Demystifying Creativity

Several years ago I was hanging out at one of my regular bars…back when I had a “regular” bar.  There was a hipster bartender that worked there who had seen me come and go about a dozen times before she said to me: “What do you do?  Are you a drug dealer or something?”  I asked her why and she explained that it was because of my attire:  which to me was just “me” but apparently I was making a statement with my patterned blazers, jeans, sneakers and hats.  I said that I was indeed not a drug dealer but worked in marketing.  She said “Oh.  You’re a creative.  I get it”.

That threw me for a loop and I explained that I actually wasn’t a “creative” but more of a researcher, consultant, strategist, etc.  Then went away feeling both flattered and flustered at the same time.

Several years later here I am having spent a lot of time reading books about creativity, studying creative processes, writing thought pieces on the Creative Class and the Conceptual Age and scoping projects for clients who are seeking to help their global organizations embrace a culture of creativity to help prepare themselves for the future. As I make sense of all the observations and data sifting through my brain I realize that a)  I AM a “creative”,  b) we all have the capacity to be “creatives” and c) there is a lot of misperception about what creativity looks like.

Our American culture in particular has almost created a stigma against creativity.  And in an industrial age, I can see where this was a functional adaptation to help keep the masses with their heads down, working and producing and growing our Gross Domestic Product.  Creativity needed to be kept on the fringes and not compensated too much (save for the superstars) to keep us entertained and inspired as we went about our day-to-day business.

But in the era we are in now and moving towards, creativity is actually necessary to keep us moving forward.  We need to challenge the status quo in order to make our lives better.  And the only way to do that is to encourage and teach creativity.  We need to demystify the meaning of creative and remind people that:

  • Creativity is not just the product of inspiration, but also of perspiration
  • Creativity is not just spontaneous, it is also often purposeful
  • Creativity is not haphazard, it is disciplined
  • Creativity is not unproductive, it creates results
  • Creativity is not exclusively innate, it can be learned
  • Creativity is not removed from reality, but inspired by reality
  • Creativity is not purely idealistic. It can be incredibly pragmatic
  • Creativity is not intangible, amorphous or atmospheric.  It is tangible and it is real

Many thanks to my colleague Jeff who lead the brainstorm on this list.  We are leading our organization with our creativity front and center every day.  It is what is helping us learn and grow and what we use to help structure solutions for our clients.

Lets get our heads out of the the black and white black hole and remember that our path forward is determined by our vision.  And we need to embrace our creative sides so we can see the possibilities…because if we can see possibilities then we can create realities.

4 thoughts on “Demystifying Creativity

  1. “…because if we can see possibilities then we can create realities.”

    I fully agree! ‘Tis definitely now time for creativity to be understood as something available to EVERYONE; something to be celebrated, encouraged, nurtured, and valued. I’ll be following your blog and sharing your insights with my clients.

    I especially enjoyed your comments about the “inner anthropologist.” For my day job I teach professional and technical writing, and I teach my students anthropological perspectives, concepts, and methods to use in their research and writing process. I’ll be asking them to read your blog this fall!

    Also wanted to mention that my late colleague’s final manuscript, “Shedding Constraints: A Blind Dog’s Guide to Catalyzing Creativity” is going to press soon and will be available for purchase in print. Proceeds will support a memorial scholarship in her name at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I’ll post on my blog when that’s available and it should make for a fascinating discussion.

    Let’s keep the discussion going here and at The Creative Native (!

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