By Alan Graner
The following is excerpted from A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to unlock your mind for innovation by Roger von Oech ©1983.
Previously we examined two of von Oech’s 10 barriers to creativity.
Here are two more.
Follow the Rules
Humans are pattern-seeking creatures. We see patterns in sequences, shapes, movements, probabilities. We even see patterns where none exist, e.g., clouds that look like animals.
We see them because otherwise our lives would be chaotic. Patterns give us rules.
Creativity is destructive because it challenges the rules and breaks them when necessary. It is an act of revolution. Without such challenges, society wouldn’t advance. If you’re following the same rules five years from now, you’ll have stagnated.
Picasso challenged the rules of art and created modern painting. Max Planck challenged the laws of nature and developed quantum physics.
Of course, there’s a lot of pressure to follow the rules. It’s the basis of our educational system and most organizations. And once a rule is in place, it’s very difficult to get rid of it. Even imagined rules are hard to get rid of. For example, many people confidently state you should never end a sentence with a preposition…even though such a rule doesn’t exist.
Be a revolutionary. Challenge the rules. But be aware of the dangers that challenge brings.
Challenge your own rules and assumptions. If there’s no good reason for them to exist, eliminate them.
Don’t fall in love with ideas. They could lead to a dead end.
Creative people can imagine things that don’t exist. Things like wheat that can survive in areas of heavy rain, iPods, and lasers.
Much of this creativity stems from two words: “What if….”
What if gravity were suspended for one second each day?
What if we could make blind people see?
What if there were a machine that actually made people want to exercise?
The answers may not be practical. In fact, they might be wildly impractical. Yet, they just might also serve as stepping stones to other stepping stones that lead to practical solutions.
The value of crazy ideas is not how practical they are…but where they lead our thinking.
Instead of saying “that’s not practical,” say instead “Hey, that’s interesting, I wonder where it’ll lead us.”
When dreaming up ideas, suspend your judgment and let the ideas flow.
Set aside some time every day to ask provocative “what if “questions that start building stepping stones.
Encourage others to think “what if….”
How do you overcome barriers to creativity?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business public relations and marketing content firm. For content that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com.