10 Creative Myths

by Jeffrey Baumgartner

10 Creative MythsOver the years, I have heard a lot of people say a lot of daft things about creativity. Some of those things, I hear again and again. What’s worse, a lot these daft notions – or myths – about creativity are detrimental to the creative process. So, let’s end this once and for all. Below are ten creative myths. If you share these with everyone in the world, these myths will go away.

1. “I am not creative”

  • I have heard a lot of people say precisely that: “I am not creative”. The truth, of course, is that we are all creative. That’s what differentiates us from Parrots who can say clever things put couldn’t have a creative idea if their lives depended upon it. The truth is we are all creative. And while some people are naturally more creative than others, we can all have very creative ideas. The problem is, as we grow older, most of us learn to inhibit our creativity for reasons relating to work, acceptable behaviour and just the notion of being a grown-up.

2. “That’s a stupid [or daft, or silly, or ridiculous] idea”

  • People say this kind of thing to colleagues, family and even to themselves. Indeed, this is one reason why people believe they are not creative: they have got into such a habit of censoring their creative ideas, by telling themselves that their ideas are stupid, that they no longer feel creative. Next time you have an idea you think is stupid, don’t censor it. Rather, ask yourself how you could improve the idea.

3. “Creative people always have great ideas”

  • Rubbish! Creative people always have ideas. Whether they like it or not, they are having ideas and sharing those ideas (often with people who tell them their ideas are stupid, no less!) every waking hour of the day. Of those ideas, a precious few are great. Many are good, Many are mediocre and a precious few really are stupid ideas. Over time, we tend to forget creative people’s weak ideas and remember their great ideas.

4. “Constructive criticism will help my colleague improve her idea.”

  • Yeah, and tripping a child when she is learning to walk will help her improve her walking skills. Nonsense! Criticism, whether constructive or destructive (as most criticism truly is) squelches creative thinking and teaches your colleague to keep her ideas to herself. Likewise, other colleagues will see what happens when ideas are shared and will also learn to keep their ideas to themselves. Fresh ideas are fragile. They need nurturing, not kicking. Instead of criticizing a colleague’s new idea, challenge her to improve the idea by asking her how she could get over the idea’s weakness.

5. “We need some new marketing ideas for the upcoming product launch. Let’s get the marketing people together and brainstorm ideas.”

  • This is a sure recipe for coming up with the same kind of marketing ideas you have had in the past: ie. uncreative. Brainstorming, as well as ideas campaigns and other group ideation events get the most creative results with the widest variety of participants. Want marketing ideas? Then bring in sales, accounting, human resources, financial, administrative, production, design, research, legal and other people into the brainstorming event. Such a wide range of knowledge, experience and backgrounds will encourage a wide range of ideas. And that results in more creative ideas.

6. “In order for our innovation strategy to be a success, we need a system of review processes for screening ideas and determining which ideas to implement.”

  • In fact, the review process is very often about eroding creativity by removing risk from ideas. The most important component for corporate innovation is a method of soliciting and capturing focused business ideas. The ideas campaign approach – where you challenge employees to submit ideas on specific business issues, such as “in what ways might we improve product X?” is the best way to focus innovation. A transparent tool that allows employees to submit, read and collaborate on ideas is the best way to focus creative thinking. And, framing your challenges effectively is arguably one of the most important aspects of successful corporate innovation. Yes, reviewing ideas is important. But first you need to be generating the creative ideas so that they may be reviewed.

7. “That’s a good idea. Let’s run with it”

  • When we are looking for ideas, we have a tendency to stop looking and start implementing with the first good idea that comes to mind. Unfortunately, that means that any great ideas you might have had, had you spent more time thinking, are lost. Moreover, good ideas can often be developed into significantly better ideas with a little creative thought. So, don’t think of a good idea as an end – rather think of it as a beginning of the second stage of creative thought.

8. “Drugs will help me be more creative”

  • The 1960s drug culture and glamor of musicians and artists getting high and being creative led to this myth. And, possibly a little bit of drugs or alcohol will loosen your inhibitions to the extent that you do not criticize your ideas as much as you might had your inhibitions not been loosened. A lot of drugs or alcohol, however, will alter your mind and may very likely make you believe you are being more creative. But to people watching you, you will just seem like someone who is very high.

9. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  • Just the other day I was at a workshop where some people were complaining about a colleague who always had ideas. Worse, he wanted to use those ideas to change processes that were working perfectly well. Sadly, too many of us (but not you, of course) are like the complainers. If something works well as it is, whether it is a machine or a process, we often feel there is no need to change the way it works. Fortunately, Dr. Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank Whittle didn’t think like that – or we’d still be flying in propeller airplanes. Bear in mind that propeller airplanes were working perfectly fine when the two gentlemen in question individually invented the jet engine.

10. “I don’t need a notebook. I always remember my ideas”

  • Maybe. But I doubt it. When we are inspired by an idea, that idea is very often out of context with what we are doing. Perhaps a dream we had upon waking inspires us with the solution to a problem. But, then we wake up, get the children up, have breakfast, run through in our minds an important presentation we’ll be giving in the morning, panic that the kids will miss their bus, run for the train, flirt with an attractive young thing on the train, etc – until late afternoon when you finally have time to think about the problem. How likely are you really to remember the idea you had upon wakening?


Read the early reviews of 'Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire'

Don’t miss an article (1,950+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Continuous Innovation group!


Jeffrey BaumgartnerJeffrey Baumgartner is the founder of jpb.com, makers of Jenni innovation process management software. He also edits Report 103, a popular eJournal on business innovation. Contact Jeffrey at jeffreyb@jpb.com or visit http://www.jpb.com/

No comments

  1. Wonderful post – thank you! I found myself agreeing quite strongly with points 5 & 9. Brainstorming definitely should include all areas of your business, since they deal with your customers in very different (and probably more genuine) ways, than the marketing team. These other departments are far more likely to receive direct feedback about from your customers, which is marketing GOLD!

    I’m also a huge fan of seeing if current systems/procedures can be improved – regardless of how well they may already be working. If you don’t change, and you don’t move, you get stale and stagnate. Times change, people change, and so should your systems and processes if you want to stay in the game.

  2. It’s so surprising how many people say “I’m not creative”. I believe that everyone is creative, some are just more creative than others. We’re all inspired by different things, different experiences to share and different opinions. Thanks for the post, great summary!

Leave a Reply