Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Riddle Of Creativity

The Indianapolis Business Journal writer Mickey Maurer wrote an article entitled (The) "Riddle of creativity is not easy to solve."  

You can find his original article here.

I'm going to lend him a hand by demystifying some of that riddle for you here today.

The author is correct in that creativity is a riddle not easy to solve. But it is not really a riddle.  It's a mental process, just like emotions, intellect and instincts.  That makes it discoverable and comprehensible from psychiatric, psychological and philosophical viewpoints.  

Most of the problems in solving this riddle come from the social view and treatment of creativity and creators.  The rest of the problem is solved by how you choose to formulate a working model for your individual and organizational creativity.

Creativity is often viewed with an antiquated context placing it akin to mental illness, which it is not. 

Everyone is born with creativity.  Nature in her wisdom understands creativity can help us create the things we need to survive, and built the faculty early in evolution genetically.  The flint tool is a great example.  Cave Art as attempts to represent realism in early human experience at the intellectual level of the cave dweller is another more pragmatic example.  Man's quest for meaning and all that.  

Back then; the IQ was still far from 100, something that would cause us medical concern today.  Creativity was so necessary for survival that nature built it up well in advance of intellectual development.  It still is necessary, more than ever, for survival. 

Despite our best governance, religious doctrines and information systems, creativity fills in the gaps in the weakness of the scope of those domains.  And those scopes are pretty encompassing in topic.  

Because creativity works in tandem with intellect - and that is part of the first step in unraveling the puzzle the author proposes - we must cultivate intellectual systems of thoughts designed to cooperate, not condemn, shunt aside or minimize these thoughts.  

Collectively, a group of thoughts make a concept.  A group of concepts make a superconcept. A group of superconcepts creates a masterpiece.  

In case you are not fully acquainted with the power of a masterpiece, let me illustrate by simple statement few will argue with if they are wise.  A person can walk up to a painting in a museum, look at it, contemplate it (there or thereafter) and walk away a changed person.  That is the god like power creativity contains - the power of transformation.  Something transformed is no longer the way it was before.  It is changed permanently.  

Fear from change prevents creativity from taking its rightful place in society today.  Before the creator was venerated in golden civilization, as was health, diet and respectful, progressive debate for the gifts they gave society through their inventive labors.  The gift of education, entertainment and enlightenment.

We hold creativity at arm's length in a poster child mentality view instead of a healthy way.

Being partially extracted from Greek Spartan blood let me share with you the kind of resistance individuals and collective societies have towards change.  It is an old Spartan quote.  "A brave man will face danger and ruin, but will run from change."  If we don't change, our American society is in trouble.  On an important evolutionary level.

The road to Rome is littered with ideas, as it is here in Silicon Valley where I ended up at after leaving Zionsville behind.  A good concept will get someone to say, "interesting" and do nothing more. A superconcept will get you lunch and a few congratulatory phone calls and an opportunity to crow if you are the vain type.

A masterpiece sells itself for as hefty a sum as you can get for it.  Oh, what the market will bear.  There is a new saying in culture and entertainment, "You are not selling out if you are selling the truth."  This is as true as the new knowledge the audience must now do some work intellectually speaking.

But do you have the discipline and commitment to the search for true meaning in life to find it creatively?  Few do.  They give up for comfort, security and convenience and become bitter people who hate themselves for giving up on their dreams in secret at the worst, and a repressed two face about meaningfulness at the best. They are those who offer lip service most of the time.

Ben Franklin, a founding father said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."  Creativity is not only perhaps the highest form of individual liberty and personal happiness; it is the sole and exclusive highest form of freedom.  The right to create is implied in the United States Declaration of Independence in the phrase, "Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  

How maligned we have made this important American foundational value.  The founding fathers are turning over in their graves for the way society and the status quo have treated creators pursuing happiness and freedom.  How easily we forget Patrick Henry's words. I do not have to quote those to you, do I?  No, they are burned upon all our hearts.  

People who are challenged in rational terms will instinctively, and by natural will to survive, employ the creative faculty to support as functional an operating cognition in total as the extent of their challenge will permit.  This is a survival mechanism being employed where other mental processes are challenged.  

The misunderstanding of this has lead to the mostly erroneous connection between creativity and mental illness.  The brain will use whatever faculty is has in order to survive and thrive.  Thriving is not just an economic interpretation mediafied by credit card companies, it is a robust manifestation of survival, in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of need at the self actualization level with healthy people, and at the coping level of challenge at the mental challenge level.

We fail to make this connection because we are focused on rational states of thinking (how do we make more money, or make things more efficient?), which are truth bound states, and creativity is not a truth bound state.  We would not be able to make all the connections between things there are to make were truth (this is not to say truth is not important) a requirement of all cognitive outputs.  A picture of a coffee pot with a cup a saucer takes on a different meaning when it is the subject of a painting by Picasso. 

If something is not rational, we assume it is crazy, as conventional status quo bias would ascribe.  This is antiquated, insufficient reasoning.  Intellectual laziness, and truthfully, prejudice pure and simple.  This American intellectual laziness, by the way, is why cultures outside of the United States factually dominate the tech industry.  Creativity is the great equalizer, but hey, we all know what kind of challenge equality faces.  But something that is produced by a non truth bound state, and may be irrational, by definition is not crazy or the product of a mentally challenged person.  It is non-rational.  It is the province of creativity and it's workings.  

Just because we do not understand something, does not mean it is to be feared.  This is the mindset of those who fear change.  We should welcome it, just as we welcomed the results of the civil war - freedom and opportunity for a specific class of people - slaves. What kind of nation do you think we would be if slavery were still legal?  Think about that creatively.  And become worried.

Most of the things that are interesting, important and human are the results of creativity.  No rational person will argue this.  The wheel, the Internet, radiation and space travel are good examples of creativity in scientific areas.  Picasso, music, graphic design and the pet rock, a famous Indy town native invention were all the results of creativity.  And these people who thought outside the box (and really, is banking, breeding and big box the best we are as a sentient species?)

We need to change our century old paradigm of views about creativity.  For centuries, creators were ostracized and pushed to the fringe of society by the status quo (that group of people that really doesn't want a thing to change lest it threaten their control of the majority of society and comforts denied the rest of us?  Yeah, those lackey key holder/gatekeepers for the rich.)  

Yet these creators work low paying jobs at the edge of society because they are not understood because they suffer from the scarlet letter of the conventional view that, 'Oh.  You're creative.  You must be weird and a little batty." 

Yeah, if you don’t understand it, it must be crazy, right? Narrow minded provincial thinking at best.  Social damage at worst. 

Like if commerce were the be-all, end-all of civilization. 

This is a short term view, similar to the short term view where we say at the corporate level, "Oh if we fire a lot of people (and damage human being's lives as a result) we can boost the bottom line."  Wow, what an innovative aspiration.

This condemnation comes from an old parochial, patrician puritanical view that if something is just not like me, or my take on things, it must be cast out, condemned, minimized, ostracized, pushed to the fringe and diminished in terms of cultural contribution.  Sound like prejudice? It certainly is.  But we'd rather continue the practice rather than change our views.  

And Indiana has proven able to change its views.  Remember the Underground Railroad?  Is once enough, or will poster child results satisfy the under manifest mentality majority?

Most of our views and precepts of creativity were results of someone famous and long dead making a relative, but not contextual statement about creativity.  Maya Angelou says, "You can't use up creativity.  The more you use the more you have."  But nobody asked her why?  Because she couldn't explain why as great a writer and poet as she was.  

Artists have the same intellectual limitations as other intellectually inclined people.  But they do not limit themselves in creative aspirations and work in the best part.  A trillion similar memes and tropes at the worst.  

Creativity is a non truth bound state, thus the use of intellect at all in the process comes often much later in the creative process model.  You have to trust it and let the cards fall where they may until you reach a certain creative maturity level, which most creative people don’t.  What they do is reach a technical maturity level, and then portend mastery.  Oh, society, thy name is vanity. 

Just because something is non truth bound does not make it a lie. Is Cinderella a lie?  It was created by a writer. It has stood the test of time as a classic, but we call it a myth or a fairy tale. Not a lie.  

This is the difference between a lie and a creative output from a non truth bound state of mind.  The telling of Cinderella, and its results on children's perceptions never hurt a single person.  It has certainly done a lot of damage to the natural mating process between male and female.  

I don’t know about you, but my Prince Charming routine was abandoned not long after I took off my Superman suit, if you remember the popular masculinity axiom of the 80’s.  It wasn’t real, and I choose not to live a lie.  Besides that glass slipper is heavy and really expensive.  

The fact is, creativity is the most important single strategic advantage for the United States and it's future in history.  That is why I have made it my academic study for decades.  I got tired of the suffering I was experiencing at the hands of people thinking in terms of a hundred years ago about what my life's work meant to me and the greater good of American culture my work could do.

It felt like the sting I experienced when people used to scream "Baby Killer!" at me forty years ago as opposed to the "Thank you for your service" I hear today when I was a young graduate of Arlington High School and chose to serve in the Marines a tour of service for patriotic reasons.

Get the polarity of the creator experience?  

It happens still.  The sociological term is, 'micro-aggression.'  Denial of opportunity is the new slavery.  A softer slavery.  The kind that can be administered in kinder, gentler terms. 

Let me present a fair bias here.  Creators themselves often project artistic elitism at the cost of cultivating their talents at a much steeper price than they are willing to pay.  My mother, an Indiana artist for seventy years, was always prejudiced as crazy, yet she produced works of art usually only highly refined senses of taste and aesthetic can comprehend and appreciate.  Getting good at creativity requires getting good in selfhood.  

But as Sir Ken Robinson will tell you in his YouTube videos, and I paraphrase, "They (society) take your crayons away when you get about six.  You have to take them back." 

Creators themselves, in pursuit of their abilities, rarely engage in a professional approach to creativity as a mental process to manage.  They get an MFA in this or that fine or applied art, and go about making a career instead of cultivating their creativity fully, and pass themselves off as elitists the common man will not understand.  

But their work in terms of advancing culture is marginal.  They might sell a lot of posters or  prints, and perhaps that may be their definition of success.  But it isn’t a real definition of success.  Not in human progress terms, nor in personal evolutionary terms. 

This only enforces the patronizing culture which has only given us over time a healthy one percent owning everything the majority does and says - the class system - and oh yeah, let's not forget never ending war, exploitation and intractable, irresponsible and incapable leadership solely focusing on the creativity that produces profit.  That’s a miniscule portion of what creativity generates.

The World Economic Council recently released its 2016 jobs report, and creativity has leapt from the 13th most important skill in the workplace by 2020 to number 3.  For essential business reasons as well as the benefit of humankind.

You don't grow creativity well in art class, you can expose choices and accepted aesthetics, but real creativity is inside yourself to bring out in a strategic method.

And you have to abandon rational, logic, reason and conformity to access and utilize this faculty in the majority of initial instances.

Not all, but the vast, vast majority.  Near the end of the creative process model, intellect is valuable in shaping the original creation into a finished work of art.  Which by some standard, we immediately contextualize into commoditization.  We did that with motherhood, and wisely so to the benefit of the fairer gender and I really don't know if the 'fairer gender' is a sexist term anymore, so somebody please comment to correct me if it is.  I do not intend such sexism.  But for how many generations were women not allowed to work and earn money, solely dependent on the man of the family for income?  

Let me put this in neurophysiologic terms for you.  When you are creating, you are using three times more brain mass than when you are being intellectual.  And when you are being creative, your IQ multiplies by 10X.  That's like having somebody who is ten times smarter than you with you all the time, available for questions and reflection on a scale and order intellect alone is incapable of. Yet this is what we socially asperse on the community level. 

The resulting output may not be practical or profitable, but consistent use, practice and understanding of the cooperative nature of creativity vis-à-vis your long term efforts usually yield astonishing results.  Game changing, so to speak.  But, ask any woman who love to dance as long as she wishes any way she wants simply for the joy it gives her - some things money cannot buy. This is the dimension to the human experience commerce negates, because it is not highly productive.  And if it is not productive, it must not be profitable, and well, profit uber alles.  

We are leaving the age of corruption and exploitation in civilization, slowly and painfully.  Creativity as a growing cultural influence and leader will shorten the timeframe and make less horrifying the transition to the age of authenticity, which we are moving into. We have to, or we succumb to cultural cancer.  

George Orwell's 1984 we now know to be impossible, but if your board of directors could replace you with a robot, do you really think that they would hesitate for a second?  This is not a human or cultural value. 

Examples of cultural cancer are the same old movie tropes, the same old cocktails in a new glass with a different colored parasol, the same old literature with the same old themes that bring only comfort and not challenge values, like good art can. Regurgitology I call it.  The same old, same ole in a new package.  Hemlines as a predictor of stock market performance.

Because this cannot work forever is evidenced in the demise of companies like ITT institute and other for profit colleges where practical job skills are taught, but the market demand no longer exists so not only does the skilled workplace employment candidate suffer, but the system that produced that candidate is now obsolesced.  I work in Silicon Valley.  There aren’t many ‘good’ tech jobs actually available as candidates and legislators and educators will sell you.  There are contractors responsible for their own taxes and insurance at best, and their contracts are termed to the end of the business need case.

Read: revolving door, people.  

An example of creativity serving change for the better would be like showing Picasso's Guernica to children instead of dozens of horrifying, permanently psyche shocking photos of mass murder and genocide in the Holocaust.  

Art can make the point without the point having to be so sharp the child psychologically bleeds for the rest of their life, resulting in the repression that only brings about anger, depression and its offspring - violence to oneself or others.  

The child would cry because the horse is in terror, but would not be permanently scarred psychologically by viewing the images of the genocide we all grew up with and can picture in our minds today the second my words compel you through rational interpretation to access visual memories associated with that tragedy. 

Creativity has, and can, develop such astonishing things that one day, money itself will be obsolete.  This is an idealistic view, but do you think we should be paying rent and mortgages a hundred years from now?  Do you think a child should be limited in their choices of education because of the cost of it?  

Here in California, an estimated 50% of the students in the UC and State education system are in the brink of starvation because of high cost of living.  Read, rent and tuition, books and food.  

Basic opportunity system requirements wagon train ho-ooo!

Creativity can change all that if we allow it.  In my old home county of Marin, there are over 40 non-profits getting more than a quarter billion dollars a year in grants and funding.  The problem of homelessness is worse than ever, and town fathers don't know what to do.  I fear for the toll dear Indiana is taking with an out of control opioid epidemic.  Young are dropping like leaves in fall.

Creativity can change this too.  But like modern audiences, it’s work, not just a good old fashioned plunking down of cash to throw money at the problem which never worked but is easy and convenient for some people I guess. 

I created a solution for homelessness and took it to homeless advocates.  Because it obsolesced their source of grant monies, it got precisely zero traction.  Yet, the solution was created. Nobody wanted to pick up the ball and run down the field to the end zone and actually end the problem.  It was a back up and punt mentality pure and simple.  

I created a solution for education and first responders. The only positive support I got was from the Office of the District Attorney is Santa Barbara.  You can feed people good ideas all day long every day, and they won't do anything about it.  They can't commit. They have to go make the bills first, or, if it threatens their line of income, forget it.  They create a media machine against it. 

There are a dozen rich market psychologists on Madison Avenue (which, ironically, runs right behind Wall Street) figuring out how you tick so their clients can make even more off you than they did yesterday.  Great songs are played in stores now to make you buy more instead of uplifting your spirits or creating enjoyment.  The company that figured that out made a bundle.  Happy, happy culture everybody!

You have to think long term, and that is what creativity is, a long term process.  I waited four years for a solution to a video game design document that was a necessary component of a functional story world.  The company I was writing it for went out of business for lack of profitable ideas.  The wrong kind of time value of money. 

And that is the second riddle element for creativity I solve for you.  It is a long term process.  The faculty cannot tell time. That was the genetic evolutionary trade off nature made in exchange for this incredible capability.

You can ask in an antiquated and inefficient process called 'brainstorming' (when in fact placid consciousness is critical to effective creativity and the shortening of the T factor) anything of your creativity.  But it does not have the temporal awareness to delivery by five p.m.  This is asking more than it can give and is why it fails business needs left and right.  

You have to be smarter than that, and front end load your creative strategy for your enterprise.  Think big, but in a structured time span aware, results methodology context.
Moon shot thinking is long over.  You have to star shot or bust. We are gradually approaching a business dust bowl if we do not change our approach to business strategy which includes pragmatic systems regarding creative output.

Or, you can think short term and merely innovate rather than transform, and keep the doors open another quarter or two.  That's conditional on whether your innovation actually has market traction and competitive capability. Innovation is as subject to the impracticality as creativity.  And compared to true big C creativity, innovation is small c potential.  We're talking about your bottom line five to ten years from now.  

People in business used to think in terms of the Peter Drucker mindset where five years from now, your business should look nothing like it does today.  Now, we employ different thinking, and we're in financial trouble for it. 

Riddle demystification number three.  Creativity is a freight train at the high octane level, which is where you need to be if you want skin in the game.  You stoke a lot of coal and build up a lot of steam to kinetically potentialize it into wheel turn-on-track forward motion.

Getting thousands of tons of train up to speed cannot be emergency braked because it is time to get up and get the kids ready for school before going to work without disastrous consequences to your idea's potential.

Build a lab - a separate office and hang a sign over the door that says, "Only creativity enters here."  Go there when all the finance, manufacturing and customer service is done for the day (or before if you are smart; yeah, get up early) and leave your value judging at the door.  Black hat thinking is so far later in the process I am certain many of you bypassed opportunity because you brought it to bear too early and too often.  Well, you have to deprogram yourself from that.  That process is like slowing a freight train, btw. 

I'm talking about two things here: volume and iteration. You need to generate ideas in bulk, and forget the judgment about those ideas, just file them exo priority (not the round file, you will be surprised what you can salvage in time - just like a farmer - an apt analogy for my agricultural friends) and keep plugging.  

That train needs lots of track and no brakes.  You may have to hire on an R & D level a long term creator.  And I do not envy you that candidate vetting process.  

There are no emergencies in creativity town, just ideas whose time has come, demanding immediate attention.  This is why you wake up at two a.m and write it down.  In this case, the old sports and military adage holds true.  There’s no substitute for discipline.  

That is why there is an old saying in the screenwriting business, “If you can’t write it down, you don’t know it.”

Well, if you don’t write it down, good luck remembering it, much less refining it into something with potential.  Just maintain water for steam and keep the coals going and ride, ride, ride. There is no end of the line except when the concept you have been populating with ideas is ready to be shunted to a spur and the railroad mechanics are put to work analyzing metrics and values and potentials evaluating for improvement.  

Don't be disappointed if that concept can't be implemented. You will add more and more cars to this train and eventually one of them gets spurred off and just works. Creativity is problem solving, which is why nature made is an evolutionary priority for the sake of survival before building intellect.  

Build your idea inventory until things slowly stitch together and in a sudden spurt of inspiration (which metrically is and historically was underpinned by exhaustive, meticulous preparation) you have that "Eureka!" moment and your strategy is crystal clear.  

Then of course, you become a change manager.  Nothing too new about that.  It's a constant, as we say here in Silicon Valley.

What you are creating is an ontology of ideas, some business worthy, some entirely impractical and silly sounding.  You add data topology to that ontology of ideas via a data tableau.  Excel is amazing for this.  

There are some architectural project managers still who can run a massive construction project on Excel pivot tables because they can do things with data that the latest release of Microsoft Project still cannot do. 

But you rarely get to that big idea on a straight heading, no sir. You have to iterate all the earth with a spade by time consuming labor to find that nugget of gold.  Nothing new about that either. What is new is that you have to work in a way you never have before.

And that most of you will run from.  The leaders of tomorrow will embrace it.  The rest will be relegated to the obscurity of time.

Welcome to the business process model for the rest of time, until invention makes hunger, distribution, housing, healthcare, transportation, politics and war obsolete.  That is something you work for, not pray for.

As Beth Lapides says regarding  the comedy writing business, “Now get back to work.”  As Da Vinci says (I paraphrase) in his Advice to Artists, “If you understood the amount of work I did beforehand, you would not find my inventions so amazing at all.”

Good luck, and remember the quote of Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code, which you should read, “The most important work of art you will ever create is the architecture of your own talent.”  

Wish I’d written that.

Sincerely yours,
The Lone Comic TM

Defender of Creativity SM