When you meet someone who can’t read and write and would like to learn, you never ever step back and assess their ability, or analyze their character and personality traits to assess whether they can or not? The majority of us will help them find a tutor or teacher who will help them learn the skills required. We accept, that unless there is a very real learning problem, that anyone who wants to learn to read and write should have the opportunity to do so. Many of us hold the view that it’s a basic human right.
So why when it comes to creativity do we not do the same?
Why do we view creativity only in the realm of the artistic, those who live on the edge, who have nipple rings and tattoos, who smoke strange stuff, and wear clothes we wouldn’t be seen dead in? How is it that creativity has been cornered by a small minority of society? I’ve not met a child yet who doesn’t exude vast amounts of creativity in almost everything they do. Their worlds are full of play, fantasy and make-believe. Their imaginations run wild with them, as they conjure up armies of interesting objects and creatures to join them in their quests to have fun with their surroundings. And yet by the time we join the workforce we’ve had the creative stuffing knocked out of us. We submit to the norms around us and we merge with our co-workers into similar looking and thinking drones who’s only role is to serve the goals of the powers that be (yes I know, a little dramatic, but step back and have a look at your working life for a little bit).
It’s not that we need to learn creativity. We all had it at one point. It’s that we need to remember it. Inside each of us is a creative force that was once very active, and it served us really well. I’m not suggesting that if we get back in touch with our creativity again that we’ll become genius creators. Just because you can read or write doesn’t mean that you’re able to write best selling books, or poetry that will last a millennia. Reading and writing opens up your world to new worlds. It exposes you to the amazing thoughts of others and we grow because of our ability to consume information. Writing allows us to engage with the world around us. To test thoughts and theories and to communicate with people everywhere. There is no doubt that our ability to read and write adds uncountable value to our lives and new worlds of opportunity are served up to us. Without the skill of reading and writing we are severely handicapped and constrained.
I think it’s time to view creativity through a similar lens. I observe the world around me to be screaming for new options, new thoughts, and new solutions. Poverty, unemployment, environmental destruction, racism, war, terrorism, crime. Each of these requires a fresh approach. A response we’ve not had before to new problems we’ve not had to face. We’re not going to arrive at solutions by simply reading and writing about them. We require volumes of creativity to fuel the innovation machine. Innovation without creativity is like a Formula 1 car without petrol. A really sexy machine with massive potential, but unable to go anywhere.
We need to start teaching creativity. I see no other way to remind those who have forgotten (adults) and encourage those that are still practicing (children). Our world needs very large amounts of it. We need the equivalent of an Amazon.com full of creativity floating around the planet. Imagine what might be achieved if the entire planet was given one full day to attempt to be creative. Imagine what might be discovered, solved, invented, explored?