The Secret to Creativity? Saying "No."

We’ve all heard the argument that saying “no” is a powerful time-management technique employed by the most productive among us. But could “no” also be the key to greater innovation and creativity? Kevin Ashton, cofounder and former executive director of the MIT Auto-ID Center, thinks so.

“Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. . . .

“The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.

“Saying ‘no’ has more creative power than ideas, insights, and talent combined. ‘No’ guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. . . .

“Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say ‘no’? A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: ‘Yes’ makes less…

“People who create know this. They know the world is all strangers with candy. They know how to say ‘no,’ and they know how to suffer the consequences. . . . ‘No’ makes us aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely, and an arsenal of other insults. But ‘no’ is the button that keeps us on.”

— Kevin Ashton, cofounder and former executive director of the MIT Auto-ID Center, in an article for, the impetus for which was the attempted study of 275 famously creative people, two-thirds of whom apparently had no time to participate in the study.


Article provided by   © 2013 Mansueto Ventures LLC


On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being 'Not Good' and 5 being 'Excellent', how would you rate this article?

Press enter to submit your rating

Rate this Article

Use this form to provide additional feedback based on the rating you provided.

Thanks for Rating

Would you like to provide feedback?

Thanks for your feedback!

The information, views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author(s) and/or presented in the article are those of the author or individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Regions. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.

This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.