Creative Blockers

Creative Blockers

Our brains hate taking risks, because we’re naturally wired to avoid failure. This is useful - it keeps us safe in an unpredictable and complex world. But it also keeps our ideas safe, so we don't run the risk of getting things wrong. Unfortunately, safe and reliable doesn't equal creative and original.

In Detail

Like it or not, we are all victims of cognitive biases - ways of thinking that can impair good judgment or rationality. An example: when the brain takes in new information it organises and stores it as memory that can be retrieved when necessary. Often when we are working on an idea, we seek out information that fits and supports it. If we encounter information that doesn’t fit, we’re likely to reject or distort it. This is known as confirmation bias.

Similarly, the brain is arranges new information into patterns to help make sense of things (that thing looks like other doors you’ve seen before, so it must also be a door. This is very useful, as it stops us walking into walls). However, sometimes it is necessary to break these patterns if we want to create something new - otherwise our ideas become stale and repetitive. So training our brains to break patterns and think in unexpected directions is crucial.

One reason for this is that our brains are natural pattern making machines. They taken everything we see around us and sort it into categories and look for matches in things that we’ve seen before. It's very useful - it helps us get through life without having to learn everything like new every day. But the problem with our brain as a pattern machine is that it tries to make us think in that way. It tries to make us follow established rules and copy the way that others think and speak, meaning that as a result we can end up sounding like everyone else.

Our brains also hate taking risks. We’re naturally wired to avoid failure and hate making mistakes. Again, this is very useful - it keeps us safe in an unpredictable and complex world. But it also keeps our ideas safe, so we don't run the risk of getting things wrong or looking silly. So as a result we often self-censor our ideas and end up presenting something which is relatively safe and reliable. But safe and reliable doesn't equal creative and original.

Thinking creatively means coming up with ideas that are unusual, risky, unexpected and unconventional. So we need to somehow short circuit or bypass this pattern making process. This means that we have to be mindful of the way that we're thinking and we have to be brave in the ambition and style of the thinking that we do.

Some of this can be achieved by adopting a certain mindset, and some of this can he can be achieved by using a set of techniques and tools.

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