My niece Charlotte was convinced she could speak Spanish. One day in a Mexican restaurant the waitress said ‘Gracias’ to her and she replied – with maximum confidence – ‘Piñata’….

The great thing about kids is that if they don’t know they still have a go. They haven’t yet learnt that being wrong is something to avoid. As adults, we can learn a lot from this more ‘creative’ mindset.

It’s not that being wrong is the same thing as creativity. But if you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never invent anything new.

James Dyson, one of the world’s most famous innovators, says if you want to create something new you have to start out deliberately thinking of things that are wrong and then figure out how to make them right from there, because that sets you on a completely different track.

But this is tough. Our minds create patterns that help us make sense of the world. These patterns are helpful in many ways, but they also restrict our thinking and stop us from seeing possibilities. To solve problems and invent new things, we have to go beyond what we know.

The problem here is that we risk being wrong. Have you ever sat in a meeting and not said what you were thinking? Fear of looking stupid, of judgment or of the unknown holds all of us back in all kinds of ways. Our primitive minds are hard-wired against this – for our ancestors the mistakes they made were literally life or death. But nowadays, so long as we look left and right crossing the road, we are probably going to be okay.

So creativity is honing our ability to talk rubbish comfortably. To remove the fear and create an environment where people explore wide-open possibilities. It’s about having the freedom and confidence to generate an abundance of ideas and see where they go. Only then should we judge if they are any good or not.


Start wide open in our thinking. Build up a small number of the best ideas. Only then Judge their quality.



A recent IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs reported that creativity is the single most important leadership quality facing the complex business world of today. A similar Adobe Systems poll of five thousand people globally also showed that 80% of people agreed creativity is key for economic growth. Yet only 25% of these people think they are using their creative potential at work. There is a huge Creativity Gap.

Over the last 3 year Google (legends at measuring everything) have done a massive study into what makes the difference between their highest performing teams and all the others. They found the single biggest factor was ‘psychological safety’. A team’s ability to say anything without fear. Feeling safe means you take more risks, have more ideas, share more and learn more from your mistakes. It’s a deeply human experience – and you don’t have to waste energy watching your back.

When we stop holding ourselves back we open up a world of possibility. Boundaries are broken. Trust is built. Teams have fun, and people love work because they know they are somewhere their contributions are valued.