In his book, The Art of Creative Thinking, Rod Judkins, in advising how to strengthen creative thought, says “Doubt Everything.”
I certainly don’t disagree. Doubting everything, especially things others assume to be true, is a great way of finding fresh ideas and new takes on old problems.
However, with most pieces of advice regarding creativity, it is a double-edged sword. This advice may work flawlessly for the lone artistic genius living in his ivory tower, but for those of us who work collaboratively, who work with others, we need to be a bit more careful.
A significant block to creativity is fear: fear of failure, fear of ridicule (see: Eisner, M. (1998). Managing Creativity. Executive Excellence, 15(1), 14). Now, imagine being on the other end of “doubt everything”: constantly being doubted.
We need to doubt everything without overtly doubting a person. Logically, there are two ways to do this:
- Raise doubt in a subtle manner. Don’t doubt but question, confirm. Or,
- Create a culture where doubt is encouraged and where it is not taken personally.
If we take doubt to be a positive force (granted that this may not be applicable in all situations – especially those where time has more importance), it makes sense that for its positives to be most effective, we don’t want to hide it or mask it as something else. We should be open and honest. We should expect to be doubted. We should actually be hurt if our ideas are not doubted because it means our collaborators are not looking at our ideas through an analytical lens.
To me, Judkins advice stands: we should doubt, but it should be presented not as a force that tears ideas down, but rather builds and transforms them. If we are to embrace collaborative solutions, we must expect that our personal ideas are complete and perfect. This is linked to my previous post on encouraging mistakes. We need to celebrate learning and we need to celebrate the ideas that, even though are not complete, serve as the platform for great ones to come.
Of course, all this is easier said than done. Here is where trust begins to play a large role…
Feature image courtesy of Jônatas Cunha