Democratisation Of Creativity

It's a god damn free for all

Think that ‘Creative’ is a term reserved for an elite few? Think again. We all have the ability to be creative.

Ever since the industrial revolution, being creative has been fiercely reserved for the professionally creative. Why? Perhaps we can all understand why those who are lucky enough to make a living out of creativity are reluctant to share their trade secrets. It’s akin to a magician never wanting to reveal how they do their ‘prestige’.

Brands, businesses and individuals pay a lot of money to creative people for their ideas. According to a 2010 UN report, the global creative industry was worth a whopping US$2.2 trillion, and as of right now, tells us that there are over 7000 jobs with the word ‘creative’ in the title in Australia alone. Yet creativity is still considered an elusive concept to most people. They believe creativity is only for artists, designers, scientists, musicians and the like. This misguided view of creativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as self-proclaimed ‘non-creatives’ block themselves off to the idea that they have such abilities.

Having worked as a suit and a creative in the marketing world for close to 20 years, I’ve long known that your job title has nothing to do with your ability to be creative. Everyone is capable of thinking creatively. Part of the misconception around creativity comes from a lack of appreciation for what creativity actually means, coupled with the air of mystery that often surrounds so called creative types and their processes.

Professor Øyvind Martinsen from Norway posed 200 questions to 481 students to identify the top seven signs of a creative person, and I think the results may surprise you:

  1. Your mind has an associative orientation – you daydream a lot.
  2. You hunger for originality
  3. You’re highly motivated.
  4. You’re ambitious.
  5. You’re flexible.
  6. You’re emotionally volatile.
  7. You’re a pain in the butt.



This guy kinda sums it up…

As you can see, there is no special gift or God-given ability there, and I guess that’s the point. All of the above are states of mind and everyone has the ability to change their state of mind. Research often endeavours to explain the process by highlighting inspiration in anecdotes from creative types, but these are too often subjective and do little to help others in the development of their own creativity. Some claim they were inspired by the obscure, others by the mundane. Some in the midst of noise, others in the tranquility of calmness.

Various psychologists and creative types themselves have tried to explain the creative process logically and scientifically, but there’s no one-size-fits-all instruction manual that can outline the steps in the creative process.

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘creative’ as “relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”. It is therefore generally understood that the result of creativity is the formation of new ideas and concepts. When looking at how to tap into our innate creativity, my belief is that the most important step happens before you even get to the stage of inspiration, and it is applicable to and achievable by everyone. New ideas are formed by applying previous experiences to new situations, sometimes subconsciously.

Steve Jobs put it simply when he said, “creativity is just connecting things”. Those things that Steve was referring to are all your experiences in life up until that very moment of wanting or needing to think creatively. The challenge lies, therefore, not in frantically trying to be creative, but in making sure that along the way you collect together enough experiences and things that will eventually of themselves create new ideas.

So, how are you going to maximise your everyday life experiences so as to be better equipped to come up with creative ideas in the future? Imagine your brain is like an empty Lego box. Each time you have a new experience you receive a new piece of Lego to put into your Lego box. Those who have the bravest and broadest experiences will collect the biggest and most varied Lego set. Guess who’s going to make the most original and creative Lego creations? Call it ‘cultural immersion’ if you like – but if you want to be creative today, you need to have started yesterday. It’s never too late for tomorrow – start today!

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