Friday, September 23, 2016

Why Traders Lack Creativity

So much of creativity is the ability and willingness to look and move in a direction different from the well-worn path.  After I wrote the most recent post on emotional creativity, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. James Averill who pioneered research in the area.  He made a very important point.  Much of the way the business world is structured (and I believe this includes the trading world) does not lend itself to emotional creativity.  If anything, emotions are dampened, not explored:  no one really focuses on identifying and cultivating unique emotional responses to daily challenges.

I recall speaking with a successful trader who told me that he was excited about the opportunity in the marketplace.  I responded by saying that he was the first person I'd spoken with to tell me that.  Everyone else was lamenting the lack of opportunity in markets.  He said, "That's right.  I've always made my money going against the consensus!"  That was shortly before the events of Brexit.  That trader was able to capitalize on opportunity because he not only saw the world differently, but experienced it differently.

Another skilled trader I know claims that his idea generation is aided by yoga exercises.  He believes yoga gets him into states where he sees the world more clearly.  This is in line with research that identifies a physical dimension to creativity.  In accessing different physical states, we create opportunities to see and experience the world differently.  

If I wanted to create an environment in which creativity was to be minimized, I would have people sitting or standing at desks, relatively stationary and rarely shifting their physical activity.  I would encourage little talking and insist that such talk be about the external world, not about internal experience.  I would encourage people to share trades and focus on the same research, rather than generate their own views.  That is the environment that typifies so many trading floors:  there is little in the structure to encourage and cultivate cognitive, emotional, and physical creativity.

A truly creative trader would create a radically different trading environment and a radically different set of routines for approaching the trading process.  Turning creativity into a routine rather than become prisoner to one's routines: that is a promising direction for development as a trader.

Further Reading:  Trading Psychology for the Experienced Trader