Creativity Requires Vulnerability; Creativity Requires Strength. (Part 2 of The Paradoxes of Creativity)

The Paradoxes of Creativity is a 3-part series, each entry exploring a different paradox. Part One addressed the paradox: You Can't Force Creativity; You Must Force Creativity. Part Two focuses on another paradox: Creativity Requires Vulnerability; Creativity Requires Strength. Part Three will explore: Creativity is a Flash; Creativity is a Beam.

Paradox 2: Creativity Requires Vulnerability; Creativity Requires Strength.

An interesting statement came across my twitterstream last week: "When brainstorming, look at what the ideas have in common. That's your box."

Ah, the box, the box we are all constantly being exhorted to think outside of.

So often, a group will coalesce around the concept that comes up over and over. It's so tempting, and so easy! It feels damn good, doesn't it, to flow right along with those ideas? The group of sticky notes with the most entries ... that must be a good answer! The consensus is built right in! Everyone is happy!

And the lonely sticky notes off by themselves? Those are ignored, swept away without a glance.

"When brainstorming, look at what the ideas have in common. That's your box." This flies in the face of that easy consensus, and I love it.

Which brings me to the Vulnerability/Strength paradox. It requires a level ofvulnerability to put that lonely sticky note up there, when so many other sticky notes grouped up so cozily together. They seem to be saying, "Look at us, a little sticky note army, invincible! Do not challenge our power! Isn't it obvious that we are on the right track? Everyone agrees!"

Someone pushed past that, and posted something different. However, innovative ideas generally don't occur to multiple people at the same time. I'm willing to bet that the real innovation is stuck up there somewhere on its own, not in the big bunch.

It requires strength to push past that easy consensus, to find the creativity hiding on the outskirts, outside of that sticky note army's box. It requires strength to bring the group around to really understanding the new idea, so they can continue to develop it, and eventually support it.

My challenge to you: The next time you are in a brainstorming session, take a moment to look at the lonely, vulnerable sticky notes off by themselves. Then, spend 5 minutes on each of those, detailing out what they might mean, and whether there is a nugget of genius you can use that might be better than the easy consensus.

Remember: Be vulnerable enough to put the wild ideas out there. Be strong enough to give them a chance at life, even when (especially when!) the sticky note army is shouting otherwise.