The Common and Uncommon Roadblocks to Creative Thinking, and What You Can Do to Overcome Them

I am sitting here in a hotel room in Singapore after a day of facilitating a thinktank with some powerful senior managers from a global banking institution. My job was to help unleash their thinking to get some ideas on how to improve various aspects of the way they do business. The day was fun, challenging and ultimately quite successful, but only after they looked into a mirror and admitted that the problem was looking right back at them. They were the roadblocks to their creativity.
Let me explain. They are highly intelligent, very logical and aggressive in achieving their goals. All laudable characteristics, but also the reasons why they cannot be as creative as they desire. You see, when you’re intelligent, you can immediately see why something won’t work, not why it will, because you have good analytical thinking skills. You can form a good argument because of your ability to use logic. And your ability to aggressively achieve goals causes you to be directive, wasting little time, to home in on what’s important. If that’s you, be proud of that, but put it on hold if you want to boost your creative thinking.
The most common roadblocks are usually money, corporate culture and logic. The seeds of great ideas don’t fit a budget, adhere to the status quo or fit logically into your frame of reference. That’s why they’re creative. They are out of the box of these parameters.
But there’s also a social psychological principal at work and that is that you want to be seen and appreciated for your smarts. When other people view you that way, it’s an ego stroke. It feels good. So you refrain from putting forth an idea that is only a rough cut because it would appear that you haven’t done your best thinking on it. That’s the idea that still needs some refinement in order to be affordable and logical. Heaven forbid.
It is critical then to not only hold back your criticisms, but learn to recognize the seeds of ideas within those silly sounding ideas. Learn to withstand the tension that comes from that zone of discomfort and force yourself to see the benefits. Only then, do you begin to open up your world of creative thinking. And that world is one from which you cannot turn back, but then, you won’t want to.


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