Creativity & criticism are considered to be frightening concepts
In fact, imagination frightens us too. We think it’s fragile and will disappear in a moment. This is so far from the truth. My life has been spent creating imaginative scenarios. The problem is people like to insulate themselves from failing or being shown to be fresh out of imagination.
It’s a great idea but can we do something else please?
At school my teacher summed me up with this phrase: ‘It’s a great idea Miss, but can we do something else?’ I don’t think she could have realised just how accurate her summation had been. In fact, I struggled with the discipline of school. My mind was always focused on the idea that appeared on the next page or outside the window. All the time my creativity was met with criticism. I just didn’t know why. In fact the same teacher years later remarked, ‘you were too creative for the grammar school tramlines.’ If only I had known then. I have spent my life feeling a failure for being unable to concentrate or block out external inspiration. I knocked myself out for being so critical. Everything I came across I always wanted better. not in monetary terms but in design or function. Someone close to me said: ‘you will never be happy.’ I think he meant that as a criticism. I saw that as empowering and left.
James Dyson the designer and inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner has been quoted as saying:
I find Dyson’s words reassuring. They explain why I have never been in the pursuit of happiness. I think imagination loves failure; problems, and when other people say no. For me creativity and criticism go hand in hand. Although one is always wearing a prickly glove – ouch ! In fact, strange but true, I am never happier then when I’m complaining about flaws and difficulties. I have come to realise that preserving the status quo contributes to my profound unhappiness. I think it does for many other people too. Although some people do create lives with the express aim of getting to a destination and staying there. To me this is like a slow death. I don’t want to be insulated from any failure if there’s the possibility of change and improvement.
I need to be in an edgy context but do you like creativity & criticism?
I need to feed my imagination. Isn’t that why many writers say they cannot write when they feel happy? Isn’t that why many older musicians give up saying, ‘I no longer have anything I want to communicate’? They have become too safe, too predictable and no longer live beyond their comfort zone. When people fear creativity & criticism they ‘die’ in my opinion.
Contradictory information and observations put a spanner in the works.
So this gets me thinking that actually every team really does need a left-field thinker. Contradictory information and observations put a spanner in the works. It’s like seeing a grammatical or punctuation error in a novel and being flung from the narrative in an instant. When things are criticized or a difference viewpoint is added we all begin to interrogate the way we usually think. This doesn’t happen when processes continue in the same old way. When someone asks challenging questions it disrupts our conventional mental operations. That is exactly what we should be looking for. Creativity & criticism belong together
‘Nail your courage to the sticking place!’
It takes courage, creativity and imagination to question accepted beliefs or modus operandi. In fact questioners are viewed with an element of suspicion. So be it. If they were exactly the same type as you they would have no function. Therefore it is worth ramping up the challenge. Promote creativity & criticism If flaws are pointed it out, if tough questions are asked then the opportunity for many more potential solutions emerge. When we develop sufficient confidence to debate and criticise others, ideas and their results can be stunning.
For goodness sake, promote dissent.
Create critical guidelines so your team is used to giving and accepting observations that can appear tough. This is far more useful than asking a team to brainstorm. I promise you more creative ideas will be stimulated in this way. Strangely enough our creativity really needs to be ‘checked’. For example, when undertaking a masters degree in creative writing I had taken a poem for feedback to my seminar group. After much discussion the tutor finally said, ‘you do realise the essence of the poem is in the last four lines’. When I had recovered I folded over the paper and looked. It was true. We could have tinkered with line lengths, punctuation etc. and vocabulary but what it needed was a radical approach.
If your company is struggling to reach a high performance or if you’re looking to change cultures or the way your employees deal with failure then perhaps it’s time to bring in a critic who is never happy!
Vivienne Neale is a change manager, strategic thinker and a challenger. If going a couple of rounds with Vivienne will promote creativity in your organisation then you should contact her right now. Disrupt the status quo (after all their best album was years ago: Dog of Two Head!)
Syed, Matthew Black Box Thinking Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance John Murray 2016