Do You Think Product or Process?

Ours is the creative age.  A recent study by IBM shows the number one characteristic employers now look for in future employees is creativity. But its application is much wider than work.

Learning how to recognise, understand and harness our creative capacities is becoming not just a nice-to-have but a psychological necessity in our fast-paced, interconnected, always-on world.

In ancient and tribal cultures, creativity was understood as a gift from the gods. The Enlightenment dethroned both superstition and religion and rationality came to be privileged by modern societies as the highest level of thought.

We turned to science for answers, in fields from ethics to medicine, and in many ways that has served us well. And in some, not so well, as the twentieth century saw life all over the planet deliberately extinguished through war, consumerism and pollution, and human suffering and extermination on a previously unimaginable scale.

As we make the next turn in the wheel of human evolution, we urgently need to establish creative connection as the necessary framework for scientific, analytical and rational thought.

We need to integrate rational and spiritual, conventional and creative, without privileging either over the other.

You cannot separate them. They are like our right foot and out left, designed to work together. To say one is better than the other is to set yourself off kilter.

Going Creative

Because society, school and workplaces favor conceptual more than creative intelligence, we grow up failing to understand what it means to be creative: what it entails, what it asks of us.

  • to know  what we truly want;
  • to experiment with our own lives;
  • to see failure as learning;
  • to express our own truth;
  • to accept open questions and the unknown;
  • to let go and surrender to the process.

Our culture is highly uncomfortable with all this. It tries to have it both ways, to turn creativity into something that can be measured and proven.“For the Romantics, creativity’s center of gravity was in the mind,” says Joshua Rothman in a recent article in The New Yorker. “For us, it’s in whatever the mind decides to share — that is, in the product.”

“It’s not enough for a person to be “imaginative” or “creative” in her own consciousness. We want to know that the product she produces is, in some sense, ‘actually'  creative; that the creative process has come to a workable conclusion.” (You can read Rothman's article in its entirety here.)

But isn't a focus on product, rather than process, actually anti-creative?

What do you think?

 

The Creative Climate of Lennon-McCartney

When you think creative pairs, for me one of the first that springs to mind is that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. With Lennon’s melancholic notes, and McCartney’s upbeat melodies, the pair, more often than not, found a harmonious balance.

But behind such famous songs as Help, Yesterday, Come Together, and All You Need Is Love, the pair had a lot of differences. As they weaved in and out of phases of taking LSD, their varying partners, and meditative retreats, the rift between them became bigger. Interestingly enough, it was during the height of the tension between the two that they produced what is arguably their best album, The White Album, despite the extremely tense atmosphere in the recording studio.

In an article on the New York Opinions Page, David Brookes responds to a piece on The Atlantic about the creative duo of Lennon-McCartney. He looks at just how original creativity is: “Creativity rarely flows out of an act of complete originality. It is rarely a virgin birth. It is usually the clash of two value systems or traditions, which, in collision, create a transcendent third thing”.

What does all this mean? Well, while discussing your ideas with your argumentative partners, or your over-enthusiastic family members, or even your pushy friends, fear not, because any dialogue about your ideas may act as fuel for your creativity, whether it be tense and confrontational or pleasant and productive.

Be More Creative Guest. This week… Paul Graham on the Perils of Prestige

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like…

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious… So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige.

That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on.

It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.

 

From How to Do What You Love by Y-Combinator founder, Paul Graham .

The Controlled Chaos of Creativity

Author's work rooms all look remarkably alike — stacked books and papers and a lovely air of barely contained chaos. This applies across the creative class of artists, writers, musicians, entertainers…

Californian professer, Sarnoff A. Mednick, has been reasoning with our anarchic method of organisation, exploring the root of creative ideas.

Mednick looks at how people associate certain things with others (the core of creative activity) and the links they make between words. He disputed that creative people link more abstract words to other words than less creative people. For example, when given the word ‘ball’, the creative may think of the word ‘exercise’, whereas a less creative person may think of a simpler and direct word such as ‘football’.

The conclusion to all of Mednick’s fun with words is that creative people have a greater ability to associate more distant and random things and thoughts. This is why our minds may seem scattered, and our rooms may look like pandemonium — our brains are accessing more sources than the average.

At least this is what we can tell our housemates.

For a lovely diagram of the words most commonly used by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dylan Thomas, and more details, read more on the Scientific American Blog.