9 Mindsets That Kill Creativity

Netflix recently released an updated version of one of my favorite childhood shows, Inspector Gadget.  

If you were a kid in the 80's and 90's then you likely remember the Inspector with as much fondness as I do.  The adventures that he, Penny, and Brain the dog would set off on in pursuit of Doctor Claw were things of legend.  Go on, admit it, you secretly still want that helicopter hat!

If you are clueless as to what I am talking about then please forgive my nostalgia.  Inspector Gadget was this quirky detective who used amazing inventions to help him apprehend the bad guy.  His innovations were things that boggled the mind and ignited the creative spirit of kids.  He made us believe that one day we could invent something equally as awesome.

While it may not come in the same forms as Inspector Gadget used, creativity and innovation should emerge in leadership as well.  For some it is solving a problem that others are hung up on, some people embrace their inner artist to create something that moves people emotionally, yet a few see opportunity in the absence of a product and create something that revolutionizes an industry.  However it emerges, creativity is inside of us all.

Sadly, most grow up and at some point lose that ability to dream larger dreams and allow creativity to soar.  There are certain "creativity killers" I want to expose today.  Here are 9 things I want you to be aware of...9 mindsets that destroy creativity and innovation.

Feeling sorry for yourself.  

I grew up watching Charlie Brown.  He was the most pitiful character in his group of friends.  Charlie's signature line when he would fail was, "Good grief!"  You could feel the defeat in his words.  Charlie was cursed with feeling sorry for himself.  Self-pity limits you from realizing your potential.  For creative people who need to see obstacles in a new way or bring a new idea to the table, self-pity stops you before you can start.  Feeling sorry for yourself is venom to creativity.

Playing the blame game.  

I loathe making excuses.  Few want to play the blame game.  Even fewer people want to follow a leader who does.  Some people fall into the habit of making excuses as to why something is not working well or why it will never work.  Perhaps it is to help themselves not feel like a failure or an attempt to save face.  No matter the reason, it shuts down innovation.  When you are solving a problem identify roadblocks, but do not stop there, barrel through them and solve the problem!  Do not bring a problem your excuse, bring it your energy!


Jack Canfield says, "Everything you want is on the other side of fear."  So many never get on that elusive other side.  When an innovative idea is on the table it exposes our deepest fears because it is something new.  Doing something new is scary!   There’s a breath between absurdity & innovation.  If people don’t think you’re stupid, you’re probably not being innovative.  Make fear fuel for creativity instead of a barrier.

Giving up.  

Anything worth doing is difficult.  Do not allow a tough task talk you into giving up.  Often I witness someone quit right on the verge of a breakthrough.  While not every idea works, and sometimes you may have to adjust a plan, giving up needs to be erased from your mind.  Adversity always happens, but it does not have to defeat you.  Resolve today to not quit.  Search until you find the creative solution your issue requires. 

Leading with "how?"  

When faced with a new endeavor I look for certain types of people to bounce ideas off of.  There is one type of person I avoid with new ideas:  Anyone who immediately starts hammering me with questions about "how" we are going to execute.  Execution is as important as the idea, and "how" focused people have value in the long run.  That said, there is a right and wrong time to solve the how problem.  If you ask "how" first, you probably will never move any further.


Isn't it odd how the thing we all work for is ultimately the thing that holds us back.  We work hard to gain a certain level of comfort.  The danger is that comfort constricts creativity.  Recently I was talking with a successful and accomplished leader about a new approach to an aging medium.  This new approach is a game-changer.  The response I heard was, "It is a great thing to do, but that will be a lot of work."  That is never good to hear.  Never lose the grit, hunger and desperation you had in the early days.

Being too emotional.  

Passion is absolutely necessary.  I am not talking about that kind of emotion.  What I mean is being ruled by your feelings.  Do you cry every time you're confronted? Are you angry at the drop of a hat? When your ideas are challenged do you become defensive? Is the pitch for your idea seen as combative or a fight?  Funny thing about feelings, they will lie to you.  They can take you off course.  You will struggle to focus on what is most important, make a hard decision or pull the trigger the idea you have because they cloud your reasoning.  Emotions are healthy, emotionalism is crippling.

Overreacting to criticism.  

Some of the most creative people I know are also the most sensitive people I know.  This can make them their own worst enemy.  Criticism that is meant to hurt is not worth giving place to.  It is not worth caring about or giving any place to.  However, criticism can also be the missing ingredient to make it better. Seek out criticism that is helpful.  Learn to process things you hear no matter how personal or painful.   Instead of reacting to criticism, respond to it.  Use it to make your idea better.


Tired minds produce tired ideas.  Leaders who are always on eventually burn out.  New thoughts become overwhelmed by a struggle to simply survive.   Look at your calendar.  Are their times scheduled to rest, to recover, to stay fit, to think?  Look at your days off.  Are you still in contact with the operations and details of your team during that time?  If you answer yes, you are probably tired.  One leader I follow uses this system:  He takes the 7th day of every week off, a weekend off every 7th week and a week off every 7 months.  Guard your energy and remain innovative by scheduling rest. 

Work to radically eliminate things on this list from your life.  Manage those that you cannot get rid of.  Be intentional and create space to innovate.  And if you need something to help you unplug...this may be a good time to watch Inspector Gadget.  Go go Gadget!