Back to Writing

How to Free Up Your Ability to Think Creatively

How to Free Up Your Ability to Think Creatively

The biggest obstacle you face on the path to creativity is yourself. It’s the internal barrier that limits the way all of us think and see the world: our dominant logic. Everyone has a set of tenets or beliefs that determines what we value and what we don’t value. Often that dominant logic gets in the way of coming to more thoughtful, comprehensive solutions to our innovation challenges. You need to understand and incorporate other viewpoints into your own if you want to achieve your full creative potential.

The most pervasive dominant logics are political and religious affiliations. Have you ever changed someone’s mind about politics or religion? Probably not–because the overwhelming pull of our dominant logic blocks up our minds from alternative perspectives.

To use the word “logic” here is misleading: there is nothing logical or rational about these so-called dominant logics–they are almost always emotional identifications. Recent studies suggest that many people who call themselves Democrat or Republican can’t even describe their parties’ platforms when asked to delve deeper into the issues.

Dominant logics of all kinds distort reality. They inevitably twist facts and prevent us from seeing the bigger picture. When it comes to innovation, our dominant logics impede creative thinking. The most effective innovation solutions are almost always hybrids, processes that combine multiple perspectives, so it’s imperative that we learn to break free of our own biases and preconceptions. We may never be able to talk other people out of their all-powerful worldviews, but we can learn to be more flexible about our own. Here are three key strategies to help you step outside of your dominant logic:

Focus on the data. Looking for the hard facts and statistics associated with any given issue is the first step in achieving objectivity. Remember, though, that even data can be influenced by the dominant logic of others. Ask yourself these two key questions: who gathered this data and why did they gather it? If the facts are not from a neutral source, then consider what the agenda might be behind them. For example, if you read about a study that claims a certain food might make you happy or increase your life span, it’s likely been funded or conducted by the people who sell or make that food. Beware of industry sources that merely confirm what the industry wants you to know. Alternately, be active about seeking out information that may be purposefully buried. Recall the way insights about smoking in the 1950s and about gas and lead in the 1960s were hidden for years from public view.

Burn the platform. Forget what you’ve heard about trusting the teller and not the tale. Trust the tale–not the teller. Whenever you read or listen to a story relevant to your innovation initiative, keep in mind that this story is coming from someone with a specific interest in it. You need to get beyond that individual’s angle and find the true heart of the story and the question at hand. Begin by tossing out your own perspective. In eliminating your own viewpoint, you generate multiple alternative ways of approaching the problem. Solutions to complicated innovation projects are rarely ever single things. Consider, for example, effective treatments for diseases or breakthrough discoveries about space. They are a convergence of many insights, a collection or webbing of ideas.

Find the balancing point. To practice simple black-and-white thinking is to miss all of the interesting possibilities that lie between two extremes. If you want to get closer to the nuances and truths of any situation, look up, look down, and look around. Looking up means looking at the larger things going on in the world, the national and global trends outside of your control. Looking down is about reflecting on the more pressing needs and desires of those in your innermost circle. Looking around involves weighing the different opinions and ideas of the people who surround you, reading and listening to things you normally would ignore. Practice taking your opponent’s point of view. Go further than merely playing devil’s advocate–see if you can actually understand their position in a meaningful way. There just might be something in there that you can actually use or integrate into your own ideas or solutions.

Creativity lies just beyond the boundaries of our world views. It’s comfortable and easy to stick with the things we believe, but by doing so we’re also stifling our ability to be innovative. What are you willing to do to overcome the limits of your dominant logic?

Share this article