Judgement: The enemy of creativity

Judgement: The enemy of creativity

Are you very critical? Do you often criticise other people and their ideas and actions? Do you apply the same standards to yourself? If so, chances are that you're not very creative _ or that you do not fully use your own creative potential. Judgement is the enemy of creativity and creation. Here is why.

What is judgement? When you form an opinion, then you judge. Judgement comes in two forms: outer and inner. When you criticise another person's appearance, ideas, or opinions, or when you gossip, you judge outwardly. In contrast, inner judgement is criticism of yourself and your acts. This inner voice can be your harshest critic, and a perfectionist that is difficult to please.

How can you spot a judgmental person? Judgmental people are easy to identify. They are sceptical and pessimistic _ glass half-empty people. This is reflected in their language. They often say "no" and "but", or "Good idea, but it won't work." Critical people also respond to ideas with negative body language, such as a frown, a yawn, or crossed arms, and kill ideas by saying "it won't work", "don't be a dreamer", "it's been tried", "it's impossible", and "it has never been done before". Well, nothing really new ever has. Has it?

When you encounter these critics, take consolation in the knowledge that they are usually every bit as critical of themselves. Nothing can be good enough to please their inner critic, who constantly demands absolute perfection.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

Questions: Who are the most judgmental people in your life? How judgmental are you?

Why is judgement a problem? Judgement is valuable and has its place in the creative process. We must judge our ideas after we have created them to separate the valuable ones from the pipe dreams. Unedited creativity, including seemingly wild, impractical ideas, should precede any judgement. The problem comes when judgement stifles creativity, prematurely killing good ideas.

Imagine brainstorming and hearing your boss say of a junior colleague's idea, "That's really stupid." Do you think the colleague would be likely to continue suggesting bold, daring ideas? Would you be? Or imagine your inner critic look at an idea you came up with and say, "People will laugh at you." Would you propose the idea, or would you kill your "silly idea" in silence?

Judgement is deadly for your ideas during ideation. A creative process, where ideation is separated from idea development and selection, helps prevent this. That's why Alex Osborn (the inventor of brainstorming) suggested as the first ground rule for ideation to "defer judgement" to the evaluation stage, when you are supposed to judge. But during ideation, a critical, judgmental mindset is deadly for those who want to develop their full creative potential.

Questions: How judgmental are those in your meetings or brainstorming sessions? How many ideas are prematurely killed by judgmental colleagues _ or yourself?

What's the opposite of a judgmental mind? One secret of creative geniuses is that they have learned to master their judgmental mind. Instead, they cultivate what Zen Buddhism calls an open, curious "beginner's mind". Albert Einstein, when asked why he was the one to discover relativity, said, "My secret is I remained a child. I always asked the simplest questions. I ask them still. All I have tried to do in my life is ask a few questions."

Think back to when you were a child. You explored the world, which was new to you and full of wonders, with insatiable curiosity. You learned at a rapid pace. You embraced new ideas, knowledge and people. You asked questions. You loved life with your open, curious beginner's mind. You were creative, enjoyed wild ideas, and indulged your imagination and fantasy. As a child, you were close to your genius.

Questions: How open, curious, and creative were you as a young child? How open, curious, and creative are you now?

Conclusion: If you want to express your full creative potential, you must gain control over your inner critic. You must suspend your judgmental self and cultivate an open, curious beginner's mind like Einstein's, who said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."

How can you do this? In my next column two weeks from now, I will share with you five things you can do to silence your inner critic and open your mind to the beauty of creation.


Dr Detlef Reis is the Founding Director and Chief Ideator of Thinkergy Limited (www.Thinkergy.com), the Ideation and Innovation Company in Asia. He is also a University Lecturer for Business Creativity and Innovation Leadership at the College of Management, Mahidol University (www.cmmu.mahidol.ac.th). He can be reached at dr.d@thinkergy.com

Detlef Reis

founding director of Thinkergy Limited

Email : dr.d@Thinkergy.com.

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