Remember your first day at work? You were excited. There were new people to meet, new skills to be learned, new processes or products to understand.

If you are like most people, something else was different then — you. When you weren’t sure or didn’t understand, you asked questions, persistently. You compared what you were supposed to do on this job with what you had done in the past, and you made suggestions. You observed what your new colleagues were doing and evaluated what you saw. As a new person, you felt entitled to look at things differently and ask questions — that was a sign of your creativity.

Hiring managers look for people who can come in and assess a function and recommend changes. They know that new people with new ideas can bring energy and creativity to a workplace, no matter what the level of their job is.

Everyone has creativity when they are confronted with new problems to solve or new ideas to think about. It’s not just for the talented few, or for people in artistic roles. People are naturally creative and inventive. But creativity can fade when you get bored or discouraged.

The first few months on any job can be exhausting as well as exciting, so people naturally set their work lives into a groove after a while. In time, that groove can turn into a rut. And people in a rut can develop habits that kill off their own creativity.

Are you in a creativity-destroying rut? Ask yourself these five questions:

  • Is there a recurring pattern to your workdays — what you do, whom you meet with?
  • Do you feel it is important to agree with your colleagues and bosses in order to get along?
  • Do you see obstacles everywhere to new ideas and new ways of doing things?
  • Do you find yourself saying, “That won’t work. It’s been tried too many times before.”
  • Do you think, “It doesn’t matter what I do, really. They don’t care.” Even when you’re not sure who “they” are.

If you answered yes, you may have allowed yourself to accept patterns of thought and behavior that are undermining your creativity. It may be true that there are obstacles everywhere, or that “they” don’t care; that’s not what is important. What’s important is that you have stopped thinking about creative responses to your current situation.

You and Your Team Series

Thinking Creatively