This blog hits a personal note for me, as I’ve experienced a lot of creative blocks. Let’s explore why we have trouble coming up with good ideas sometimes. Why is it that at 4 a.m. we’ll wake up with a brilliant solution, but come up completely blank at an important work meeting?
First, let’s squash the myth that you’re not capable, smart or creative enough. Yep, write that down on paper and squash it under your shoes right now, because it’s not true.
The truth is, is that you are certainly capable, smart and creative enough, but something is blocking you from marrying your analytical left brain to your intuitive right brain. Your balance is off and likely you’re stuck trying to logically think your problem through, without exercising your imagination.
Don’t you envy those people who are able to stand-up at a meeting, voice their ideas at the drop of a hat, and then carry on with the next thing? You think, wow—this person is so creative and innovative. I’ll never live up to that.
Confidence shattered, never will you speak up at a meeting again. Sound familiar?
Before you start blaming yourself, your boss or your company, let’s have a look at some of the causes of creative blocks.
I’ll start with my big one: confidence. Let’s face it, some days you just haven’t had enough coffee, you’ve been messing around with a project getting nowhere all morning, or you don’t feel respected by your superiors. I’ve experienced all three, often in the same morning. I get so caught up in feeling tired/like I want to curl up in a dark corner, incompetent and like my ideas don’t matter to anyone, I say to myself, “what’s the point?” and just sit there and listen.
Another big reason you may hold back at meetings could have to do with the format of the meeting or the people at the meeting. Great leaders give everyone an opportunity to speak up, not just the A-types who like to hear their own voices. Collaborative meetings, wherein time and room are given for people to bounce ideas off of each other, are also much more effective than top-down executive speeches. Standing up can also cause groups to think more actively than sitting down.
A third reason is that you’re probably distracted. I’m guilty of this all the time as well, because I often have a lot of projects on the go with tight deadlines. Consider whether you need to attend a specific meeting. Maybe your time is better used doing something more productive. Stress will also cause you to shut down—parts of your brain go into “fight or flight” mode, distracting you from the task at hand.
The next time you’re in a meeting, become aware of how you feel. Your emotions are a likely cause to your creative block.
How do you solve these problems? Some solutions require practice, but mostly the change requires a simple mindset shift. Try one or more of these techniques.
1. Prepare and get quiet before a meeting
Whether you’re having coffee with a client or reporting back at a corporate meeting, it’s important that you show up prepared. Take some time, ideally at least 10 minutes, to shift your thinking towards the meeting’s topic. Are there any numbers you should run, questions you have that you can write down so you remember to ask them, or are there notes to review from a previous meeting?
Then, take even just a minute or two to get quiet before the meeting. If you can do this while you’re preparing, even better.
What I mean by getting quiet is slowing down, focusing on the meeting and removing any distractions. This isn’t always possible—some catastrophes don’t care about convenient timing—but most of the time you can make it work. Listen to calming music, meditate, read, sketch, just focus on one task and you’ll feel much calmer and more open going into your meeting.
2. Know that you are the expert
If someone’s pondering a logo design, who better than you to pipe in? Many leaders are great leaders because they hire talent they don’t posess themselves. If you are experiencing a runaway trainwreck of a design idea, suggest an alternative you think works better for your team and your company. The worst that can happen is the rest of the group will continue debating your idea or ask you for more information. You know what you’re doing—be confident in your abilities!
3. Be a changemaker
If you think your meeting formats are not conducive to creativity, suggest a change! Don’t just complain though, always offer a solution. Are your meetings being held at a time of day when everyone is feeling the afternoon energy slump, or do you feel like there is no space for creative input? Be brave, make a friendly suggestion. You’ll likely be rewarded for your creative problem-solving.
If you’re having issues speaking up at a meeting because of dominating personalities, consider talking to your superior or the person themself. If you prefer not to speak in front of a group, maybe they will do the speaking for you! Remember, be collaborative, not competitive.
Above all, stop making excuses for being a quiet mouse in the corner. I know you have great creative ideas brewing and you’re doing a disservice to yourself, your team and your company by not sharing them!
I hope this helps you become more engaged and creative in your meetings. Meetings can be where magic happens, if you have the right mindset and the right team. Let’s solve more of your creative barriers. Let me know in the comments below what causes you to have creative blocks at meetings.