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8 Habits That Are Killing Your Creativity

If you're looking to be more creative at work, there are plenty of tips available. BNET bloggers have suggested everything from moving to another country to boost creativity to seven habits to be more innovative. But the blog Copyblogger recently took the opposite tack, suggesting eight habits to avoid, lest you stifle out-of-the-box thinking. They're pitched primarily at copywriters (as the blog title suggests) but can help anyone who wants to generate more fresh ideas. Here's what to steer clear of:
  • Creating and evaluating at the same time. You can't drive a car in first gear and reverse at the same time. Likewise, you shouldn't try to use different types of thinking simultaneously. You'll strip your mental gears. Most people evaluate too soon and too often, and therefore create less. In order to create more and better ideas, you must separate creation from evaluation, coming up with lots of ideas first, then judging their worth later.
  • The Expert Syndrome. This is a big problem in any field where there are lots of gurus who tell you their secrets of success. It's wise to listen, but unwise to follow without question. Some of the most successful people in the world did what others told them would never work.
  • Fear of failure. No one wants to make mistakes or fail. But if you try too hard to avoid failure, you'll also avoid success. To increase your success rate, you should aim to make more mistakes.
  • Fear of ambiguity. Most people like things to make sense. Unfortunately, life is not neat and tidy; great creative ideas emerge from a swirl of chaos. You must develop a part of yourself that is comfortable with mess and confusion. You should become comfortable with things that work even when you don't understand why.
  • Lack of confidence. A certain level of uncertainty accompanies every creative act. A small measure of self-doubt is healthy. However, you must have confidence in your abilities in order to create and carry out effective solutions to problems. Much of this comes from experience, but confidence also comes from familiarity with how creativity works. When you understand that ideas often seem crazy at first, that failure is just a learning experience, and that nothing is impossible, you are on your way to becoming more confident and more creative.
  • Discouragement from other people. Even if you have a wide-open mind and the ability to see what's possible, most people around you will not. They will tell you in various and often subtle ways to conform, be sensible, and not rock the boat. Ignore them.
  • Being overwhelmed by information. It's called "analysis paralysis," the condition of spending so much time thinking about a problem and cramming your brain with so much information that you lose the ability to act. It's been said that information is to the brain what food is to the body. True enough. But just as you can overeat, you can also overthink.
  • Being trapped by false limits. Ask a writer for a great idea, and you'll get a solution that involves words. Ask a designer for a great idea, and you'll get a solution that involves visuals. We're all a product of our experience. But the limitations we have are self-imposed. Only when you force yourself to look past what you know and feel comfortable with, can you come up with the breakthrough ideas you're looking for.
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