Thursday, 5 September 2013

Assumptions, assumptions

Creativity Unleashed Limited - spot the cognitive dissonance
When I'm training businesses in creativity techniques, one of the first things I try to hammer into them is that assumptions kill creativity. We all make assumptions all the time. How we do things. What's allowed (and what's not). What's possible (and what's not). The rules. And so on. And every one of these assumptions gets in the way of being creative. Throw them out and you can solve many more problems. Of course, you might break the law in the process. But this isn't a problem.

Why? Because it is much easier to take a wonderful, attractive, but impractical idea and make it practical than it is to take a dull but practical idea and make it wonderful and attractive. So banish assumptions to begin with when trying to be creative, then re-impose them later as you refine your ideas and make them usable.

Sometimes assumptions can be downright dangerous, as I discovered in my teens. On my way to school I used to walk through the centre of Manchester, a busy city in the North of England. I went the same route every day and I knew which of the streets I crossed were one way streets. So like many apparently streetwise city dwellers I tended to show off my knowledge by only bothering to look down the street in the direction I knew cars would come from. Until the day a car went the wrong way down a one-way street and only just managed to stop with its bumper nestling against my legs.

So if you are with me in a city and feel the urge to snigger when I always look to make sure traffic isn't coming from the wrong direction in a one way street, suppress that urge. I am just making sure that I don't make a deadly assumption.

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