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How to Encourage Innovation and Creativity: Part 4 – Humility

by: Chris Knotts, PMP – ASPE Creative Director

This week we’re offering insights into how professional creatives keep the mojo flowing. Nurture the pillars of creativity in your day to day work, and the rest will follow.

Part 4: Stay humble.

It’s pretty easy to transition into this bit of advice. The best creative minds, I’ve found, are the folks who make an effort to stay humble. In fact, I’ve always found that most prima donnas are usually turning out second-rate work. It’s not hard to understand why.

Consider this: you probably know your fair share of people who have a slightly higher opinion of themselves than they deserve. Although I hate to stay it, creative professions probably have more of these than most. But don’t be fooled by creatives who act high and mighty; they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Here’s why: when big chunks of your attention are focused on how good you are, you have less to spend on the job of developing good ideas. Furthermore, when you’re busy looking inward, you’re not looking outward, which is where the stimulus is going to come from for developing good ideas. Looking outward, asking questions, and finding inspiration are far better things upon which to spend your time.

Keep your mind open to as many new things as possible, and make the effort to seek them out. Read your industry’s journals. Keep up with your industry’s news.  This is how the connections will occur to you, and the only way to allow them to happen is to foster an attitude that you absolutely, positively do not know it all and there’s always going to be something that surprises you. So stay open, and stay curious. Don’t be ashamed to learn — that’s what keeps you primed and ready for generating that blessed raw material for your creative gold panning process.

One last note about humility: when you’re panning for gold you find very quickly that generating nuggets for your creative process can sometimes be pretty exhausting. During the brainstorming process, it can get downright discouraging to realize that after spitting out seventeen possible concepts, you still don’t have one that’s really excellent. Yet, it’s important to push on through so you can find the one that will finally work. Realizing this, it’s hard to get too cocky. Why? You realize that your creative process is just as much about hard work and perseverance as it is your own supposed brilliance. However, this is a good thing! It means that you don’t have to be a creative genius to think creatively, and to harness the results in your own work. With the right process, and a good work ethic, anyone can develop a solid creative process upon which they can rely.

Further reading: When putting together further reading for this article, I found this great post on the Harvard Business Review Use Humility to Improve Performance  (Note – I read this blog a lot. It has a lot of great info on leadership and business skills)

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