21 ways to kill creativity
Want to make sure you never come up with a great idea? Here are 21 suggestions to help you kill your creativity.
- Always think the way you’ve always thought. When confronted with a problem, fixate on what you were taught about how past thinkers solved it. Then analytically select the most promising logical past approach and apply it to the problem, excluding all other possibilities.
- Be focused. The key to logical, linear thinking is knowing what to exclude from your mental space. Exclude everything that is dissimilar, unrelated or is in some other domain from your subject. If you want to improve the can opener, only study existing can openers and how they are made. Then work on improving what exists.
- Always do what you’ve always done. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. This will minimize surprises and mistakes. We are all a product of our experience. Stay within your comfort zone and don’t waste time and energy exploring what people in unrelated areas do.
- Don’t embarrass yourself. You are labeled and categorized by your personal history, I.Q., and education. Don’t embarrass yourself and your family and friends by pretending to be something you’re not. Always remember an atom is an atom and cannot be anything else. Neither can you.
- Know your limitations. Most of us do not have the genes, family history, intelligence, or education to be creative. Listen to your inner voice when it tells you that you are not creative. Play it safe. Do not take risks. If you work for yourself, don’t break what is not broken. If you work for someone else, remind yourself that you don’t get paid to create ideas. Be happy receiving a paycheck.
- Be skeptical. Whenever an idea is offered, analyze it, criticize it and judge it. Never defer judgment. Be skeptical. Look for reasons why it can’t work or can’t be done. Take pride in being the devil’s advocate. Where’s the data? The research? Where’s the evidence it can work? What’s the history of the person who suggested the idea? Always remember people equate skepticism with wisdom.
- Always listen to the experts. They spend their lives studying their subjects and know what’s possible and what is not. You do not. Respect their expertise and follow their advice religiously.
- Never try anything you haven’t tried before. Only attempt those things where you have the past experience and knowledge and know you can succeed. There are reasons why some things have never been done.
- Avoid mistakes. If you never try anything new, chances are you will never make mistakes. A mistake is a kiss of death to your career. You don’t want to be labeled a “failure.”
- Never assume responsibility for what happens. If you avoid mistakes, avoid risks, don’t try something new, and just do what you are told you can’t be held responsible. If you’re unemployed, it’s the fault of the economy, upper management, or some personality conflict. If your company is going under, it’s the fault of unethical competition.
- Everything in your life should be orderly and predictable. You minimize stress in your life by always going to work the same way, going to the same restaurants, going to the same vacation spots, reading the same magazines and newspapers, listening to the same radio talk shows, watching the same news program, eating the same foods, talking to the same people and so on.
- Don’t ask questions. When you ask questions, you are displaying your lack of knowledge and understanding. You will lose credibility among your friends and colleagues. Remember the time when you were a child and asked a question and you were told “That’s a stupid question.” Don’t put yourself in that position again.
- Avoid ambiguity. Ambiguity leads to indecisiveness and confusion. Aristolean logic teaches it is either A or not-A. The sky is either blue or not blue. You are either right or wrong. There are no grey areas or in-betweens. Ambiguity leads to mess and confusion. Never trust something that works when you can’t understand why.
- Behave like a grown-up. Approach life and problems with determination. Avoid playing and humor when you are brainstorming. Don’t embarrass yourself by acting like a small child. Stay 100% focused.
- Pigeonhole people. Are they experienced? Intelligent? Flaky? Wacky? What do they do? How much money do they have? Are they respected by others? What kind of life do they live? Know who a person is before you pay attention to their ideas. Is the person a physicist or a garbage collector?
- Avoid diversity. Select your friends carefully. They should have similar education, family histories, religion, politics, principles and beliefs. It’s important for your psychological well being to be with people who confirm your beliefs and ideas.
- There is only one right answer. When you come up with an answer, stop wasting your time looking for alternatives. You don’t want to appear indecisive. Time is money.
- Don’t trust your intuition, gut or hunches. Navel gazing is unprofessional and silly.
- Be practical. Don’t daydream or spend time fantasizing. You can’t afford to idle away your time on dreams and fantasies that can never be realized.
- Don’t waste time recording ideas or making notes. If an idea or thought has any worth, you will remember it. If you can’t recall it, the idea wasn’t worth remembering in the first place.
- Don’t take action. All art is a reaction the first line drawn. If no line is drawn there will be no art. Similarly, if you don’t take action, nothing bad can happen. Avoid taking action. If you don’t act, you can’t fail. If you are forced to take action, do not do anything until you have a perfect plan which will take into account any and everything that can happen. Make sure the plan details all the human and material resources you need. Do nothing until you are sure you have a perfect plan. Be a perfectionist.
Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.