Where Are All the Creative People?
By: Rick Tjia
I will be honest; I hate articles about creativity and innovation. I don’t like hearing people talk about it; I don’t like reading about what one needs to change in their lives to become a creative employee, and I don’t want to hear about 10 Things All Creative People Do.
I don’t like reading about it because for several years now “creativity" and “innovation" have been the buzz words of a time-pressed generation in a rapidly changing world. We now talk about it so much that it has become a “thing,” an end in itself, a subject for TEDx talks and Facebook articles whose sole raison d’être is to provide real estate for web advertisers whose weight loss pills are something that doctors want banned from the internet.
And since I hate reading about the subject, I’ve decided to write about it. Yes — I’ve conjured up the devil. I’m rocking the boat. But then again, that is kind of what I do.
The truth is, we’ve forgotten the importance of even having a trait like creativity, its purpose— and we have decided that it’s all about having ideas. So having a great idea makes you creative. And if no one in your social circle has thought of the idea before, you're innovative. And at that point the idea belongs to us, and we want credit when it’s used, and if it makes money then we are entitled to a percentage. After all, I came up with the idea. I’m creative.
Contrary to popular belief, ideas are not copyrightable. Taking dance as an example, individual dance moves can not copyrighted, and thank God for that. Otherwise we would never be able to create anything because we'd be spending a ridiculous amount of time researching moves and paying rights for every little thing that resembles an idea that has been documented before (which is everything, pretty much). Like an arabesque. Certainly don't want to have to pay rights for using that.
But let’s say I came up with an idea that isn’t general usage. So you better believe that I’m going to use it to the max. I came up with the idea, remember? I’m creative. So let’s pump it for all it’s worth.
Like many creators I'll create a work with the idea, and then consistently put out similar works for years on end. I’ll have found my niche and I’ll stick to it. Voilà, a career. They will say that I have a certain “style.” That’s it. It’s my style.
But there’s a difference between developing an identifiable style and consistently producing the same thing in a different colour. Geniuses who only do the one thing... where’s the genius in that? I’ve said it before in the past, and I’ll say it again: anyone can have one good idea.
So we then come back to what creativity is (the importance of which I previously stated that we had forgotten). The word is related to the result it produces. Dictionary definition: "theabilitytotranscendtraditionalideas,rules,patterns,relationships,orthelike,andtocreatemeaningfulnewideas,forms, methods,interpretations, etc.” The ability to. It’s an ability.
And since it is an ability, creativity would imply reiteration of an act. Consistent repeat. One creative thought does not a creative person make, any more than one innovation renders someone worthy of the description "innovative". Creative and innovative are states of being; they are personality traits, and therefore imply some sort of repetition of creative moments. When we talk about something like creative genius, we are talking about how a mind works, not the random happening upon a good idea.
And although it is true that many an innovative breakthrough is the result of a random accident, a given level of creativity or innovation is going to be dependent on the level of access to basic logic, or an ability to connect the dots. After all, someone has to be able to recognize the value of the random accident, and then recognize how it can be made useful. Creativity is the ability to consistently take several logical conclusions and assemble them into something interesting or useful. Innovation is the ability to take those same logical conclusions and assemble them into something that has not been done before.
So then where are all the truly creative people? How do we stimulate employees to be creative?
And my answer to that is that they are the wrong questions to be asking in the first place. Nearly everyone is creative at the outset; there is no limit to the imagination of a child. You would be amazed with what a child can imagine and ideate with nothing but a stick. And not even a pretty one.
So the question to be asking is not where the creative people are, but instead why do we, at some point in every adolescent’s life, purposely stop them from being creative? Why do we tell them that it is time to stop thinking like a child and become an adult?
And yet it is often the childlike mind that ends up changing the world, for better of for worse...