A Crisis in Creativity

Growing up in a city provided many opportunities to engage in creative play. Television was not a major part of our lives and we did not have computers, smart phones and video games. However, we had our imagination and constantly challenged ourselves to do something new and different. We did not say we were looking to be more creative, but we were always looking for ways to fill our time with enjoyable activities. These earlier actions and activities prepared us for a business word where new ideas were part of our modus operandi.

One day my son said to me, in this technological driven world that he was bored. I instinctively responded, “If you are bored, it is your fault.” I went on to elaborate. “You have a brain. It is the same kind of brain that inspired Einstein and a host of famous inventors and entertainers. “I told him about the many games we played and the fact that we made our own toys to stay busy and creative. I advised him to use that beautiful brain and think himself out of boredom or live with the guilt. Needless to say he was not impressed. But reflecting on this area of creativity revealed the crisis that exists in many areas of our lives. Creativity used to be the way we filled our days and solved our problems, and it must, once again play a role in our lives.

Sameness, popularity and assimilation have caused us to abandon alternative creative options. In pharmaceutical product development we went through a phase where tweaking the features of a molecule was the preferred route. Rather than the long creative product development cycle of arriving at a new compound, opted for the convenience to make it once a day. We changed the delivery mechanism from tablet to capsule to liquid, whichever gave us a marketable competitive advantage. These products were called me-to drugs. We had moved away from creativity, to settle for what was safe and comfortable.

Popular television shows, such as situation comedies, news programs and reality shows were instantly copied. There is a surge in sequels and previously successful programs and formulas that have been updated for a new generation. I have lived through countless versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Cinderella and The Three Musketeers. The 3 Stooges have returned to the big screen, as I write this blog. We are taught to assimilate more than to differentiate. Follow the proven formula is the safe way to success rather than develop something new, different and risky.

I spoke to a young man who had his jeans sagging beneath his buttocks. We determined this to be a way of creative expression and individuality. I admired his desire to be fresh and creative but, reminded him that it did not reflect his individuality, because a number of people were doing it. Of all the creative things he could think of, if the only thing that came to mind was to drop his pants, we had a crisis in creativity.

 What is missing from our lives and education, which can account for this crisis in creativity? We did not have formal classes on creativity when we were in school. However, we seemed to have time for extensive play that enabled us to think and create for ourselves. Companies like W.H. Gore are giving employees time to think and play at work to regain some of this creative spirit.

As children we had the seeds of creativity planted and nurtured in us. Or at least the environment allowed us to cultivate and harvest our dreams and intuition. We also;

  • Read more which gave our imagination a chance to roam, as we visited different worlds in our minds
  • We played more and invented our own games with simple resources and good ideas
  • We made some our own toys to supplement those we got from stores
  • We role played different sketches and scenarios that we created on the spot
  • We spent in museums, parks, zoos and field trips
  • We experimented in science classes and participated in arts, music, band and chorus (That’s why I am troubled when schools talk of eliminating these from their curriculum because of budgets. We will pay the price later and we may be paying it now.)
  • We studied, but we played a lot – sometimes we played more than we studied
  • We wrote stories, poetry and plays

A classic video program by Dewitt Jones is “Everyday Creativity” mentions the need to break the pattern, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and that there is more than one right answer. These thoughts can help us to frame our minds to look for that which is new and different to enhance our lives. We can also, pass this way of thinking on to our children. This would encourage them to blend creativity with technology to continue to change the world.

We were constantly stimulated and encouraged to read and think for ourselves. We wanted to be in the “In” crowd, but we also wanted to stand out and be special. Being creative was a way we could achieve results that made us the center of attention. The sum of all of these stimuli and inputs influenced our think and caused us to look creatively to solve the problems in front of us. Celebrating the diversity of our talents and experiences will allow us to unleash the virtually untapped creativity within each of us. This will help us eradicate the crisis in creativity that appears to be infiltrating many sections of our work and play.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser

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