Talent isn’t rigid
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck believes that in psychology, there is a belief that the attitude that we bring to creative work plays a huge role in shaping just how much of our talents we realise.
If we believe our talent is fixed we are effectively writing off any options for growth.
If we believe that talent or intelligence, or any other ability, evolves as a result of how much effort we put in, the opportunities are endless.
This idea of pigeonholing our capabilities and deferring to what we already know is creativity’s worst enemy. It’s a phenomenon that has more commonly been termed ‘The Lizard Brain’. This deserves a little explanation…
The term Lizard-Brain is a light-hearted way of describing the most primitive part of our human brain. The human Lizard-Brain has been evolving for around 285 million years and is similar in power and concept to the total brain capacity of a modern lizard, hence its name.
Still with me? Here’s where it gets interesting… The lizard brain is the part of the brain that senses danger, where instincts and gut feelings originate, primal thoughts, urges, subconscious or involuntary processes — the amygdala. It’s this fight or flight, that can stifle our creative muscle from doing its job effectively.
Author Seth Godin argues that one of the main barriers to innovation is the lizard brain, ‘the primitive part of the human brain adapted for survival’. He explains that the lizard brain “loves being a cog in the system”. It is soothed by working on the assembly line because it’s not your fault if you’re following a comfortable, tried and tested process. It’s safer to fail small… Watch his fantastic seminar on ‘Quieting the lizard brain’.
So how do we combat this pesky primal problem?
Jocelyn K. Glei, founding editor of 99U shares her insight:
‘A first step is to start listening to the fixed mindset voice in your head. It’s always there, telling you “Are you sure you want to do this? You might make mistakes… y’know, people will find you out. You’re not going to look like the genius you want to look like.” Or if you start struggling, the fixed mindset says, “Oh, I told you so, but it’s not too late, you can still get out and save face.”
For a while just do that, just start listening to the fixed mindset voice keeping score.
And then over time: Start talking back. Start talking back and seeing all these things — challenges, setbacks, role models — as learning opportunities.’
In contrast to analytic jobs where there is a set formula to be repeated, creative people are constantly trying to break the status quo — something that the lizard brain instinctively hates. Thrashing out ideas at the beginning of a project and looking at scenarios of what could go wrong, can help quiet the lizard brain once a route has been chosen. We know the lizard brain likes making excuses to not take risks, it’s a form of self-sabotage that let’s us off the hook if we fail when we don’t put in 100%. Therefore, it’s only when we commit to an idea and fight the resistance of the lizard brain that we can truly make huge creative leaps.
Remember: Talent isn’t fixed.
With that, we come to an end of this collection of ideas, science and theory about cultivating creative thought. We’ve not touched upon your working environment, how dressing the part can effect your psychology nor the theory of intrinsic and extrinsic influences. We’ll reserve those for another day.
Whatever tools you use to generate creative thought or culture, think big and be fearless.