Creativity & The 10 Commandments

Learn how the language of permission allows us to make solutions out of every day problems at work.

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For many years, biblical scholars have been debating antiquity.  It seems that for thousands of years people who study the bible and antiquity agree on very little.  And as archeologists all over the old world keep discovering new and exciting artifacts, they infuse fresh life into a something innately valued by billions of people on earth.  A new perspective, a new fragment found in a cave or a piece of pottery with historic significance can spark renewed passion.

Masada National Park, Israel. Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

And the heartbeat of biblical study is The 10 commandments.  It is something we feel we all know well, yet according to a study most people can’t even recall 4 of the Commandments!  In fact, only 6 per cent of people surveyed could correctly name all ten!

Now you may be asking yourself what a creativity expert might be doing with biblical study – especially with The 10 Commandments?  But hear me out – there is something very interesting about The 10 Commandments when we look at them with a bit of creativity. 

Southern Israel Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

The Language of Permission

It turns out that The 10 Commandments are written with the language of permission.  A “don’t” instead of a “do”.  An entirely creative construct which allows us to see the world as it can be, not as it is.  The language of permission is a way to frame any issue or problem that allows for the most possible solutions.  So instead of telling us what to do, The 10 Commandments mostly tell us what not to do.  And there is a huge gulf philosophically between what to do and what not to do!

Now how in the world is that possible?  Well, first let’s take a look at The 10 Commandments which most people according to the survey have forgotten:

The 10 Commandments

1) I am the Lord thy god, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of bondage.

2) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4) Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

5) Honor thy father and thy mother.

6) Thou shalt not murder.

7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8) Thou shalt not steal.

9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10) Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor.

Now, let’s look closely.  When we look at The 10 Commandments with the language of permission, we see that most of these Commandments are written as “shall not” propositions.  As in “Thou shalt not steal” or “Thou shalt not bear false witness”.  Because most of the commandments are positioned as “Thou shalt not…” and rather than “Thou shall”, what we have here is the language of permission which allows us to reframe the problem.

Masada National Park. Photo by Buenas Dicas on Unsplash

Reframe The Problem

The language of permission is the ability to “do” just about anything that is not expressly off-limits. In the case of The 10 Commandments, it’s a whooping 70% of them!  In other words, there is very little here (only 3 Commandments) on what we should do, and a bunch of Commandments (7 of them) on what we shouldn’t do.  So if most of the Commandments are about what we shouldn’t do – that opens up the ability for us to do more.  Be more.  Reach new heights.  And take on more responsibility. 

And that is creativity applied.

Aladin Restaurant, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Photo by Pontus Wellgraf on Unsplash

How Will The 10 Commandments Help Me At Work?

So now — how do we use the language of permission at work – borrowing inspiration from the way that The 10 Commandments are written?  Well, it’s pretty easy once you learn how.  It’s all about framing the problems that we face with a different approach: One of creativity.

At work, if we see that inventory has been piling up and not moving, we can address this with skepticism and anger.  And we can ask “Why isn’t this inventory moving?!” or we can use the language of permission to help solve the problem.  Instead of asking, “Why isn’t this inventory moving”, let’s use the language of permission to ask, “What will move this inventory?”.  Because when we change the question ever so slightly – and allow for permission to seep into our thought process, we allow creativity to enter our lives and unlimited solutions therefore occur. “What will move this inventory?” allows for a world of solutions.  It allows us to be more.  Do more.  Reach new heights and take on more responsibility.  Just like in The 10 Commandments.

What you are really doing is building a world where no problem is unsolvable.

Here is another common example I see when consulting or giving workshops – and it’s around promotions and getting a raise.  “I can’t get promoted because Mary has been in the job I want for years. And she ain’t leaving!”.  But if we are able to change the question using the language of permission, we are able to come up with solutions to the problem that are simply not there otherwise.  A simple change of the question to, “What opportunities do I have to get promoted?” and we instantly create possibilities just by using the language of permission.  We can now do a bunch of things to get promoted: make a list of initiatives we can do to get promoted, talk to friends who have gotten promoted, look at what the competition is doing and how they are promoting and much, much more.

Israel. Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

A World That Can Be, Not a World That Is

The simple shift to allow the language of permission to work is the very fabric — the code — that The 10 Commandments are all about.  And it turns out that this same exact code can be used by you – anytime you want – to allow for the language of permission to thrive with a simple mindset shift.  The language of permission sees a world that can be, not a world that is. It’s creative. It costs nothing.  It can be used daily.  And it’s incredibly powerful.  Try it today.  And it will literally change your life.

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