PBTO49: Our Bias Against Creativity and How to Overcome it with Jennifer Mueller

Who is on the show:

In this episode we host, Dr. Jennifer Mueller. She is the author of a recent book Creative Change, and is a faculty of many top business schools including the Wharton School, Yale School of Management and NYU’s Stern School of Business.  Her paper, “The Bias Against Creativity,” went viral and was downloaded over 65,000 times—receiving more than 100 media mentions.

Why is she on the show:

He book Creative Change, tackles a very important topic. While it is a no-brainer that almost all organisations would like to innovative and come up with creative solutions, not many are able to do so. As we explore the reason, it does turn out to be this bias against creativity. So, if organisations want to become more creative and spur innovations, it is important to not only understand more about this bias, but also put in place all the needed triggers and processes to ensure that we dont get stuck in this bias. In my opinion, her work is critical for organisations to be able to build up an innovation process that could deliver innovations on a consistent basis.

What are we talking about:

In this free-wheeling conversation, we talk about:

  • What is the bias against creativity? Who has this bias? How can we find out if we have this as well?
  • How can we, as leaders and people who decide what ideas get funded in organisations, ensure that we don’t fall prey to this bias?
  • How does one go about building a culture of Innovation
  • What changed in her belief as a direct result of her research?
  • What does she do in order to continue to learn and stay on top of her game?
  • And what she thinks is so obvious but we all still miss.
Why we are biased against creativity and what can we do about it? In conversation with Click To Tweet

How can you reach her:

You can reach him on twitter at @jennSMueller or through her website.

What The World Needs Today More than Anything Else – Hope

We live in a time and age where there is hate all around…

We live in an age where its easier to pick a fight than to make a friend…

We live in an age where we are connected online, but alone offline…

We live in an age where NEWS is neither new nor true…

We live in an age where recognition is bought and not earned…

We live in an age where its easier to find extremists than a pacifist…

We live in an age where we are free to say what we want, with no control on who hears what we have to say…

We live in an age where borders are closed, and so are minds…

We live in an age where leaders are more polarising than uniting…

We live in a world where it feels like there is no optimism, no hope…

While everything else is true, I believe that we not only have hope of a better world

We also live in a world where, each one of us has the opportunity to make a difference…

Not make a dent in the universe, but to make a dent in the universe of someone special…

We also live in a world where, each one of us has the responsibility to make a difference…

To heal this world, and make it a better place for us and our children…

I do hope that we are up to the challenge,

I do hope that we can come together,

forgetting our differences,

with hope and strength in our hearts,

with strength and together in arms,

to come together and heal this world..

To make a world that we are proud, for our children to come into…

Just like these little gems, who have come together to create something new, with hope and purpose…

To Heal this World… Make a little space, to Make a better place…


Don’t Come to Me with a Problem

I have heard many leaders use some variation of this quote with their sub-ordinates. In the video below, coach Marshall Goldsmith and Sam Shriver share why this is probably the worst thing that a leader can do to their sub-ordinates and their companies.

Please take the time to watch the video before we continue our conversation.

This video is part of a series of conversation that both these gentlemen have and I think it is worth your time to listen to the entire series. But for now, lets focus our attention on this particular topic at hand.

When you dig deeper, you find the most managers or leaders use this not to help their employees but use this to hide behind this quote. This sounds like you expect your team to know or have solutions to all problems and that these are trivial issues that you don’t want to be bothered with, as you have to deal with higher order of things to think through.

Most leaders use this to hide the fact that it is possible that they might not have all the answers, so they use this statement to hide their fear – the fear that they might be judged by their employees that they don’t have all the answers. What Marshall and Bob are trying to tell here is that it is ok to not have all the answers – it is ok for both the employees and the leaders to not have all the answers. They can work through the problem and can come up with the answers.

Some of the problems that this creates is:

  1. Employees learn that if they have a problem, they have to either solve it by themselves or ignore the problem, rather than bring it up for discussion.
  2. Employees also learn that they can’t trust their leaders to help them off, in situations of need.
  3. This is also a great coaching opportunity that went waste.
If your employees come to you with a problem, use it as an opportunity to coach them. Click To Tweet

I have seen one leader,  who used such instances to coach his employees very effectively. Lets call this leader – Murali. Lets assume that you have a problem for which you don’t have a solution and your went to Murali and shared your problem. The first thing that he would say is “Great. Now, let’s get to work”. He will then ask you to explain the problem in detail. He will prod you to tell him what you think caused the problem. IF you don’t know, he would ask you to take your best guess and then ask you how would you verify or test this assumption about the cause of the problem.

He would get you to then validate the cause of the problem and once the cause had been confirmed, he would then ask you if you still needed his help. If your assumption about the cause was not true, he would then ask you why did you make the assumption in the first case and why do you think it turned out not to be the case. Then, he will continue the same process until, you found the real cause of the problem. In most cases, the biggest challenge that people have when it comes to problem solving is identifying the right problem and the underlying cause of that problem. Once that is done, it is generally easy to find the solution to the problem.

In case, you could not figure out a solution, he would again use the same process – ask you to make a hypothesis for a solution and then use the cause and effect mechanism to figure out if that hypothesis is true and if the idea would solve the problem. If not, start over again, but before doing so, reflect on why the initial hypothesis was wrong.

This way, every time one of his employees came to him with a problem, he used it as an opportunity to coach his employees on how to go about solving their problem. With time, the instances of his employees coming to him with their problems reduced as they had learnt the process to use to solve their problems themselves. They would still go to him with problems that they couldn’t solve themselves, but then these were problems that are much more complex and usually required his expertise and in most cases for him to intervene to solve the problem.

Murali was indeed my first boss from whom I learnt a lot about management and leadership – his ability to remain open and generally not order you to do something just because he is the boss and due to his authority. He mostly allowed us to get to where he wanted us to go by allowing us to figure it out ourselves. I would take this opportunity to thank him and all the other leaders who have taught me all that I know about leadership and how to lead. #Gratitude.

Best Among What I Read today – 4th May 2016

Best of What I read Today

I read a lot and on diverse topics. I used to share all the interesting stuff on Twitter and Facebook, but realised that searching for them at a later point (in case someone wants to find out more or I want to connect with someone) became extremely difficult.

Also, my friends said that it is easier for them if they can find all the interesting stuff that i find in one place so that they can visit one single post and decide to read something that they find interesting as well.

Hence, going forward, on days that i read and find interesting articles, blog posts, books, podcasts and any other piece of content, i will share them in a blog post titled – “Best Among What I Read Today” and publish on my blog.

Here is today’s content that i found interesting. You can look at all the past posts here.

A cardboard House

Wikkelhouse is a house made of cardboard, which can last upto a 100 years and installed in a day.

IBM Inches Ahead of Google in Race for Quantum Computing Power

IBM recently launched a website today with an interface that lets outside programmers and researchers test algorithms on their quantum computing chip.

They at the same time admit that a universal quantum computer might not be a reality anytime soon. More about this @ here.

World’s first 3D-printed consumer wheelchair


This 3D printed consumer wheelchair customises the seat and the foot part of the wheelchair, which are the most important from a comfort point-of-view in a wheelchair, using biometrics and then 3D prints the chair.

The studio has also developed an app to accompany the wheelchair, which allows users to specify optional elements and colours apart from the size specifications. Once the wheelchair has been designed and ordered via the app, it could be delivered in under two weeks. More information about this @ here.

Because We Can

Bernadette Jiwa shares the story of a tram driver and how he makes 100’s and 1000’s of people smile everyday. Read the full story here.


Because he can..

So, can we!

5 ways that meetings typically go off track & how to stop it

One activity that is constant in every working professional’s life is that they need to organise or attend meetings. Most meetings are time killers and there is a ton of research to help you make the most of the meetings that you are a part of.

In this post, Roger Schwarz shares 5 typical ways that meetings go off track and also gives ideas about how to prevent that from happening. You can read the entire post here.

Another great resource on this topic is a book called “Read this before your next meeting” by Al Pittampalli.


Adult Learning – Prediction, Action & Reflection

Image Courtesy: Tamara Lichtenstein 

One of the most important skill that highly successful entrepreneurs and leaders have in common is their ability to continue to learn and improve themselves.

This is common knowledge.

They are also extremely busy people. So, in order to continue to sharpen their own saw, they need to figure out ways and means to learning that doesn’t take too much of time and yet is effective and most likely is on-the-job.

Such learning to be effective needs to have three components to it.. I call it the PAR framework.


The process starts with a prediction. Highly successful entrepreneurs and leaders look at everything that is happening around them and try to understand how these things interact with each other and what does that mean for them and their businesses and teams. Based on this, they make certain assumptions and predict what could potentially happen in the future. This could be in any domains.

They could look at the increasing use of contract labor in the workforce and predict that they might be in a situation where they might find it extremely difficult to get highly skilled labor as employees at all.

They could look at the increasing usage of mobile phones and could predict that their in order to succeed in an always connected, always mobile world, the concept of office space needs to be re-thought at.

They could look at the way software is eating up a lot of businesses, they could predict that their product or service faces an imminent threat from the software world.

The idea is that they will look at what is happening around them and make predictions.


Most of us do the first part and predict what could potentially happen, but stop there. The most successful entrepreneurs and leaders don’t just stop there. They take actions based on their predictions. They make bets on their predictions.

They will follow up their predictions, with actions. They choose to criticise by creating.

The important thing is that they recollect what predictions their actions are based on.


It is not sufficient to just take actions. These leaders will also take time to reflect on the effect of their actions and the validity of their predictions.

IT is this process of reflection that truly creates the potential for learning. They can learn from the predictions that turn out to be true and more so from the predictions that they got wrong.

They reflect on not just their predictions and whether they got it right or wrong, but also reflect on their process of arriving at these predictions and what needs to improve in the process itself so that they are always getting better at these predictions that they make.

In a world where, there are a 1000 things that are vying for your attention, where you are busy taking meeting after meeting, where you are furiously typing on your smart phone trying to reply the emails, tweets or the facebook messages, it takes a lot of guts to block time out in your schedule for reflection.

Reflection is becoming more and more a forgotten art. However, it is the corner stone for adult learning and hence critical for all of us who want to get better at anything at all.


Try out this framework in your life in a small way. Before you enter a meeting, try to predict how someone will respond to the topic at hand. Observe their behavior and then immediately after the meeting, spend a couple of minutes to reflect if your prediction was correct and what was the process you used to arrive at the prediction and if there is a way to improve the process.

Let me know of the result of this exercise and we can talk..