How to Become Less Creative Without Even Trying

Published by Linda Rolf on 9/8/2021

Uncreative collection of 9 oranges

When you first read this post's title, did you see "more" instead of "less"? If you did, you're most likely in the majority. We all hear the "be more creative" chant so often that many of us just do a quick eyeroll and move on.

So thanks for opening and getting this far.

But think about this for a minute.

Have you ever wished that you could become less creative than you are right now? You're ready to commit to a comfortable, complacent status quo.

Of course not.

Before we go any farther, what exactly is creativity? Many of you might immediately think of an artistic endeavor. Steve Jobs had a simple explanation for creativity that touches each of us regardless of what our company delivers or who we serve ---

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while."

The Long Timers' Dilemma

The longer you devote your time to growing your successful company, the sharper your focus. Results are continuously measured, and the most valuable practices are repeated. This is how smart companies thrive for the long-term.

We begin to lose our creative edge when we ignore or simply miss the constantly shifting dots around us. The ever-changing market influences our clients' expectations and needs. Over time the products and services that served us well are out of alignment with current demands.

9 Signs You're Becoming Less Creative

1. You surround yourself and your company with same-industry people.

Creativity Boost: Create an informal group of leaders in a diverse range of industries.

Deconstruct their businesses to uncover the foundation of their success. This process will unlock your curiosity and reduce tunnel-thinking.

Exposure to unrelated ideas and influences feeds creativity.

2. You consider time spent thinking, simply staring out the window, as unproductive.

Creativity Boost: Block out time on your calendar every day for thinking. Treat it as sacred. Don't let the daily meetings, the urgent but unimportant interruptions, rob you of this valuable time.

Many of the most successful leaders actively practice the Thinking Time Rule.

3. You rely on conversations with yourself to get unstuck.

Creativity Boost: As the old saying goes, "Two heads are better than one." Nowhere is this more accurate than untangling a knotty problem. Often the simple act of putting words to a problem bring clarity.

When that second head isn't available, grab a piece of paper and pen. Start writing. No editing. Dumping all the bouncing thoughts out of your head onto paper is powerful.

4. You tell yourself that pushing through the flat spots will ultimately deliver the desired outcome.

Creativity Boost: We all hit those walls for one reason or another. Boredom. Fatigue. Just not the day. If you're running a marathon, the mental push is a worthy plan. For the less physically-focused, give yourself permission to stop.

Take a walk. Go to the gym. Breaking the hyper-focused energy cycle will kickstart the creative flow.

5. You feel like creativity must be innovative, unique, a moonshot every time.

Creativity Boost: Incremental changes can be subtle and amazingly transformative.

6. You limit your reading to a narrow, specific genre.

Creativity Boost: Read widely every day. Exposure to words, to unfamiliar ideas challenges your thinking and abstract dot connecting skills.

As Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's long-time business partner says ---

"In my whole like, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time. None. Zero."

7. You don't reward yourself with regular time to learn something outside your area of expertise.

Creativity Boost: Steve Jobs famously enrolled in a calligraphy class at Reed College because he was curious. This unlikely exposure influenced the Apple interface.

8. You avoid unexplored rabbit holes because they might be complicated, expensive, or outside your comfort zone.

Creativity Boost: Taken as a whole, any new idea or curiosity can feel too big to tackle. Grab that piece of paper and pen again. List the big rabbit hole idea at the top of the sheet.

Now list all of the possible pieces of the idea. Don't try to curate the list or overthink it. You'll uncover a small, manageable piece to tackle first. If that doesn't work, you have a long list from which to choose next.

9. You work with the same team for every project.

Creativity Boost: Working with the same team project after project has a clear upside. You know each other's skills, habits, and uniquenesses. You operate like a functional family.

But too much familiarity leads to sameness and a predictable outcome. Introduce a new team member, whether an employee or outside partner, to lend a fresh perspective to your next project.

Creativity is looking backward at what we have done well, listening objectively to the market changes around us, and adopting a forward-looking mindset.

Tags: Learning

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Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships. She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need. As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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