The Seven Deadly Sins of Creativity

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5) Outdated Traditions – Blindly saluting the flag of the past is no way to craft a successful future.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.

Read More

New Thinking for the New Era of Business

Albert Einstein famously noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” In our post-COVID world of ...

When an Astronaut Needs a Pen

Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you're solving for the wrong thing? That's exactly what happened when the rocket scientists at NASA ...

How Shake Shack Drives Innovation

Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the pumpkin mustard, bacon, cranberries, and sage hot dog? For something ...

Lady Gaga’s Secret to Creativity

Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of ...

Creativity: Does Size Matter?

For some reason, we’ve been taught that for creativity and innovation to count they need to have a magnitude the size of the 1989 San ...

The Lexicon of Creativity

There’s more confusion around the meaning of the word innovation than the chaos at the airline ticket counter after a cancelled flight. Is there a difference between ...

The Brain Science of Becoming More Creative

When we hear stories about iconic leaders like’s founder Marc Benioff, or widely celebrated virtuosos like Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter, we immediately think ...

Correct the Overcorrect

When the misguided leaders at Enron, Tyco and Worldcom committed fraud and marred their shareholders with huge losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission rightfully swooped ...

Learning to Color

Fact: Creativity has become the most needed skill in business. It’s gone from a nice-to-have to becoming mission-critical. Fact: Creativity is a learnable skill. All humans have ...