Talking Points
October 2021

Want To Be More Creative? Get More Frustrated.

No one likes being frustrated. In fact, we go to great lengths to try and avoid the experience. But frustration, believe it or not, can actually make you more creative.

In his 15-minute TED Talk—How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative—economist, journalist, and broadcaster Tim Harford explains why our most trying times often lead to the most surprising solutions.

Our instinct, according to Harford, is to shy away from obstacles and challenges. We almost always choose the path of least resistance. But when we’re confronted with an inescapable predicament, we have no choice. We must embrace the difficult situation. And when we do, great things often occur. Through careful experimentation, Harford explains, psychologists have proven that certain types of obstacles actually improve our performance.

Obstacles, it turns out, make us slow down, think a little differently, and focus more intently on the problem at hand. “Thinking outside the box,” Hardford says, “is easier when that box is full of holes.” Disruptions help us solve problems because they force us to become more creative, which encourages random solutions and often produces more effective results.

Harford’s TED Talk is a fascinating journey into the counterintuitive idea that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can stimulate our imagination. He illustrates his point with several compelling stories about real people who ran into walls, then found a way to bust right through them. “Just because you don’t like something,” Harford declares, “doesn’t mean it isn’t helping you.”

See Tim Harford’s TED Talk video

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