The Winning Mindset for Creative Solutions Under Pressure

For fifteen years, part of my job was to come up with creative ideas every week – under extreme pressure, with about ten million people watching.

I thought it was good.

Really good.

But I didn’t start to come up with creative ideas under pressure. I had to learn.

Creative ideas were necessary in my case because I am the executive producer of the hit comedy TV show. In your case creative ideas are necessary because the outcome of your situation can depend on them.

True, there are some high-stress situations that do not require creativity particularly particularly those that involve repetitive physical activity. Game-determining free throw shooting, for example, does not require a great deal of creativity. It is of course high-pressure, but it is more or less done by rot.

A plane landing is the same. Take it from me, a private pilot. I’ve landed hundreds and when I was first learning they were pretty regular except for those first ones. And they’re even more routine for the airline’s pilot, who has landed thousands and thousands. Their creativity doesn’t need a big deal.

Until something goes wrong.

On July 19, 1989, United Flight 232, en route from Denver to Chicago, lost three hydraulic systems 37,000 feet above the earth. What this means in common parlance is that all flight controls become instantly useless. Imagine if you were driving on a highway and suddenly your steering wheels or brakes did nothing at all. Now imagine that you are about seven miles up in the air on a 500-hour journey with about 300 people in your car.

That’s the pressure. And it requires creativity.

Together, the crew discovered that they could operate the aircraft even if it was crude by operating the throttle on multiple engines. It wasn’t perfect. The right wing scraped the runway while landing and the plane caught fire. About half a hundred people on board died. But more than half of the people survived. Why?

Because the crew came up with a creative solution, imaginable in one of the most stressful situations.

While your high-stress situations may not be significant, I feel quite safe predicting that they will never happen. However, unless you are shooting free throws through breathing muscle memory, they may need the same kind of creativity.

So here’s what you need to have in mind in this situation: Don’t discard anything.

“That’s crazy talk – let’s get back to reality!”

“I’m not going to hear any ideas that come from low quality interns!”

“It won’t work, because the engines aren’t meant to turn the plane around!”

When the pressure is on, how far can the idea go, or who came?

Of course not. What matters at this moment is a successful outcome

So put your ego aside. Listen to all the ideas.

Because the idea you are about to discard … that day can only save that time.

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