When your analytical mind smiles down at you with an objection, all you have to do is smile back
Today I continue my exploration of the interaction of the analytical mind and creativity with a recent real-life example.
People often regret not being creative enough. They think cannot generate novel ideas. More often than not, the issue is not an inability to generate ideas, but a stronger ability to kill them instantly, which stems from the analytical brain: when an idea pops up, timid and fragile as a late winter flower, stamping it down with all sorts of logical reasons why it will not work is easy. Dead easy. To shamelessly paraphrase Burke in reverse, all that is required for the demise of new ideas is for the analytical brain to do everything.
It is however possible to keep your analytical mind in check. The case presented itself to me in a mentoring discussion last Friday.
- The person I was talking to floated the idea that she could get involved part-time in a project in order to broaden her experience.
- I could immediately feel my analytical brain kicking in and coming up with several reasons to dismiss – however tactfully – the idea. For instance, the training cost required to get the person up to speed may be prohibitive for a part-time involvement in return.
- However, I recognised the objection for what it was – a creature of my analytical brain – and I made the conscious choice to acknolwedge it and pause it (it is like meditation: when an unsollicited thought comes by, you don’t fight it, you just let it be, and it may pass.) Since we had been talking about innovation a few moments before, I even joked about this surge of analytical brain power and we had a good laugh.
- Rather than fight the objection or surrender to it, I asked myself the question: since cost might be an issue, how could we test the waters at lower cost? In other words, how could we fast-prototype the idea? Instantly, the idea of letting the person shadow the project leader came to mind: no training would be required but we both would learn more about the potential benefits of the idea.
- An hour later, I was talking to the project leader who came up in no time with a couple of practical ways to make the shadowing happen at very low cost indeed.
With this process we didn’t brought the matter to a final conclusion; what we did was simply to avoid slamming the door on an idea, and instead open it to new possibilities. As I write these lines, further ideas are indeed brewing in the minds of all involved.
So, let’s summarise:
- Be aware that, faced with a new idea, your analytical brain will come up with at least one objection
- Acknowledge the objection, don’t fight it or surrender to it, just smile at it: it is a guest, not the master of the house.
- Ask yourself how you could test the water and try. Think ‘cheap and fast prototyping’.
- Rather than try and sell the big idea to others in its entirety (for it will generate objections in their minds as well), focus subsequent discussions on the prototyping. Ask not ‘how could we make the big idea work’, ask ‘how could we make the prototype happen’.
- Take that first prototyping step and see what new knowledge or ideas it brings: a ten-thousand miles journey starts with a single step.