It may not seem obvious, but there is a war against creativity. It’s subtle, fueled by misconceptions and strengthened by our fears. If we are going be changemakers, we have to rise above this war and activate the “creative” within us. First, let me share two thoughts that contribute to the undermining of creativity.
Misconception #1: You either have it or you don’t
A lot of people believe that creativity is an inherent trait. We all know someone that seems to come up with ideas out of nowhere. They’re constantly suggesting ideas outside the box and secretly it drives us crazy, because we, a) wish it were us, but b) wish they’d just shut up already because they are making us look bad. You know the guy I’m talking about, right?
The truth is, we all have incredible creative ability. The system just beat it out of us.
A 1969 NASA study by George Land was given to 1,600 five-year olds measuring genius potential for creativity and innovation in engineering and science. The test was given to the same children at age 10, 15 and as adults. The test averages?
- At 5 – 98%.
- At 10 – 30%.
- At 15 – 12%
- And as adults – 2%.
In 1993, Land did another study with Beth Jarman on divergent thinking, which is an attribute closely related to creativity. He used the same parameters and got nearly identical results. So what’s happening here? In the process of teaching us about rules, compliance and getting the “right” answer, our education system has created a fear that kills creativity. When you are taught to avoid making mistakes, it makes it much more difficult to take the kind of risks needed for truly innovative thinking. Creative people are simply the ones who get over the fear of doing it wrong.
Misconception #2: Creatives are people in artistic professions
In recent years, it’s been popular to label people who work in arts-related fields as “creatives.” This label, like all others, is extremely limiting. If creativity is for “creatives,” then it can be easy to dismiss our need to develop our own creativity if we happen to work outside of those types of professions. Being an artist/creative has more to do with how you approach life than it does with your artistic ability. Seth Godin is one of my absolute favorite thinkers. He says this about being an artist:
“An artist is someone who brings new thinking and generosity to his work, who does human work that changes another for the better. An artist invents a new kind of insurance policy, diagnoses a disease that someone else might have missed, or envisions a future that’s not here yet.” – Seth Godin, Stop Stealing Dreams
Its’ really very simple isn’t it. You’re a creative when you dig deep within yourself to discover your unique contribution to the world. You’re an artist when you shake off the desire to play it safe – when you push past your fears and step past the distractions and do what you were created to do. When we buy into the idea that creativity is something that only a few have, it takes the pressure off fighting the fear and resistance within us. Saying, ”I’m not creative” is a cop-out. It’s an excuse to ignore the war with fear.
Why is it essential for us to tap into our creativity?
Getting past these misconceptions is important, because creativity is key to impacting culture. Let’s face it, if the words “innovative”, “creative” and “revolutionary” are not part of the discussion, why are we even having the conversation about cultural transformation? If we aren’t going to go all in, we might as well hide in our safe places and hope that our kids have the guts to do what we wouldn’t. If we hide behind our fears, we will never have a voice in shaping the world we live in.
We Need Some New Ideas:
We need business people with the ability to create innovative products and business models that build the economies of nations. We need social entrepreneurs like the founders of d.light Designs, who through a simple innovation, are giving children in developing societies the opportunity to improve their education, while providing their parents the opportunity to increase their income. How? By creating a portable solar light for communities with limited access to power. Having a light at night allows kids to study and gives parents a longer workday. It’s a simple solution, but so important in leveling the playing field for all. What about government? God knows we need some original thinking here. I’m so tired of party platforms being about what the other guy is doing wrong. How about some fresh ideas? Is that too much to ask??? God has a picture in mind of what our world ought to look like and He’s asked us to do our part to make that happen. If we are going to impact culture and shift the way a generation thinks, we need leaders in places of influence. We need more artists – more scientists, designers and explorers who will become the new thought leaders in their fields, influencing others through wise and godly leadership.
So what qualifies you as a creative? Here are a few ideas:
- Comfort with ambiguity: The quickest answer is the one we already know. Can you put aside what you know to seek a new and better solution? Can you tolerate lengthy seasons of uncertainty? This will be essential moving forward.
- Don’t wait to get picked: We all got sucked into a vicious cycle that started on the playground where we waited for the cool kid to pick us for his team. In class, we were taught that the “good” kids raise their hands and wait to be called on. While that might help contain a classroom of first graders, it can become so engrained, that thirty years later, we’re still waiting for the cool kid to pick us, and while we wait, the ideas inside us wait, too. Most people spend their whole lives waiting to picked. Can I break it to you? It isn’t going to happen. Nobody is waiting to pick you. It’s time to pick yourself.
- Willingness to push: Creatives have the willpower to push through the naysayers and critics. They’re not afraid of standing alone because they understand progress often comes at a cost.
- Think outside the lines: Here is where I may lose some of you. I think the ideas that are truly going to set us apart are the ones we glean from the Spirit. There are plenty of proven methods to reignite creativity within us, but I think we can tap into something even greater. God is a creator and being made in His image means we have the ability to tap into a level of creativity that is off the charts.
How do we tap into this?
The one who knows the solutions we need has said, “commune with Me.” What if that means more than a typical prayer time? He says He has a plan and a purpose for each of us. Does that only apply to how we relate to our families or serve in our churches? I think it means that you and I were hand-crafted by God for a specific purpose. It’s different for each of us, but the end is the same – building His Kingdom. The problem is that most of us have no idea what that purpose is. We never tap into it because we’ve limited our communion with Him. What if God is waiting today to speak to you…not about how much he loves you, but about a new product design? Does that somehow seem unspiritual or wrong? Apart from our families, our professional lives are where we have the most influence. Doesn’t it make sense that He would talk to us in detail about something so important? It’s time to shake off our misconceptions, grab fear by the throat and step out into our full creative potential. It’s what we were made for. How about you? How do you see creativity? How can we tap into the creative potential God has placed in us?
Land, G. & Jarman, B. (1993). Breakpoint And Beyond: Mastering The Future – Today. Leadership 2000.