Do your meetings have a creative killer?
Newsrooms call them “story killers,” the naysayers at meetings who repeatedly shoot down stories while unsuspecting victims are trying to generate new ideas.
Creative killers assassinate ideas, breeding fear and limiting impact for hundreds, maybe even thousands. These idea deaths never get investigated and their potential never gets measured. Crime scenes like this exist all over our organizations. The consequence: the death of creative thinking.
Are we helpless to our org’s own creative killers? Do we have to suffer through meetings at the hands of one anti-creative despot? We will get to that. But first, we have to ask, who are the creative killers?
Sadly, almost all of us, but there are often some repeat offenders. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been one. Have you?
Creative killers are infectious, virulent, and abundant in our meetings. They vend a substance that infects an unsuspecting host rapidly and relentlessly, possibly changing the way their victims generate ideas for the rest of their careers. But, are creative killers indestructible? No, in fact, they’re often only temporary. In fact, once you know the signs and symptoms, they’re easy to detect and treat. For example, think of the last meeting you attended.
Did year hear anyone use one of the top 7 weapons of creative killers?
- “We’ve already tried that.”
- “Nope, that won’t work.”
- “It’s against the rules.”
- “What if something bad happens?”
- “It’s a good theory, but practically…”
- “It’ll give us more work.”
- “We’ve always done it this way.”
For many around you, these are the only responses they know how to give to your new idea. If your idea is new, it means that you’ve gone away from the popular, obvious, or guaranteed ideas. It means that it may take more effort to understand or to make work.
We all know that the 7 creative killers are easy to say. They require little thinking and much less energy than their counterpart – the yes. But, can the remedy really be that simple?
The antidote to all these sabotaging statements and the “ain’t gonna happen” mindset they represent is as simple as saying “Yes, and…”
Let’s try out a practical example. You are sitting in a meeting, trying to solve a problem. Mary, your cat-loving co-worker from a few offices down, suggests an idea that you do not think will work. You can spring the usual “that won’t work” reflex. Or, you can stop and think to yourself, “Okay, I’ve had the insight that her idea won’t work. How can I use the insight I had to affirm and build on her idea to get around the obstacle?”
You might be thinking, that’s great, but what does “Yes, and…” look like in the professional world?
Here are some positive weapons to arm yourself.
- “How interesting! Let’s dig deeper on that …”
- “Why not? In fact, we can also…”
- “What if we test that idea and…”
- “There are a lot of ways we could try that…”
But, if everyone is always saying yes, how do we make decisions and select the best ideas?
Break up the process into two distinct parts: (1) divergence – going for quantity of ideas by deferring judgment and (2) convergence – selecting and prioritizing quality ideas. You will have plenty of chances to decide which ideas are worthwhile and which ones should be relegated to left field. My colleagues often excel at the critique. It’s in the “Yes, and…” bit where they need encouragement. Look out for my posts next week which will focus on part 2 of this process. Once we’re good at generating the right quantity of ideas, how can we improve at selecting and prioritizing our ideas?
When we problem solve or do creative work, it’s not only important to find ways to nurture our creativity, but to also be mindful of “creative killers” that can choke our ability to come up with our best ideas. So be courageous, build on others ideas, and go forth into your next meeting with optimism. After all, optimism (and positivity) is the kryptonite to creative killers. And, who knows, with a little luck, you might convert your meeting’s biggest creative adversary into its biggest ally.
So what’s your take?
Have you heard anyone use a creative killer? Have you tried a “Yes, and…” approach? What happened?
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