In his Right Brain Workouts, creativity expert Peter Lloyd had identified four “cages of context” that tend to limit our creative thinking. The cage of affinity is perhaps the most insidious of the four, because it exists at a level which we don’t even think about. Simply put, the cage of affinity aligns your thinking with those groups to which you belong, and the beliefs which they hold.
In our younger years, our beliefs and affinities are strongly shaped by our families. As we grow older, peer groups, coworkers and the media shape our beliefs and affinities in subtle ways. Often, through repeated actions these beliefs and values become traditions. It’s all a part of our need as human beings to belong. We tend to hang around with people who are like us.
The problem is that our affinities form an invisible “cage” that shapes our perceptions of challenges and situations, and strongly limits our ability to develop creative solutions.
What can you do about this limitation? Lloyd suggests that the first step is to realize that they exist, and that they may be acting as blinders on our thinking. Next, analyze them with a skeptical eye, rather than following them mindlessly. Decide whether to embrace them or toss them aside, at least while we’re brainstorming.
“In order to achieve creative breakthroughs, we sometimes need to break with our group and dismiss our conventional way of thinking. At least while we’re solving problems. For each of us, this means thinking outside our prescribed affiliations of gender, nationality, race, religion, politics, or whatever other cage of affinity is holding us back,” Lloyd explains. “When solving problems, you can’t help but bring with you the prejudices of your affinities. But if you keep in mind how they limit you, you can use them rather than the other way around.”
What beliefs and values may be limiting your thinking?