The originality trap


Our friend, Steve Chapman, has written a short post about the perils of trying to be original:

In my work I find that the biggest thing that creatively inhibits people isn’t necessarily the fact that they don’t have any ideas, it is because they judge the ideas they do have as unoriginal.  And this striving for the impossible either makes them despondent and give up or try even harder to be even more original which gets them even more stuck.

Sometimes the effort to be creative and original can actually be the thing that stops us from making progress. Too often we're tempted to shake things up and disrupt when more gentle persistence might be more helpful.

We both like to notice when a process we're using is feeling a bit stuck and boring...and then we often say this out loud, and also say let's just stick with boredom for a bit longer and see if anything changes. (Spoiler: it nearly always does!)

Steve cites Keith Johnstone, the famous improv teacher. He would often coach actors to be more average and less interesting. What happens in most improv scenes is when the actors try less hard to be creative, they actually make it easier to connect. As Steve puts it, "Creativity is a concept that is more about connection than creation."

By making less effort to be creative, we can often create a less intense atmosphere in which there is space for serendipity. When facilitators meet as a group, they love sharing their latest process and many facilitation books are full of exciting new recipes. We risk confusing genuine creativity with high stimulation. What may be better is to allow people more space to make connections under less pressure.

(Photo: Jian Xhin on Unsplash)