We’re All Creative, But Fear Dictates

Fear of failure

Fear of failure

How many times have you said this:

“I can’t, I don’t know how”

When what you actually mean is:

“I won’t, I’m scared I will do it wrong”

As an example, I was meaning to start writing a long time before I published my first post. I have so many posts and articles in draft format that I have never published for fear of them being “wrong”. Yet, strangely, that way of thinking goes against everything I do as a User Experience Professional.

On a day to day basis, I fail, a lot:

I fail with design hypothesis.

I run unsuccessful workshops

I ask the wrong questions during user interviews

I pitch ideas to clients that never receive buy in.

The difference is, within a work environment, I don’t view failure as “doing it wrong”, rather, learning how to “do it right”.

What I can then do with those learnings is the key to my success as a User Experience Professional.

“You gotta be willing to fail… if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far,” – Steve Jobs

Creative species

Creative species

As a species, human beings are all creative. We’re all creative because we have a capacity to learn.

Contrary to popular belief, people are not born creative, it is a skill that is learned over time.

Sure, some may learn faster than others, some may even seem to have a natural ability, but we all have the capacity.

What holds a lot of people back is a fear of failure:

Drawing something that doesn’t quite look like what it should do.

An idea that might be laughed at.

Not holding the same opinion as another person in the room

The fear of going against the grain.

I think the problem with creative thinking as a solution is there is not always a single, correct answer that you are aiming for.

It’s not as cut and dry as right and wrong, and that is what scares people.

Be like the child

Compared to adults, children have a narrower perception of what is possible and so for children, everything is achievable.

If everything is achievable then there is no wrong answer and there is no fear of being wrong.

As a result, children are willing to test ideas and fail, and as such, children are more creative.

“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition.” – Zabelina & Robinson

Be like the child, forget what is possible, forget what may be a wrong answer and have fun experimenting.

Don’t be scared

Don't be scared

There is a well-known mantra amongst startups and innovators alike:

“Fail fast, fail often”

Fail fast – the sooner we fail, the sooner we can begin the learning process.

Fail often – once we have a fail and learning loop established then the more chances we have of steering the solution in the correct direction.

I find that this not only holds true for startups, innovations or creative problem solving, but for life in general.

As creatives, we iterate through failed experiments until we find the right solution for the problem, likewise, life is about experimenting with failed ventures until you find the right solution for you.

By failing, we can find strengths as well as weaknesses.

Don’t be scared to express yourself in fear of failing. Embrace failure as part of learning how to “do it right”.

In conclusion

Remember we all have the capacity to be creative.

Forget any preconceptions of what may be wrong or unachievable.

Embrace failure as part of the learning process.

Me, I need to take my work like thinking into more aspects of my life, starting with my writing.

So, in the spirit of failing fast and often, post comments below. Help me to learn so that I can improve.

One Comment

  1. James Parker

    Great post Shain. Overcoming fears as a creative professional and learning how to challenge one another confidently (and without fear) is so important to ensuring that the work you and your team delivers is the best it can be.

    I remember being a junior and worrying about the decisions I was making, and how to articulate them to my peers, and the moment that changed was when I started asking myself each day ‘Am I doing what’s right for the customer?’. I still ask myself that question every day, ten years later, and feel enpowered to make decisions and challenge others so that we create the absolute best experience for customers.

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