It’s important to be positive. Lots of blogs, self-help sites, and inspirational speakers tell us so. It helps us make friends, manage stress, inspire others, and cope with life.
However, being positive may sometimes stifle creativity.
The worker who thinks a project is perfect is no longer looking to make it better. The coach who thinks their playbook will work every time has stopped looking for improvements. The manager who thinks their staff has no issues is content with the status quo.
It is usually only those who see projects as flawed, playbooks as insufficient, and staff morale as needing improvement, who are pushing for something better, surprising, and new. Those who can only see faults and see the glass as half empty may get labelled a troublemaker, but without someone asking the tough questions that others don’t, new solutions may never be found.
Necessity might be the mother of invention, but it is the discovery of problems that motivates creativity. As business coach Kellie Adkins says, “Every problem is a doorway to possibility and failure is like fertilizer to creativity.”
We often view creativity as something magical that is created out of thin air. But without problems to solve, often in the simplest way possible, creative geniuses wouldn’t have a reason to exercise their creative muscles.
The folks at Pixar are often praised for being remarkably creative with their popular and beautifully told stories. But how did movies like The Incredibles, Up, and Wall-E originate?
According to Brad Bird, an Academy Award-winning producer, director, and writer with Pixar, their team is brutal with their development process. They purposefully poke as many holes in the productions as possible to see if it can withstand the strain and when it can’t, they find creative solutions. “Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between—what they have in common is a restless, probing nature,” he says. “They say, ‘I want to get to the problem.’”
Screenwriter Aaron Mendelsohn has his own process to be his own (often reluctant) troublemaker. In describing how he creates stories, he says “I use the 11 Questions to stress test every story I’m breaking, and at every phase of the writing process—whether I’m just getting started or fine-tuning a rewrite.”
While being positive may garner a lot of high-fives and good feelings, it’s often those looking for problems who may inspire the creative solutions that keeps everyone else around them ahead of the curve.