Is creativity jumping the shark?

Published by Lori Pickert on July 19, 2012 at 05:31 PM

“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” — Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind

But...

Nowadays an admittance of failure to think outside the box, or an unenthused face during a company brainstorm, can amount to career suicide. The amorphous concept of ‘creativity’ has become the unquestioned MacGuffin of our times, and anyone who doesn’t demonstrate it — or at least a willingness to cultivate it — is in danger of being labeled a conservative desk-monkey unfit for the creative rigours of our fecund social media world. — The Cult of Creativity

James C. Kaufman, Professor of Psychology at California State University and co-author of the seminal book The Creativity Conundrum, believes that unquestioned assumptions about the cultural hegemony of creativity are starting to creep in. “One thing that creativity researchers do,” he says, “is assume that creativity is the be-all and end-all and we don’t argue why it’s important. Creativity on an everyday level is associated with better physical and mental health, better leadership. But we don’t compare. Is it really better than being good at math or being able to run five miles without getting tired? It depends on what you value and it depends on what we need.” — ibid.

Kaufman believes that the backlash is already here.  “We have a spoken praise of creativity, we say we like creativity, but most people don’t. Companies say they want creative workers but they often don’t. Creative workers tend to make more mistakes, be less conscientious, be more focused on their own not the company’s success. And there is still the belief that creative people are mentally ill! There are people who don’t enjoy creativity. That’s fine. We need people who can get straightforward stuff done too.” — ibid.

What say you? Has creativity jumped the shark? Are left-brainers on the rise again?

5 comments

Comment by patricia on July 20, 2012 at 10:50 AM

I suppose it isn't enough to simply be creative. You need to know how to apply your creativity, at least sometimes, into something practical. You have to have the skills to carry out projects, to work with others, to convey what you're trying to do clearly to others.

Of course, all of the ideas you promote here and in your book develop those skills!

I love the line about companies saying they want creative workers, but they often don't. Sort of like schools that say they value creativity, but don't really give the kids the sort of freedom to fully be creative. They're giving lip service to an idea but aren't really studying how ideas are developed and how innovative work is getting done.

The most creative people probably don't care that companies don't want them. They don't last at companies; they start their own companies, or businesses, or projects. Because that's what creative people do.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 20, 2012 at 08:06 PM

 

i think it’s true that things tend to move in a pendulum fashion — creativity is the new hot thing! never mind, now being an engineer is the new hot thing! and so on. i know when i graduted from college in the 80s, the only reason anyone wanted a liberal arts degree was if they were pre-law. ;o)

thank you re: the book! :) and i do think that creativity is greatly aided by skills like being able to collaborate, work through long-term projects, communicate, *finish*, etc. but reading this, i get the idea that if you seem creative, employers are going to *assume* you are an arty type who can’t get the job done.

"I love the line about companies saying they want creative workers, but they often don't." — i love that, too. i think it’s true. a lot of us have had that experience of being told we’re being hired because we’re XYZ and then finding once we’re in the position that it’s not at all what they really want — they want what they’ve always had.

"Sort of like schools that say they value creativity, but don't really give the kids the sort of freedom to fully be creative. They're giving lip service to an idea but aren't really studying how ideas are developed and how innovative work is getting done." — yes! “creativity” must be one of the most-used-in-a-completely-insincere-manner words ever. i don’t know how many times a kid activity has been splattered with “creative” when it requires little or no creativity at all.

"The most creative people probably don't care that companies don't want them. They don't last at companies; they start their own companies, or businesses, or projects. Because that's what creative people do." — i love this, and i want it to be true. but i don’t think everyone is happiest being self-employed. in fact, i think many artists thrive in a collaborative atmosphere, and i’ve heard many people say they’d rather not have to deal with the boring side of running a business. this article makes me think that creative people need to shore up their “straightforward stuff” (as described above) as much as the engineers and business types need to shore up their creative side. at least if they want jobs.

in a way, though, it reminds me of the push toward the middle that happens in public school — everyone told that they’re not *this* enough or *that* enough. they should all try to be a little less X and a little more Z. maybe the winners will resist being pushed toward the middle and they’ll just keep standing out as being good at what they do, no matter what it is.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 21, 2012 at 01:48 PM

 

“Well, creativity is probably the most fundamental set of capacities that distinguishes us as human beings. And from it flows a whole range of practical capacities that we call creativity.

“…  in schools … the whole emphasis is on the one right answer; where imaginative thinking is actively discouraged … conformity affectively stifles creative thinking in every field.

“… if you’re promoting an education where there’s only one right answer … that’s hardly a good climate for cultivating the powers of creativity and innovation.” — Sir Ken Robinson, How Do Schools Suffocate Creativity?

Comment by Cristina on July 24, 2012 at 10:51 PM

I think one of the problems here is how we define creativity. Our society ties everything to some monetary value and that isn't possible with creativity. If anything, creativity is an investment. Like any good investment, it needs time to grow before it can produce dividends. What we are seeing is a clash of creative patience against our desire for immediate gratification.

I don't think creativity could ever truly "jump the shark." I think we will always have businesses and companies who respect creativity and those that prefer tried and true methods. In the long run, I think it will be obvious who survives. Creativity gives us the ability to adapt and change. Change is necessary to survive.

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 25, 2012 at 07:15 AM

beautifully said, cristina xo

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