How To Smother Creative Fire

Creative fire is a funny thing. It is the natural human condition to look for creative solutions and innovations. However, the natural tendency of existing organizations is to avoid creative fire because it shakes things up, rattles the bones.

So, rather than espouse on all the ways you can encourage fire starting in your organization, I think it will be more useful to discuss all the ways an organization smothers creative fire. Stop throwing water buckets and the natural tendency will be for creativity to flourish.

Creative Fire Extinguisher 1: “Did something like that 12 years ago and it didn’t work.”

I just heard this one a day or two ago. I’m not sure anyone would say this is a good way to kill an idea, and yet, we all do it. We’re creatures of our own history and not repeating mistakes is a crucial element to survival. In the business world this poses a problem. First – 12 years is an eternity. 6 months can be an eternity. Many ideas fail for no reason other than they were ahead of their time. Second – ’something like that’ is a red flag. Maybe the elements that are different were all that kept you from succeeding the last time. Third – ‘it didn’t work’ is not an adequate description of what happened. Did nobody buy it? Did it blow up? Did the VP of sales hate it?
Ideas that come up over and over again often indicate there is a need to be satisfied somewhere. The concept put forward for satisfying that need may be completely wrong, but that does not mean the core opportunity does not exist. Ask yourself, why are we seeing this idea again? What other ways can we satisfy the need? What is the underlying opportunity?

What creative fire extinguishers have you run into?

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