Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Here's What Creativity Does

In my Summer 2010 newsletter (read it here), I address a recent pronouncement that American creativity is waning. As someone who holds creativity sacred and considers it infinitely closer to godliness than cleanliness will ever be, this is sad and scary news.

How do we fix this sad place we've come to be--a place where multiple generations have been raised without knowing the dignity of meaningful work, the pride of owning a home, or a stable family environment that provides the love, discipline, and encouragement essential for adult independence and success? And as this recession stretches on, once-stable middle class families are now trying to keep their heads above water as the tide of job layoffs, rising tuition, exploitive media, $5 a gallon milk and eroding ethical standards threatens to suffocate the American dream once and for all.

If ever we needed creative minds, it is now. And so it is with much pleasure that I point you to a story about two young women who have come up with an invention that may revolutionize health care in underdeveloped countries. What a perfect example of why corporations and Washington decision-makers should make rewarding ingenuity a major line item in their budgets! Why aren't automakers working with colleges and universities to offer a million dollar prize to the student who comes up with the best alternative fuel vehicle? Why doesn't the FDA sponsor an annual contest to encourage innovation in food packaging or crop management? Every time I sit at a red light watching a hundred cars idling while not a single car passes in the cross street, I think surely technology that can let us launch bombs in Afghanistan from a building in Nevada can make our traffic lights traffic-responsive. Somewhere out there is a young mind capable of solving this problem; I just hope its owner got breakfast this morning.

So, tell me: what do we need to do to prevent America from losing its creative edge? How do we foster a more encouraging environment for our children in these turbulent times?

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt.


workshop said...

I can think of one thing to help kids be creative and never lose their edge. Let the adults in their lives keep in mind to use "no" sparingly... and when a child brings their ideas or feelings to an adult, to respond with "don't be silly" and "that's impossible" is disabling a child's own developing intellect and personal ability to judge and qualify things. They eventually start to suppress their creativity and lose the trust in their better impulses. So there's a communication and cognitive challenge for the adults charged with leading and inspiring and parenting the children.

Creativity is where you find it... some companies, places and cultures are swimming in it, it is their stock in trade... ad agencies like the one I worked at... cities like NYC are living expressions of the will to create, and do it BIG, never stopping, not worrying too much about what it cost, and rebounding quickly from adversity.

The problem of traffic and particularly the flow and potential conflict problem of left turns has a creative solution... I wonder if this unconventional solution will get past years of "this is how it's done." The urban landscape is very easily made bigger, not so easily made smarter... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF9Cx0pMsbI


Jayne Jaudon Ferrer said...

I just had a conversation with a friend about a teacher who say, "No, that's not right," about about an art project. Argh!!!! We all need someplace to breathe freely and push the parameters. Ithinkg the question is, if parents aren't providing that environment, can schools? It's much easier to maintain control with rules and routines. Creative companies, like the ones you reference, offer an appealing prototype, but can the typical company--or school--evolve into that more nurturing environment or does cost or accountability or some other factor prevent it? Because otherwise, why wouldn't EVERY organization want to be fun and inspiring?

Love the traffic diagram. I think being a highway design engineer would be such a fascinating and challenging career!

Glenda said...

Your post strikes a chord with me at this time because I watched a relative with a bright young girl this weekend and had to hold my tongue. Whatever the girl asked or wanted to do, her mother automatically said no. The girl had no opportunity to argue her case. Later the girl manipulated her brother to distract her mother so she could ask me if she could use the computer. She knew her mother would say no, because she always says no.
I saw this reflected in the girl's behavior when her mother asked her to say the blessing at dinner. The child quickly said no, and then said grace.

The girl is bright and cute, but has developed deavious behavior and her parents can't see why.
She has been branded as stubborn, conniving and difficult and her parents can't see any redeeming features. How sad. I have a feeling this girl would be one of the inquisitive children who might break the rules to see why or how something could be made or changed.But that spirit might be destroyed in coming years.

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer said...

Wouldn't it be great if care instructions came with each child so teachers and parents would know the best way to handle each one? Perhaps you can engage this girl in conversation once in a while and make suggestions about her potential or comment on her talents/abilities and ask if she's ever considered pursuing this path or the other. Sometimes just planting a seed can have a huge impact.