How to be more creative by breaking the rules of creativity

by Robert Siegel on September 14, 2010

The facilitator told us to ignore all of the barriers and constraints we faced in our work so that we could completely free our minds for brainstorming.  Our goal that day was to gather as many ideas as possible, regardless of the quality.  She told us that no idea was a bad idea no matter how silly and unrealistic the idea sounded.  Those silly and unrealistic ideas would lead us to great breakthrough thinking, she explained.  Besides, we would have plenty of time in the next few weeks to filter out the bad ideas and select the best ideas to develop further.  The day was for ‘free thinking,’ because breakthrough ideas come from free thinking.

The facilitator was wrong.

She was locked into conventions for creative thinking that might be acceptable for challenges like naming consumer products or creating a product slogan, but not for complex, high tech challenges.   The result of her flawed methodology was that a lot of people spent the day brainstorming a list of mostly silly ideas.  The only good ideas to make the list were ideas that people had developed prior to the brainstorming session.  Participants threw those ideas in to fill the quotas she set for the various exercises, or with the hope that someone would recognize the ideas potential…this time.  Freeing our minds did not help us to develop any breakthrough creative ideas that day.  In fact, we did not develop any good ideas that day.

We made only one mistake that day; using creative thinking techniques from the era of the slide rule not the iPad.  The better way for thinking creatively is to understand one simple rule:

Barriers and constraints are not obstacles to creative thinking.  They are tools.

Barriers and constraints are tools for great creative thinking
The Ideative Process is a major evolution in creative thinking because this proven Process causes users to immediately address the barriers and constraints that interfere with the successful implementation of Ideas.

This focus on barriers and constraints as tools to improve the output of your creative thinking breaks the rules of traditional creativity; it is an “Out of the box” approach to creative thinking.  Previous to The Ideative Process, the best of creative thinking methods began with participants setting aside barriers and constraints. According to these methods, no idea, no matter how unrealistic, was a bad idea. Your goal was to develop a lot of ideas regardless of quality. Quality came later when someone had to select the good ideas from the overall idea pool.

Ignoring constraints, traditional creative teachers argue, provides you the opportunity to create a large quantity of ideas and to think freely about what could be and perhaps should be.  This they claim produces break through thinking.

The fundamental flaw in this approach is that you are ignoring your barriers and constraints at the time when you are performing your most productive creative thinking. This is the time when you should be paying the most attention to your barriers and constraints for three key reasons:

1)    To develop Ideas for solving or easing those barriers and constraints;
2)    To apply your best creative thinking to developing great Ideas that will work despite the barriers and constraints.
3)    The very process of thinking through the challenges to overcoming your barriers and constraints will force you to create better Ideas — just as an athlete improves his or her muscle strength and coordination by taking on greater physical challenges.

Barriers and constraints are a real part of your world.  They can be obstacles to your creativity or they can be guides that push you to think more deeply and more broadly to create better ideas; innovative, realistic, and valuable Ideas.  The choice is yours.  The Ideative Process.


For more information on creating innovative, realistic, and valuable ideas using The Ideative Process please explore this website. To arrange for Robert Siegel to speak to your company or organization about The Ideative Process, The Anybody’s Approach to Creative Thinking, visit The Ideative Process training program for your company or send an email to:

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