The Right Mindset for Creativity

Everything we need to know about getting our head in the right place so we can, you know, make up stuff…and turn it into that lovely little thing called art. (Well, it wouldn’t sound nearly as cool if we said “that lovely little thing called product,” would it?


by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson

In his wildly popular 2006 TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson defined creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Aside from being wonderfully succinct, this definition implies that any creative enterprise requires two key phases:

Phase 1: Coming up with an original idea

Phase 2: Taking a hard look at that original idea and assessing its values

So to be a successful creative, you need to not only be a good generator, but also a good evaluator. The problem is that in practice, it’s remarkably hard to be both. And the reason for that has everything to do with your motivational focus – how you think about the goal you are pursuing when working on a creative project. One kind of focus heightens your creativity, while a different focus gives you the analytical tools you need to assess your work. The good news is that you can actually shift yourself from one focus to the other in order to bring your best game during each phase of the creative process.

When you see your goal as an opportunity to advance – to gain something, or to end up better off – you have what psychologists call a promotion focus.

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