Psychological barriers routinely put chains around workplace creativity, stalling both projects and careers. To unlock your innovation, recognize these three most common hurdles and apply the easy fixes.

Conformity

If you're a conformist at work, you say and do what you think others expect you to do and say, aligning your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with current norms. Honesty is difficult and, subsequently, so is building the trust you need to share your original ideas.

Fixes:

  • Ask your boss for some independent projects.
  • Ask questions, especially "Why...?"
  • Use phrases such as "I think...", "In my opinion..." and "I would..." to remind yourself to speak with independence.
  • Spend time with those from other cultures to see what others do and believe.

Fear of Judgment/Looking Like a Fool

Lower-level workers often fear being judged during the creative process because they don't want to lose the chance for perks or promotions; upper-level workers don't want to destroy the reputation they've built. If you fear being judged, you probably feel nervous when you have to show your work or are asked for your opinion. You also might think things like "If I do X, they'll..." or "I don't want them to..."

Fixes:

  • Tell yourself "They're on my side."
  • Make a list of your well-received ideas or products to remind yourself others have judged you positively and that rejection isn't guaranteed.
  • If you have a negative reaction to others' work, challenge yourself to identify the root of that reaction. Then come up with something positive about the concept. The less you judge others negatively, the less you'll expect others to judge you negatively, too.

Ready Acceptance of the Obvious

Obvious solutions usually are easy to come up with, but they tend to be creative wastelands. Acceptance of the obvious likely is a problem for you if don't come up with multiple options or jump to get to work without questioning what you were told to do.

Fixes:

  • Set aside your initial idea for 24 hours to give yourself time to think of other options and avoid selection based on hot emotional reaction.
  • Practice combining opposites.
  • Take classes, research and read so you're more aware of alternatives.

The Creativity is There--Claim it!

Most employees--including you--have creativity inside. They just need to free it. Doing this involves changing habits, which can take time and get you out of your comfort zone. The good news is, anybody can use the strategies outlined here. Recruit your coworkers and even your boss to support you, and encourage them to challenge conformity, fear of judgment and ready acceptance of the obvious, too!