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Childlike creativity is amazing. Kids know no boundaries or barriers…they just create.

A study performed by Amiable & Hennessy, researchers for the Harvard Business Review, uncovered several “Creativity Killers” for school age children – some of which also impact adults. The six “sure fire ways to crush children’s (or adult’s) creativity” look like this:

  • Surveillance – Putting people under a microscope and making them feel like they’re being watched rarely produces great art. Any time we have to apply surveillance, we probably have made the wrong hire, do not have enough trust in our teams, or are being way too controlling.
  • Extreme Evaluation – Extreme evaluation crushes a kid’s confidence. Likewise, it can crush an adult’s confidence. We need to learn to coach, develop, and articulate desired results. When dealing with creative people, it’s important to remember the emotions required to actually create. Without that contact to our feelings, we lose the ability to create from our core. Evaluation is necessary, extreme evaluation just kills creativity.
  • Unhealthy Competition – Focusing on competing with ourselves to create our best work. Competition can be a motivation, but it rarely works when it’s used as manipulation. When we build a culture of winners – a culture that is always attempting to bring out the best in ourselves – we are often enabled to outdo our “competition”.
  • Over-control – Micro-managing how your children accomplish tasks. We never excel when we are micro-managed. As creatives, it’s so important that we under promise and over deliver so we avoid the need for micro-management. Anyone who has been micro-managed knows the impact it has on our creative thought, process, and ability.
  • Restricting choice – Hinders kids from tapping into their curiosity. Curiosity is vital to creation. When we restrict choices, we pull options off the table. This might be a healthy exercise to jumpstart the brainstorming process, but it’s not healthy when troubleshooting problems or trying to come up with new ways to destroy the status quo in our organizations.
  • Unreal Expectations – Setting expectations that cannot be met. We have to be real with what is possible, what can be created, and clearly communicate those expectations in a healthy, honest, and constructive way.

Once we have identified these creativity killers, we are able to be more supportive and cultivate environments where our best creative content can excel. Finding out what kills creativity can go a long way in helping promote creative process.

We need to always be sure we are:

  • Giving plenty of space for the creative process and creativity to thrive.
  • Encouraging our creative teams. Creative people must know it’s safe for them to create and have the confidence necessary to try things that have never been tried before.
  • Helping focus our teams on getting better project-by-project. You can’t expect to pull off Cirque du Soleil when you have not been able to complete one worship song correctly. Pace. Get better in steps so you can win as a team.
  • The minute we feel we are micro-managing, step back and allow our teams to succeed or fail. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to our creative process is for it to break so we can get better.
  • Providing options, not barriers. Look for opportunities and avoid restrictive language like “Can’t”, “Won’t”, or “Never”.
  • Always being clear on our expectations. Articulate what can be done and how, when, what is desired. You will never go wrong when you have defined expectations.

What are some of the things you feel kills your creativity? What are solutions to help build more conducive environments for creating.

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