bridge-to-nowhereWhat seems to be a setback, error or limitation, may often be valuable for encouraging more creative thinking and innovation.

Valerie Young writes about two “mistakes” that resulted in very successful products:

“Did you know, for example, that Post-It-Notes were the result of what 3M Company researchers at first thought to be a bad batch of glue?

“Then there was Thomas Sullivan, a New York City tea importer who, in 1908, found that the sample tins of tea he normally sent to customers had become more expensive. His solution was to send less tea and to have the samples sewn into small silk bags.

“Sullivan’s customers assumed that these convenient bags were meant to steep in hot water and orders started rolling in for this new product innovation now known as the tea bag.”

From post Innovative Ideas May Be All “In Your Mind” by career change mentor Dr. Valerie Young on her Changing Course Blog.

In her article 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently, Carolyn Gregoire writes, “Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says [psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman]. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.”

A related example is provided by Jonathan Wai in one of his Creativity Post articles:

“Great scientists often can change a defect into an asset by turning a problem around.  Hamming explains at Bell Labs he wasn’t given the required human staff to write programs for the computers…From this limitation came his insight that the machines might be able to write programs themselves, which forced him into the field of automatic programming very early.

“If he had the ideal working conditions he initially desired, he might never have had this insight.”

From Eight Scientific Strategies To Improve Creativity By Dr. Jonathan Wai, a research scientist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program.

Making Messes

In his online class How to Create Fearlessly, psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel addresses many topics including doing things “wrong”:

“All day long we’re supposed to get things right: pay our bills, pick up our kids, and so on. It is very hard to move from this everyday mindset to a creative mindset where huge mistakes and messes are permitted and even welcomed. You may understand in your mind that the creative process comes with mistakes and messes but you must accept this truth in your body!”

From my post How Can We Create More Confidently?

But it may not be so easy for many of us to “accept” messes and imperfection.

Writer Peter Sims notes: “Breaking free from perfectionism isn’t easy, largely because of how we’re raised and taught. We’re rewarded and loved by parents, teachers, and mentors for getting good grades, accomplishing athletic achievements, or getting into a great school or job.

“The problem with that approach to praise and reward is that it builds up our resistance to doing anything that’s less than perfect. And since being imperfect, and being willing to make mistakes in order to discover new paths, opportunities and approaches is essential to any creative process.”

Peter Sims is an entrepreneur and author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.

His quotes are from the Goop blog post Perfect – which starts off with a comment by founder Gwyneth Paltrow: “Striving for achieving a sense of perfection has been a misguided belief in my life, often leading me down the wrong path. It has made me, at times, place value on the wrong things.”

> How comfortable are you with mistakes?