The Seven Deadly Sins of Creativity

Posted on March 21, 2011 by Josh Linkner

The movie Seven, starring Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey, was one of the creepiest I’ve ever seen. It was based on the 14th century’s Seven Deadly Sins, and sent chills down the spines of viewers and critics alike. Even 16 years later, we shiver with fear when reflecting on this intense and horrifying flick.

While the original seven deadlys devour the human soul, there’s a new set of seven that is making carnage of our creativity. We know that developing our creative chops is job #1 in today’s hyper-competitive world, yet there are a few evil forces looking to deplete our most valuable natural resource:

1) Fear – The granddaddy of all creativity killers, we let our worries block our imagination. Our most brilliant creative sparks can be extinguished in an instant by the fear of looking foolish, embarrassment, or even fear of success.

2) Rigidity – Business leaders pride themselves in being “heads down”, yet that narrow worldview prevents us from sparking our imagination. Allowing yourself to be “heads up” will help you discover new possibilities for change and growth.

3) Premature Editing – Great ideas get killed in the blink of an eye, when we inject our linear, analytical left-brain into the creative process too early. Brainstorm sessions are geometrically more successful when you check your left-brain at the door. Let all the creativity pour out, and invite the editor in after the fact.

4) GroupThink – Thousands of breakthrough ideas are suffocated each day by the destructive forces of GroupThink. Don’t let the fear-mongers dice up your idea to the point where it loses potency. Have the guts to stand by your original ideas, even if it ruffles some feathers.

5) Outdated Traditions – Blindly saluting the flag of the past is no way to craft a successful future. If you run across a system, process, or idea that has “always been done that way”, you’ve just stumbled upon a beacon desperately calling for reinvention.

6) Playing it Safe – It turns out that playing it safe has become the riskiest move of all. Don’t let perceived safety lull you into inaction.

7) The Status Quo – Compliance is dead. The big wins go to those who challenge conventional wisdom and mock the status quo rather than succumb to it.

Don’t let these Evil Seven poison your thinking and murder your imagination. Remain vigilant, and when these nefarious forces emerge, don’t wait for the authorities to arrive – take matters into your own hands. Keep them at bay, and you will enjoy prosperity and fulfillment. But if you let them infiltrate your mind and your culture, not even Morgan Freeman can save you from painful treachery and the agony of defeat.

3 Responses to “The Seven Deadly Sins of Creativity

  1. I wish the list of sins was finite, but I think there at least 2 more that I’ve seen in action as derailers.

    #8: “I’m not creative” syndrome – People are convinced they don’t have a creative bone in their body and therefore live-up to that self-fulfilling prophecy by not stretching themselves to think differently, or muster enough confidence to fully engage in the creative process. Ironically, they once again confirm they have nothing to offer.

    #9: Creativity as a luxury – This occurs when the prevailing sense within a culture elevates the value of execution as trumping all. They view brainstorming as a silly undiciplined waste of time, or a luxury “we just can’t afford right now”. Quite a few people have strong beliefs in this regard and will dredge-up a recall of fruitless brainstorming sessions in the past as evidence.

    Sorry for the Monday morning buzz kill if these sound familiar. I know there are positive and compelling antidotes to each of these.

  2. Wow. This is brilliantly concise. And Steve Van Valin’s addition are equally valid.
    Thanks for posting this.