There are no answers here.
It has been a (long) while since I have written in this space. This is my attempt to get back into writing for myself as a practice of sense making and reflection - learning.
Creativity and innovation are understandably big topics for both business and the campus. Seeking the new, taking risks, being willing to fail and learning from that failure in order to create something original and/or of value are all keys to innovation. These are also all keys to the creative process.
I guess you can say that I have a “creative” background. My degrees are in music composition and in the past I was a somewhat active composer. Much of what I think are the best qualities that I bring to the table when helping to provide “solutions of value” for businesses, wether through media, marketing or learning development, I developed through my “creative” background. I have to admit that I thought I had the notion of creativity all buttoned up. “Dude - I gots degrees - I know creativity” (Those pesky silos, ya try break them down, but yet they sometimes creep back into the psyche)
But a series of tweets from what is a Social Media life time ago really got me to thinking and reflecting on the nature of creativity, fostering creativity and being creative on a daily basis and what that means for me now.
Here is an excerpted Twitter convo with Aaron Silvers - a thinker and an instigator, one of many that I connect with and am better for it.
Meaning-making is at the heart of creativity. Meaning is how we hold things in mind: constancy of representation.— Aaron Silvers (@aaronesilvers) March 18, 2012
The meaning that you give to something is the performance that you live. Perhaps changing performance requires changing the meaning.— Aaron Silvers (@aaronesilvers) March 18, 2012
@audioswhite it's a convergence of energies. I'd argue that with meaning comes creativity. Many more can perform than do so with meaning.— Aaron Silvers (@aaronesilvers) March 18, 2012
Now these represent a brief interaction most likely long forgotten by Aaron, but for some reason it stuck in my brain and I have been ruminating on it for quite some time. This is not an attempt to define creativity. I am not looking to quantify it or subscribe to a particular theory.
For me the creative act, the drive to write, compose, sculpt, paint, draw, scribble, film, code and so on, is a Need. It is an itch that must be scratched. It is not always a pleasant or or joyful process trying to satisfy that itch. It can lead to mania and be frustrating, lead to tears, deprivation.
It is a quest. A search.
It is why when I was younger I would sometimes go 40 hours without sleep searching for that right solution, that "something" - the just-right filter on the just right sampled-string sound, the perfect image to evoke the right question, whether in your mind or in the participants mind (Art requires participation ya know - another discussion). To me, that is the search for meaning. And the creative act is a journey to attain meaning both for the creator and the participant - and thus my quick response to Aaron’s provocation.
But here is where this little exchange got me to thinking.
My description above I think is more a description of artistic drive born of the quest of the masterpiece. This is different than creativity.
There is no doubt in my mind that creativity is born of the quest to solve a problem. This includes being able to frame a problem and then search for a path or paths to a solution. Searching for the right filter settings on that string sample was a creative act, a step in the ultimate quest. After a little sleep, a revisit to that sound would reveal that it wasn’t The Sound*. A failure. So started the tweaking - what was good about it, what was bad about it, and then remake it until it was right - or abandon it if it wasn't the right fit.
That, I think, is an example of creativity. The daily search and resulting epiphanies that lead to value.
And here is where meaning comes into play. I was thinking of the artist searching for the big meaning behind their quest, their search, the answers at the end of an artistic vision. But, the quest for vision is their meaning. The purpose behind their “convergence of energies”. That meaning, the one where what you do makes a difference, brings a change and moves you, your team, your network forward.
So now we get into the context of creativity in the work place.
If the meaning in one’s job is simply to be present between certain hours, and complete tasks through rote process, there is likely less of a chance that they will be creative in their work. If there is meaning to what one does, the more likely I think they will be to take the risks to seek the new or original solution that provides real Value. This of course ultimately leads to increased performance. Isn’t that how we want to approach what we do? Isn’t that how we want the people we team with to approach what they do? To feel comfortable and be willing to seek the paths to solutions, without fear of failure?
We are now in Dan Pink’s territory for sure.
But environment and culture alone are not the sole incubator for being creative or working creatively. There is a responsibility of the individual to make necessary changes to perform at their creative best. It can be easy to fall into rote processes to push items out the door and get to the end of the day. I have experienced this. Culture can be an obstacle to creative productivity. In this case, as hard as it may be to not just blame “them” or “they”, it may be necessary to create and foster your own meaning, or seek to change the culture. Working with meaning despite obstacles makes a huge difference in creativity, productivity and satisfaction.
Understandably, many seek this satisfaction outside of the job, playing in music groups, photography, gaming - you name it. And that is great. But a key I think is to seek that satisfaction in your work. In our ever growing flattened and networked business world where , it is also true that work is creating and creativity is the work. is the work
So after some months of thinking and reflection, I think that I am in agreement with Mr. Silvers; “The meaning that you give to something is the performance that you live. Perhaps changing performance requires changing the meaning.”
What do you think? Have you considered creativity and the role it plays in your everyday life, your work?
*Music Tech Geeks. I wish I had that sound to link and play here. I am looking through old DAT tapes and floppies (if they are any good). At the time I was working with the Emulator III and an old Digi program Turbo Snyth.