Habits are nature's
compensation for not giving us very many instincts. When a dog gets
up in the morning it does what it does because it's a dog. We, on the
other hand, face choices from the moment the alarm goes off (assuming
that you decided to set an alarm). You have to decide whether you are
going to get up immediately or hit the snooze button. Then you have
to decide if you are going to spring from bed or slink from under the
covers. After that you decide whether to put on slippers, and if so,
which foot first. From there, you decide whether to put on a robe, which
arm goes in first, tie it or not. You get the picture.
If you had to make
a conscious decision about everything you do to get out of the house
in the morning, you'd still be there. This is where habits are useful.
They're great for handling routine, repetitive tasks to help us get
through the day.
can be dangerous. Maybe you've had the experience of getting in your
car in the morning, putting your key in the ignition and the next thing
you know, you're at work. You remember nothing of the trip. This habit
saved you the necessity of making every driving decision, freeing your
mind for other tasks.
During this kind
of "automatic" commute, have you ever realized in horror that you have
run a stop sign that wasn't there yesterday? This is one of many instances
where habits can be dangerous. They prevent us from seeing changes in
In the exact same
way, habit prevents us from seeing business opportunities. We have all
heard the story of Chester Carlson taking "dry process copying" (Xerox)
to many companies, including Kodak. IBM initially ignoring the personal
computer market until it was almost too late. In all these stories,
individuals and organizations are blind to opportunities because their
habits don't allow them to question assumptions or see changes in the
To train yourself
to see opportunities and changes, break unimportant habits. The newness
of these activities help us become more open to creativity, both our
own and that of others.
does two things for our creativity muscle. First, you learn to tolerate
discomfort. Creativity is about change and change is uncomfortable.
To become more creative is to accept more ambiguity in your life. Train
yourself to enjoy change by breaking habits.
habits forces us to think about our assumptions. When we question assumptions,
we no longer take the environment as constant, but rather as dynamic.
Understanding the dynamic nature of the environment leads to increased
Here are a few habits
that you can break to ease your journey to becoming more creative:
- Work from the
other side of your desk.
- Use your off-hand
for common tasks, like eating , brushing your hair or teeth, writing,
using the computer mouse.
- Watch the TV
with the sound off or listen to classic radio programs on National
Public Radio. Either of these activities engages our "theater of the
- Experiment with
foods, either a cuisine you are not familiar with or one that you
know but with a different twist.
- Listen to different
music than you are used to.
- Go to a cultural
event that is beyond your normal range of things.
- Take a different
route to work, or better yet, a different mode of transportation.
- Work from home
or someone else's office for a day.
- Do someone else's
work for a day.
The first step to
becoming more creative is to see the world differently and that requires
breaking our current habits. The opportunities to break habits are endless.
The rewards for becoming more creative are boundless.