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Why You Should Develop a Creative Mindset

I will always remember one day I was truly amazed at the difference a mindset can make. I was working as a high school girl's swim team coach, and we were practicing a training set we had done many times before.


It was something like sprinting 25 yards in 13 seconds, and repeating every 30 seconds until you can't make the time any more. In the many times we had practiced this, most girls were struggling after 15-20. Almost no one ever got 25 reps.


But this time, I told them a story. I didn't want them to have a "positive attitude," I wanted them to have an "athletic attitude." I'm a runner, having several half marathons under my belt. I normally don't swear or curse in everyday conversation (nor do I enjoy talking with people who do), but after mile 8 of a half marathon, anything goes - I drop so many f-bombs I'd make a sailor blush.


After mile 8 of a half marathon, I most certainly don't have a "positive attitude." I most certainly am not saying, "Oh, the sky is so beautiful! The birds sound so nice! This day is amazing! I can do this!" No, after mile 8, I sound more like, "I f-ing paid money to do this?? This sucks. This really sucks."


That's the difference between a "positive attitude" and an "athletic attitude." A positive attitude is, "This is great, I can do it!" An athletic attitude says, "This sucks, and I hate it, but I'm going to get through it anyway."


So that day, I asked my swimmers not to have a positive attitude about our training set, but to have an athletic attitude. To admit, when they're at their worst, most tired, out of breath, and everything hurts, "This sucks, but I'm going to get through it."


We did 50 reps that day, before I called a stop to it so no one would hurt themselves. Mindset was everything.


Creative Mindset is Everything


Creative people are eager to explore the possibilities of problems, eager to find solutions, eager to experiment and try new things. Creative people are independent, forward-thinking, and enthusiastic. Creative people solve problems, from the tiniest of everyday annoyances to the massive worldwide problems of poverty and pandemic.


What does this creative mindset look like?


A creative mindset means seeking possibilities

I was working recently with an organization whose operations have been completely halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some members of this organization are actively looking for possibilities of what they can do, safely, without putting people at risk, and still accomplish the organization's mission. Others seem content to simply shut down until the pandemic lifts and it's safe to resume again like normal.


COVID has presented opportunities for many organizations and people to embrace the creative mindset of seeking possibilities. Can't open your dining room? Offer carry-out. Can't meet in person? Meet remotely. How many businesses that operate out of giant buildings are going to be able to downsize after realizing their workforce works just as effectively at home?


A creative mindset allows you to think, "If we can't do what we want, what can we do? And how can we make it just as good?"


A creative mindset means seeking connections

In my public speaking and workshops, I often talk about the Utah potato farmer who invented the television by making a connection between how his field was plowed and how an image could be created on a screen. I talk about the inventor of the Nike track shoe who saw a connection between the pattern on a waffle iron and the need to grip a track surface. I talk about the inventor of the microwave oven, who noticed that his radar transmitter melted his chocolate bar.


A creative mindset primes your brain to seek connections. Creative psychologists call this the "incubation phase," for when you have a problem but not a readily apparent solution, you're thinking of the problem in the back of your mind, and you notice something that connects to the problem, spurring your thinking and giving you something to build off.


How many of the greatest inventions of the past 150 years have been caused by someone with a creative mindset that made a connection? How many of those smaller innovations do you need in your workforce?


For further exploration, I review the classic Robin Williams film "Awakenings" and show the connections Williams' character Dr. Sayer made between his catatonic patients and a new Parkinson's medication. Watch it here.


A creative mindset brings a willingness to explore novelty

Novel means new, unique, unheard of, unlikely, unusual, peculiar, strange, different, offbeat, or odd.


A creative mindset allows you to explore solutions that are peculiar, strange, or odd. Maybe not outright endorsing them from the onset or implementing an untested, uninvestigated, and strange idea, but exploring the idea and seeing where might lead. A closed mindset just says, "no."


The first computer to use a graphic interface (pictures instead of commands) and a mouse was the Xerox Alto. Xerox, however, didn't know what to do with it. Instead of exploring the possibilities of this novel machine, the Xerox board said, "You expect us to sell something called a 'mouse?'" They gave the Alto away to a new company called "Apple Computer," and while Apple changed the world, Xerox made copy machines.


The truth is, creativity is born out of the novel, new, unique, unheard of, unlikely, unusual, peculiar, strange, different, offbeat, and odd. Businesses and organizations that can embrace that go on to innovate, lead, and change the world. Time and time again, those that don't, quickly go out of business.


A creative mindset brings a desire to turn bad ideas into good ideas

Most creative experts will tell you that, "more ideas bring more good ideas." Not every idea is a good idea. Someone with a creative mindset, however, is more likely to explore what elements of the "bad" idea could be "good." They see that bad ideas can be turned into good ideas, instead of outright rejecting an idea for being "bad."


NASCAR is a sport in which every driver on the track competes for the win, so the concept of having "teammates" on the track seems like it might be odd. How do you compete both with and against your teammate? Wouldn't that create inter-team rivalries, like an NFL team having two starting quarterbacks, constantly trying to one-up each other to the detriment of the other?


A NASCAR "team" in the 1980's consisted of one car, one driver, and the team of mechanics that built and fielded the car. That was until team owner Rick Hendrick wanted to field two cars out of the same shop, as teammates. The initial reaction of his driver? "Hell no." The driver couldn't see how he could compete as a team with a competitor on the track.


But here's what teammates allowed: more data collection. During practice time, each driver could try something different, and then compare notes. Eventually Hendrick Motorsports grew to three, and now four teams. More teams mean more data. And while they compete against each other on the track, their "team" mentality allows them all to uplift each other throughout the rest of the week, comparing notes and sharing data.


Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 of the last 25 season championships, and now the multi-team model is embraced by everyone.




For my high school swimmers, an athletic mindset opened up more possibilities for what they were able to do. For you, your business, or your school, a creative mindset lets you seek possibilities, explore connections, explore novelty, and build bad ideas into good ideas.


A positive attitude makes you happy, but a creative mindset can make you able to see possibilities in everything.


Build your creative mindset, and who knows what you will be able to do!




The book "Activate Your Genius Mode" is all about building your creative mindset. Gain practical, one-page tips to building your creative mindset, one page at a time. Visit the Conjunction Media Store to purchase.


For more tips on how to practice creative skills, to hear more, contact Creative Dave to book a workshop or motivational speech for your school or organization before his roster is full for the year!


And, check out the new, "Activate Your Genius Mode: School Edition," the complete guide to implementing creative practices inside the classroom.


Contact David about speaking or workshopping at your school or business event.

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