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10 Expressions That Can Kill Creativity At Work

By vts | March 16, 2017
10 Expressions That Can Kill Creativity At Work

“I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland,” said economics professor and humor author Stephen Leacock, “than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.”

Leacock valued the warmth of creativity over cold facts. In business it’s easy to gravitate toward hard data that can be measured and charted on a spreadsheet, but today’s fast-paced business culture requires innovation and creativity at work more than ever.

If your company is going to succeed, you’ll need leaders who both value the bottom line and intentionally cultivate a creative culture.

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. If that is true, then creativity is the father.

The most innovative ideas have always come from the need to do something new combined with the creativity to think in a new way.

“Creativity goes hand in hand with innovation. And there is no innovation without creativity, writes Siyana Sokolova at “While creativity is the ability to produce new and unique ideas, innovation is the implementation of that creativity – that’s the introduction of a new idea, solution, process, or product.”

The best creative cultures remove barriers or creativity killers so employees can continue with the flow of a good idea. Once an idea has momentum, Steve Jobs advised to keep moving forward with it:

I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.

Another well-known innovator Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, concurs: “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” If your leaders create an environment that encourages those creative instincts, your employees will be more engaged and more likely to think of the next best innovation in your industry.

10 Creativity Killers Lurking Nearby

One simple but effective way your leaders and managers can foster creativity at work is by removing creativity-killers. Let’s face it, the world can be a pretty negative place. Each person comes to the workplace facing challenges from without and doubts from within.

Here are 10 popular creativity-killers. When thought or expressed in a team, they can shut down innovation. When they’re allowed to live in a workplace, they can kill creative ideas before those ideas have a chance to grow. What makes them so deadly is that they can be difficult to detect unless leaders are intentional about finding and eliminating them.

Share these 10 hazardous expressions with the leaders in your company and challenge them to recall the last time they detected them:

  1. I’m not a creative person. Everyone is creative even though each person brings unique strengths to each situation.
  2. Don’t ask questions. Good leaders ask great questions, and they only get answers to questions they ask.
  3. Don’t be different. The fact is that being different is how progress happens. Your team can’t get where you want to go by staying where you are.
  4. Stay within the lines. Lines can be valuable things, but some lines exist only because they have never been questioned and examined.
  5. There is only one way. Thomas Edison said it best: “There is always a better way—find it!”
  6. Be practical. Although practical thinking is vital to execution, it can kill creative thinking if applied too soon. Good leaders give their teams time to be creative before leading them to get practical.
  7. Think of your image. Leaders who are more concerned with how they look than how their team performs will have issues. Great performance begins with great thinking.
  8. It’s too much work. Coasting is always easier in the short-term than thinking outside the box. But leaders who aren’t willing to to do the work will eventually be out of work.
  9. We can’t afford to make a mistake. Some of the greatest inventions in human history were born from mistakes made in the messy, creative process.The leader who never makes a mistake soon takes his orders from one who does.
  10. Failure is final. The more leaders do, the more they fail. The more they fail, the more they learn. The more they learn, the better they get.

Encourage your leaders leaders to make sure team members know that if they have a great idea, not to let anyone, especially themselves, talk them out of expressing a new idea.

Each person is hard-wired to bring unique and valuable perspectives to a team. In our Discovering Your Authentic Leadership Style workshop, our veteran facilitators walk teams through a process of self-discovery. Using the best assessments, each person discovers his or her unique strengths. These workshops help teams to be intentional about making the most of those differences for maximum creativity at work.

Once leaders in your company understand how members of a team are naturally wired to deliver the most value, it will be easier to guard against creativity-killers like the ones listed above.

Share these 10 creativity-killers today and encourage your leaders to guard against them and to give employees the permission to be creative. Your company’s success depends on its ability to innovate, grow, and change—no creativity-killers allowed!


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