Change One Word To Boost Creativity

We’ve all suffered through the misery of a typical brainstorm session. Flat, mediocre ideas tend to carry the day as the breakthroughs remain elusive. An incremental idea here. An obvious cliché idea there. Short on inspiration, the suggestions lack originality and potency.

The culprit of bad brainstorm sessions is the deadly cocktail of fear mixed with historical anchoring. We’re afraid to share our whacky ideas, unwilling to risk the appearance of foolishness or an admonishment from the boss. In an effort to play it safe, we look backwards for a reference of what worked in the past rather than forging new ground for changing circumstances. In a nutshell, most ideation sessions revolve around what we ‘should’ do.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, should is the enemy of good. ‘Should’ ideas are rooted in fear instead of imagination, thereby restricting our best thinking. As an alternative, swap out ‘should’ with ‘could’. This single vocab shift will unlock creative potential faster than a bank robber can crack a bike lock.

When you focus on ‘could’, several things immediately change. First, you’re no longer responsible for the idea. You’re simply saying what might happen while providing no personal endorsement. You’re now absolved from any executional hurdles, funding challenges, or how the idea might be received by senior leadership. The pressure is off when you’re merely pondering.

In addition, you now shift the reference point from the past to the future. From what was to what’s possible. When the anchor of the past is hoisted off the ground, your imagination is able to soar.

The goal of any good ideation session is to push the boundaries of creativity, and the simple shift from ‘should’ to ‘could’ can push your thinking to the next level. What could be done if you had unlimited resources? What could happen if you could use technology that hasn’t yet been invented? What ideas could make you grow 500% in the next 24 months? Start with that beautiful, unrestricted ‘could’ and the ‘how’ will become apparent as you progress.

Marconi wondered if wireless communication could happen. Picasso imagined what could be done to advance fine art. Lady Gaga just knew she could be a star, and let her vision guide her actions each step of the way. The history makers are firmly rooted in could.

This week, let’s ditch the should in favor of the could. Let’s stretch our imagination beyond our norms to discover a fresh path forward.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment… we really should could.