I was facilitating a workshop with a group of managers and leaders last week and one of the participants was using a pencil to create and capture his thoughts on paper.

I was curious about his use of an ordinary pencil.

My experience is that the higher a person rises in an organisation the more likely they are to purchase an expensive pen.

But i digress.

The leader explained to me that the reason was that he felt that if he made a mistake then he could quickly rub it out and start again.

With  a pen he felt that his initial thoughts and ideas were somehow more permanent.

This behaviour intrigued me.

I have found that for many people the fear of failure or making mistakes is the biggest barrier to their creativity.

In a group or team situation this fear is often magnified.

Perhaps as in this case a simple change of writing instrument empowers and releases his creativity.

I guess this is why i have always encouraged the use of whiteboards for example in group settings.

You ask each person to get up and generate their ideas with a pen and wiper at hand.

There is a sense of freedom in being able to express your creativity without worrying about making a mistake.

Just watch kids playing or painting and they are completely fearless.

It is only as we age that we learn to worry about the fear of failure and the expectations of others.

This begs the question — if we learn a fear of failure perhaps we can unlearn it.

Perhaps changing the tools we use can help us recapture our creative spirit?

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