You can learn to be creative

Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple gave us an immediate understanding of how much the market values creativity and innovation in a company. Apple stock took an immediate hit.

He headed up the most valuable technology company in the world. His contribution is actually priced into the stock. It’s known as the “innovation premium.” Currently it stands at almost 52 percent of the stock yield.

So where does that leave the rest of us mortals? Can we learn to be innovative and creative? Or are we doomed by our genetics?

Fortunately you can learn to be creative. A Steve Jobs comes along once in a generation. But each of us in our own way can develop innovative and creative talents as these are learned skills.

Take it from Clayton Christensen who coined the word “disruptive innovation” more than a decade ago. In his book “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators,” he and his co-authors, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen, dove into the roots of creativity. They completed an eight-year study of highly creative people.

Christiansen thinks it’s clearly possible. His advice to you is that, “plain old ordinary people like you and I can do remarkable things.”

We all need to rid ourselves of the negative stereotypes that have dominated our thinking. Have frank discussions with your management team about these creativity killers and try to eliminate them from all of your meetings.

These 10 suggestions of what to avoid if you want to be creative come from Michael Michalko in “Creative Thinking” published this August:

  1. Know your limitations. Most of us do not have the genes, family history, intelligence, or education to be creative. Listen to your inner voice when it tells you that you are not creative. Play it safe. Do not take risks. If you work for someone else remind them you don’t get paid for great ideas. Be happy receiving a paycheck.
  2. Be skeptical. Whenever ideas are offered, analyze them, criticize them and judge them. Never defer judgment. Look for reasons why it can’t work or can’t be done. Take pride in being the devil’s advocate. Where’s the data? The research? Where’s the evidence it can work? Always remember people equate skepticism with wisdom.
  3. Always listen to the experts. In April of 2008, 98 percent of the economist predicted we would not go into a recession. By the end of the year we were in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Experts spend their lives studying their subjects, and they know what’s possible. You should respect their expertise and follow their advice religiously.
  4. Never try anything you haven’t tried before. Only attempt those things you have tried in the past. Things where you have experience and knowledge and you know you can succeed. There are reasons why some things have never been done before.
  5. Avoid mistakes. If you never tried anything new, chances are you will never make mistakes. A mistake is the kiss of death for a career. You don’t want to be labeled a failure. Most importantly never assume responsibility for what happens. You want to be known as someone who never makes mistakes and avoids risks.
  6. Curiosity killed the cat. Everything in your life should be orderly and predictable. You will minimize stress in your life by always going to work the same way, going to the same restaurants, vacation spots, reading the same magazines and newspapers, listening to the same radio talk shows, watching the same news programs, eating the same foods, talking to the same people and so on.
  7. Don’t ask questions. When you ask questions you are displaying your lack of knowledge and understanding. You lose credibility among your friends and colleagues. Remember the time when you were a child and asked a question and were told: “That’s a stupid question?” Don’t put yourself in that position again.
  8. Avoid ambiguity. Ambiguity leads to indecisiveness and confusion. Aristotelian logic teaches us either A or not A. You are either right or wrong and the sky is either blue or not. There are no gray areas or in-betweens. Never trust something that works and you can’t understand why.
  9. You are a grown-up so act like one. Approach life and problems with determination. Avoid playing and most especially employing humor when you’re brainstorming. Don’t embarrass yourself by acting like a small child. Stay 100 percent focused.
  10. Be practical. Don’t daydream or spend time fantasizing. You can’t afford to spend your time on dreams and fantasies that never can be realized.

Every time someone in management or one of your coworkers follows one of those rules remind them that Steve Jobs avoided them on his way to creating the most valuable technology company in the world.

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