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Mastering the sequel to creativity

Whether it’s about inventing something totally new or taking existing pieces and rearranging them in new ways, creativity is a skill that we can all learn and build.

But what happens after creativity? Once we’ve identified and nurtured a great idea? We recently attended a talk by Adam Grant, author of Originals, who challenged assumptions about what it takes to champion original ideas and speak up more effectively- how to master the sequel to creativity.

Embrace failure

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”, Henry Ford

We can all have ideas about how to change and better the world around us, but many of us are too afraid to say anything. The fear of failure is the number one enemy of creativity. Even the most famous creatives are fallible. Walt Disney weathered bankruptcy, J.K. Rowling endured countless rejections and Steve Jobs was fired from Apple.

To avoid stumbling at the first hurdle, we need to shift our mindsets on how we consider failure; to expect and manage failure. Mistakes help us to discover new approaches, opportunities, and better our ideas. To master the sequel to creativity, we need to firstly create a culture that embraces failure for originality to thrive.

Admit weakness

To present a balanced case for new ideas, we need to be self-critical and honest, and that involves admitting our weaknesses as well as championing our strengths. For example, Rufus Griscom, co-founder of parenting website Babble, kicked off his ‘Dragons Den’ pitch with 3 reasons why not to invest in his company. An approach that secured him $3m of funding that year, and $40million two years later when Disney bought his company. By acknowledging the weaknesses in our ideas, it makes it more difficult for challengers to find flaws. In spite of the imperfections, your idea is still worth considering.

Be tempered-radicals

“It’s not possible to prove analytically that a new idea is a good one in advance. If an idea is new, there’s no data about how it will interact with the world.” Roger Martin, Institute Director, Martin Prosperity Institute

For an idea to be original, it’s often radical. The more radical an idea, the more important it is to connect it to things people understand. Not too conformist and not too rebellious, we need to take a tempered-radical approach when sharing our ideas.

To overcome this challenge, we need to master the art of repetition. People need on average 10-20 exposures to something new to develop a preference and understanding – a concept in social psychology called the ‘mere-exposure effect’ (or ‘familiarity principle’). Have confidence in delivering the same idea in different ways. Deliver, adjust, deliver, adjust, deliver, adjust… you get the picture!

And when exposing people to an unfamiliar idea, use familiar language or references where possible to make it easier to envision or grasp. Take your novel idea and connect it to something people already understand.

Hunt out the disagreeable-givers

“Common goals can just as often drive us apart as they do bring us together.” Adam Grant

Finally, we need to challenge our assumptions of what makes the best ally. Contrary to popular belief, these may not be those who share your common goals. Sigmund Freud referred to this as the “narcissism of small differences”, where people with minor differences, the “nearly we”, are most likely to reserve emotions of aggression, hatred and envy, compared to those with major differences who share little in common.

The most powerful allies are the ‘disagreeable-givers’, not afraid of conflict, willing to give critical feedback, play devil’s advocate and ask the hard questions. They will tear an idea apart to make it stronger. And when you convince a disagreeable-giver that your idea is worth supporting, they will be your biggest cheerleader. Seek out the disagreeable-givers in your lives and embrace them.