Creatives vs. Non-Creatives: The Mistake that Could Sink a Thousand Offices

Children seem to be born knowing how to create. They compose wordless songs to entertain themselves in quiet moments. They are the architects of great skyscrapers and sprawling complexes built of tiny blocks of wood and plastic. They play pretend in fantastic worlds only occasionally based in reality, all the time acting as writer, director, and leading role. A cardboard box is a spaceship or a race car or a submarine. Crayons and clay turn the kitchen table into Michelangelo’s workshop.

Then those children grow up, enter the work place, and become firmly entrenched in one of two categories: Creatives vs. non-creatives.

What is happening here? In the last post we discussed the idea that creativity is our first, natural language, so why would anyone choose to avoid creativity in their everyday lives? David Kelley presents his take on this in his TED Talk:

The story of the little boy giving up when his creative efforts were criticized is, as Kelley mentions, one to which many of us will be able to relate. The idea that people grow up to see themselves as purely analytical, either because of such criticism or because they are made to believe that there is no middle ground between “left brain” and “right brain”, is a tragedy. There is so much to be gained, personally and professionally, by thinking creatively, and these gains are not limited to the individual. Every other person an individual’s ideas touch has the potential to benefit and grow from having been exposed to those ideas.

How can we fix this? Kelley presents his “guided mastery” approach, inspired by Albert Bandura, that allows him to help people regain their creative confidence, but if you do not have such a class to attend, you can reconnect with your creative abilities with some simple introspection. Start with the basics: When did you start believing that you could not be creative? Why? Now move onto your current position: Are you feeling held back by what you, your coworkers, or your industry says that you are “supposed” to do? It is true that many jobs do not require much in the way of creative thought, but just because creativity is not required does not mean that the work cannot benefit from it. Kelley’s anecdote about the MRI-turned-pirate ship is a perfect example. The most important thing you can do, though, is practice. Find some things that inspire you and then act on the first idea that comes into your head. Start small so that you do not get bogged down in the beginning (or rather, re-beginning. Remember, we are just getting reacquainted with a part of ourselves that is already there), but think big! Be careful not to stifle yourself — we all get enough of that from outside forces.

Why bother doing this at all? It is certainly not something that anyone must do. However, think of it this way: If your car had a component in its engine that would allow it to operate more efficiently and interact with the driver and its surroundings in a more intuitive way, and all you had to do to activate it would be to change a small aspect of how you drive every day, it is unlikely that you would hesitate to utilize it. It is, then, illogical to wave off employing an aspect of your own mind just because you feel like, or someone decided, that you are more analytically minded. Being analytical and being creative are not in any way mutually exclusive. They support each other. Being analytical is necessary for many things we do in life. Creativity allows us to more effectively express and communicate our analyses in a way that anyone can understand. You don’t have to be the next Mozart, Frank Lloyd Wright, or Pollock to live in creativity. You just have to, as Kelley put it, “let your ideas fly.”

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