What happened with the brilliantly creative child inside us?

David J Hall founder of the Idea Center Group and presenter of Coaching without Borders helps organisation to understand the blockages inside heads lock you inside conventional and traditional thinking, which prevent you from being innovative, and from using your full potentials.

The world around us change at an exponential rate. There is a great acceleration and applies to any organisation of any types and any sectors. This is great because if you are entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative as an individual or as an organisation, what you have here is an exploding universe of opportunities. Loads of opportunities are out there and not just happening but expanding constantly in front of us. All we have to do is to scan the horizon, grab hold of new things and we are off our next innovation journey.

However, we individuals cannot keep up with all these changes because, we don’t have the mental capacity. We are good, but not good enough for such an exponential change explosion. The reason is because we are fundamentally backward looking individuals, because we make sense of our world by looking backwards. Most of the time we solve problems by looking our past experience, knowledge etc. filter it and select what is relevant today and apply it and that determines our future behaviours.

Our past has profound effect on our future

We are limited with regard to our future activities by our past experience. We can improve over time by unfortunately at much lower rate and we have ever increasing gap between what is and what might be. The reason behind this because if there is a problem we always look back before we decide on what next. So we pretty much trapped into our ‘what is’ circle, where we most of the time use our conventional and traditional thinking. We have a tendency of considering only those ideas that is within this circle and dismiss those that are out of it. Most of the decision are made within organisations with this backward looking perceptive.

The Kodak Story

1970s Kodak was a dominant player in photographic industry. They had cheap cameras. They made most of their revenue from selling films. Surprisingly Kodak invented the digital camera. However, their board dismissed the idea due to the fact there was no film needed. They cancelled all research and development on digital camera followed by all marketing activities in that regard as they said it would be suicidal to introduce a product on the market where there is no film because they claimed to be a film based organisation and all their successes were driven by films. They looked backwards and made a decision in accordance. The competition picked it up to win over Kodak. And they obviously did, while Kodak filed for bankruptcy. So they are all history by now. Often said ‘innovate or die’ or better termed ‘innovate or bleed to death very very slowly’ as it happened with Kodak.-So there is a high price to make decisions on past experience and follow conservative and traditional thinking.

How to break out?

To break out from this type of thinking now and then we have to deal with our mental blocks. These mental blocks are hardwired in our brains due to our evolutionary survival mechanism, which is to play safe in order to survive. You cannot get rid of them but you can use techniques that help to go around these barriers. It called discontinuous improvement, a big step change, doing things differently, forgetting about the current reality and transforming it utterly. This has to be driven top down in organisation.

Continuous improvement, however, means doing things better day after day. It is a bottom up approach that applies to everyone. If you are good at continuous improvement you improve constantly but unfortunately this improvement is based on more backward looking. To be able to close the gap between what is and what might be is to use both continuous improvement constantly and discontinuous improvement here and then. The latter is the one that helps organisation to stay relevant and ahead of their market.

Creativity vs Innovation


Generation of novel and useful ideas.


Making money/adding value out of creativity. Implementation of ideas.

What kind of ideas serve the discontinuous improvement the best?

They are novel and useless ideas. Unfortunately we also have a tendency to use ideas that are useful so we can implement it straight away. But useful kills novel. If you want a truly creative solution that is future focused you should first brainstorm and find novel and useless ideas. These ideas our outrageous, illegal, crazy and amoral. Then grab hold of novelty and explore it, understand it. And afterwards find a useful way of deliver it.

Mental blocks

1) The thinking process

We are massively conditioned in second stage thinking (vertical thinking) using the left side of the brain. Therefore, we focus mostly on this. It is about problem solving: taking information, processing it and generating outcomes. Useful ideas that are based on our past experience usually come out from second stage thinking. It is very quick. If you want useful ideas and continuous improvement you should use second stage thinking. First stage thinking (lateral thinking) which the right brain thinking is should be used for creativity. Novelty comes out of this side of the brain. Exploring the problem, less connected part of the brain, it can make a lot of new connections, and therefore, it is very slow.

2) Patterning systems

It is about breaking information down to patterns. These patterns based on information from the past. They help us to process vast amount of information very fast. It is great for problem solving. In our brain inside we have an enormous virtual filing cabinet with full of patterns of everything and anything we have ever made sense of. If any information does not comply with our data from our filing cabinet, the brain brushes it off and ignores it. Patterns of how we do things around here make us comfortable. When you have got a pattern in your head you cannot rid of that. The disadvantage of this patterning systems is that it blocks our creativity. Various techniques can help us mess up our patterning systems and liberate our creativity.

According to studies children are brilliant about creativity in fact 98% of children at age 4 are genius at creativity. At age of 10 this number drops to 34% and at age of 17 only 11% of them are brilliant at creativity. How our second stage thinking education system and our filling up filing cabinet can destroy our creativity. This is I am afraid a natural process of growing up.

We can overcome these mental blocks by using creativity techniques like Multiple-cause analysis, Lego, 6 thinking hat and Superheroes.

  • How can introduce novelty into your organisation?
  • How can you make your people think more out of box, and generating novel and useful ideas?
  • How can you create an environment in your organisation where there is a place and process for discontinuous improvement, for creativity and for innovation?

You can read my article on the topic in Hungarian at Boom Magazin: 

Source: David J Hall founder of the Idea Center and presenter of Coaching without Borders

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