IT Best Practices

3 Popular Creativity Clichés Debunked

How many times have you been asked to “think outside the box,” and how many times has it actually helped you be creative? Too many tactics and concepts are applied to describe or inspire creativity that do not really hold water. In a post at his website, thought leader and public speaker Scott Berkun writes about popular creativity clichés that may mislead your perception of how you should perform at work.


Here is what’s wrong with some clichéd inspirational ideas:

Think outside the box: Everybody is told to do this. Basically, it suggests that you should challenge assumptions and test constraints, because if you only think within limits, you cannot achieve your best potential or achieve innovation. However, simply telling someone to “think outside the box” doesn’t help that person to be creative. We are likely to have a default reaction regardless in which we assume rules and constraints, and adapt or comply with these rules. And research has even suggested that people who are told to “think outside the box” do not actually perform better on a puzzle demanding imagination, even when said puzzle literally involves a box. Berkun believes it is more useful for a leader to use a sense of logic to judge context, and to generally foster an environment that invites imaginative thinking.

Left brain/Right brain: The brain has two hemispheres, but how they work is complicated and cannot be used to describe our personalities. Sayings like “she’s left-brained” or “I’m a right-brained person” are misguided labels that don’t actually mean that you are more creative or a logical thinker. It is okay to label our personalities to communicate with others, but it’s a mistake to assume that is how our brains really work. Jeffrey Anderson, a brain researcher, says, “It is certainly the case that some people have more methodical, logical cognitive styles, and others more uninhibited, spontaneous styles… this has nothing to do on any level with the different functions of the [brain’s] left and right hemisphere.”

Blue sky (constraint-free) thinking: This idea suggests that, when constraints cease to exist, then anything is possible. However, eliminating all constraints and working on a project free of any restrictions can take you away from reality and blindfold problems that you have to face and solve. Constraints are actually very useful in finding new ideas:

A constraint, which can initially seem frustrating, is an important kind of information. It gives you something to start with, and work against in generating and testing ideas (and some research support this). For example, it’s much easier to write a poem that rhymes, than to write one in free verse.The structure of a rhyme provides information to work with and a structure, or shape, to try putting ideas into.

Creativity is crucially important. Thus, maybe you should be creative about the ways you try to foster creativity too, instead of relying on old boxes. You can view the original post here:

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