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Idea Doubt vs. Self Doubt

Idea Doubt vs. Self Doubt

The creative process, as defined by Wharton professor and organizational psychologist Adam Grant, has six steps. His 2016 TED Tal can be found at The surprising habits of original thinkers.


The Creative Process

Any time we’re creating something new, it’s inevitable that doubt will creep in. Doubt is part of the creative process. And it’s strongest in steps 3 and 4.

  1. This is awesome

  2. This is tricky

  3. This is crap

  4. I am crap

  5. This might be okay

  6. This is awesome

But not all doubt is created equal. There’s idea doubt. And then there’s self doubt.

Idea doubt says this is crap. And it can be energizing.

Self doubt says I am crap. And it can be debilitating.

According to Adam Grant (organizational psychologist and youngest ever tenured professor at Wharton), one key to being original is embracing idea doubt without letting it turn into self doubt.

The best original thinkers skip step #4.

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Instead, original thinkers tell themselves, “I’m not crap. The first few drafts are always crap. And I’m just not there yet.”

Original thinkers have lots of ideas. And they doubt them. And they should, because most ideas never reach “this is awesome.”

But according to Professor Grant, that doesn’t discourage them from trying again. And eventually creating something awesome.

Because they skip step #4.

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