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How To Discourage Creativity

Look around your office. Are people trying to solve problems that are outside their area of responsibility? Is there just too much laughing and teamwork going on? Do you see collaboration instead of competition? Do people seem confident and happy to take on challenges? If you suspect your company is the victim of creeping creativity, follow these 10 simple steps to get rid of it, fast:

  1. When you need new ideas quickly, isolate people and have them number their papers 1 to 100. Give them 20 minutes to come up with new ideas. Make sure you explain only good ideas are welcome. Teamwork and building on each other’s ideas will make the process too productive and pleasant.
  2. Encourage people to respond to any new idea with “Yes, but. If you allow people to focus on what’s good in the idea, not only will they keep the good parts alive, they’ll end up with creative fodder for even more new ideas.
  3. Ensure people set criteria for a great concept before they begin to generate ideas. If you don’t edit while ideating, you’ll have hundreds of ideas instead of a short list that’s easy to tick off.
  4. See to it that employees are so tightly scheduled that there’s no downtime for daydreaming. Subconscious thought and time to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas only leads to new ideas.
  5. If you must work in teams, insist that people work only with others who are wired the same way they are. Mixing creative styles only leads to a greater number of solutions.
  6. Cultivate an environment of rules and regulations to discourage independence.  The last thing you want is adults believing they can think for themselves.
  7. When ideating, punish early and often anyone who stretches their own thinking—or worse, encourages others to do the same. Creativity is contagious, and supporting it only fans the flames.
  8. Explain that ideas are currency and every failure costs, well, nothing, but try to convey a sense of shame and failure if the idea isn’t perfect from the start. 
  9. Encourage people to display their analytical skills by ridiculing the ideas of others. Mutual respect will lead people to think everyone is valuable.
  10. Resist the lure of professionally facilitated ideation sessions. If you don’t run the meeting, lead the creative exercises, make sure everyone feels valued and respected for their contributions, etc., you’ll lose your excuse for not participating fully and forfeit your opportunity to criticize the output.

It can be scary outside the box.  Do what you can to keep yourself and your company safely tucked away in the dark.

©2020 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Originally posted 9/13/2013. Updated 2020.

Emeritus Facilitator Cynthia Ryan

Cynthia Ryan is an Emeritus Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.