Creativity: Learning To Forget How Things Work

Back when our granddaughter Kennady was a year old, she hadn’t had a lot of time to learn how things worked. As a result, the first few times I gave her a book, she had no idea what “reading” was, so she walked on it, set it up like an A-frame house, or used it for a plate. Back then it was that way with everything. Since she didn’t know the way things were “supposed” to be used, she just made it up, and she came up with some pretty remarkable uses for things like spoons, a flute, a ball – not to mention food.

One day while watching her it hit me: people who are less creative, always default to what we’re “supposed” to do with things. People who are more creative have the ability to set those expectations aside, and approach it like Kennady does – with no preconceived ideas.

Here’s an exercise to find out who’s the most creative on your team: Take something everyone knows – like a hammer, an umbrella, or a stool. Ask each person to come up with something completely different – and legitimate – that item could be used for.

You’ll find out pretty quickly, who’s bound by what they know, and who’s able to set that knowledge aside and start seeing new possibilities.

Why does it matter?  Because during your career, you’ll be asked to come up with new ideas for things everyone already knows. Perhaps a new way to structure your team, a new approach to marketing, or a different way to look at a client’s problem.  Remember that pretty much everyone looked at mobile phones the same way, until Apple’s creative team came along and set aside that “knowledge” and viewed it from a completely different perspective.

Whatever the task, you’ll be more successful if you can set aside your “knowledge” and look at it like my granddaughter.

Do you have any examples of moments when you had to look at something normal, but see it in a new and different way?

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