative and organizations to innovate.