Friday, 12 December 2014

Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum

On of the mistakes organisations often seem to make is around communication, or perhaps more accurately, the lack thereof.  Successful organisations have worked out that communicating effectively is a very important part of running a business and it really doesn’t matter what your business is.  One of my favourite expressions recently has been about trying to lead an area without the appropriate communications with other areas - ‘leadership in a vacuum’ as I coin it and it really doesn’t work.
Today we had a good #pkmchat where we started talking about creativity.  Most of us agreed that whilst there are creative people (and of course those that are less so), that creativity needed something to spark it off.  I think there are two main types of creativity here, the type where a couple or a group of people bounce ideas off each other and a spark grows and an idea is formed - kind of a communal creativity.  Sure there are some people that contribute more than others and I’m sure there’s a TED video somewhere of the leaders and followers, but the essence is that it’s the overall outcome is greater than the sum of its individual parts and collaborative.  The second type only occurs with truly creative people.  You all know the types, they’re that rare breed that actually do think in a different way to most of us knuckleheads (sorry, no insult meant to anyone beyond myself).  They see things differently and more widely and are often great inspiring people.  What they are not is an island.  Where they draw their inspiration from varies from individual to individual, but regardless of their creativity - it needs something to get it started or to act as a catalyst to bring it out.

Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum because it simply can’t.  We don’t take a person with great ideas and lock them away in a room where they churn out amazing creative ideas from within.  Even if creativity is held entirely within, we need that jog to pull it out or to form it into something beyond just random thoughts.

Truth is even if I’m wrong (and yes, there’s a fair chance of it) then the propagation and the application of creativity would soon die without others involved.  Creativity without any action is like sparks when you’re cold; they have the potential to light a fire, but the sparks alone don’t make it happen.  When the bright sparks of my analogy meet with the ‘fuel’ that is the rest of us that’s when the ideas ignite and creativity blooms (or booms, I’m lost in my own running metaphors again).  That got a bit convoluted but hopefully you get the idea; creative people cause the sparks but it’s when those ideas get picked up and acted upon and spread and acted upon some more, that’s when something amazing happens… and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

If a tree in a forest falls over and no-one is around to hear it did it really fall?  Or should it be if a spark occurs and there’s nothing around to catch fire, did it really happen? In either the falling of trees or the igniting of sparks even if they still occur… does anyone care?

The good news for us ‘ordinary’ folks is that if I’m right we all have the chance to be a part of creativity.  We may not be the sparks (at least on our own) but with others or with the right approach we can fan the flames.  Here’s the essence part again, it’s not what you know (or more accurately what you think you know) or what you can do but what your approach is.  Put simply creativity doesn’t rely on knowledge - nor does it really rely on ‘skill’ in the generic sense of the word, it takes a certain ATTITUDE.  From #lrnchat we talked about intellectual humility - the idea if you will to change your mind based upon new evidence or another perspective - this is a required part of helping creativity.  If you base everything you know and everything you can do on what is already known how can you be truly creative?

As a final point remember that the most effective ‘blocker’ to more or less anything is a vacuum - an open space caused by some form of isolation.  The only way to travel through a vacuum is to radiate - and unless you know someone so creative that their ideas radiate out for others to absorb, I suggest we fill that vacuum with people and interactions between them.

I’m off to glow now and see if anyone notices :)