Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Man Behind the Curtain

Fear of judgement.  Somehow, we've created a social contract where making sure that we're not making a mistake is more valued than reaching for what's possible.  Reaching for what's possible necessarily involves making mistakes.  But how did we become SO afraid to fail? We all want the outcomes of our work to be successful.  And there's a common assumption that successful outcomes are built from making all the right choices from beginning to end.  But fear of wrongness can be paralyzing.  That paralysis is often confused with "not being a creative person."  But its not the person who's not creative. Its caused by fear.

I talk to clients a lot about separating the generative from the critical.  It is the core skill of ideation.  In the generative phase you have lots of ideas, especially bad ones.  That's because bad ideas, especially really bad ones, often have a kernel of amazingness hiding inside them.  You just have to roll them around long enough to see it.  Those are what I call good-bad ideas.  They seem bad in their current form, but they contain a nugget of genius that failure-fearers will never see.  They want to shut it down before someone sees them near a bad idea and judges them too.  Or as my daughter would say, "awkward!"

Learning not to judge during the generative phase can be profoundly uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially successful people.  But distancing yourself from negativity and judgement while you ideate gives you access to vastly more and wildly better ideas to choose from when the time comes to be critical.

So I'm excited about the Kelley brothers' new book Creative Confidence.  David Kelley was my teacher at Stanford and my boss at IDEO.  And he's been a bit of a Wizard of Oz to a lot of people, myself included.  Remember how the Wizard gave Dorothy and her friends the capability to see the powers they already had?  Somebody had to give the scarecrow a diploma before he realized that he had a brain all along.

David is that kind of somebody.  Keep up the good work, sir.  And thank you.

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