A Culture of Creativity

Creativity is related to culture. Cultural conditions can kindle or kill creativity. We do not have creative ideas in a vacuum. Individual creativity is stimulated by the work, ideas, and achievements of other people. We stand on the shoulders of others to see further. This is true in all fields, in business, science, sport, music, design, fashion, whatever. Human intelligence is creative in a profound sense. Thinking and feeling are not simply about seeing the world as it is, but of having ideas about it, of interpreting experience to give it meaning. Different communities live differently according to the ideas they have and the meanings they see.

In a literal sense we create the worlds we live in. But we can also recreate them. The great revolutions in human history have often been detonated by new ideas; by new ways of seeing that shattered old certainties. This is the essential process of cultural change and it can be deeply unsettling. Creative insights often occur by making connections between ideas or experiences that were previously unconnected. Just as intelligence in a single mind is interactive, creativity is often interdisciplinary. This is why the best creative teams often contain specialists in different fields. This has serious implications for the culture of organizations that want to promote creative development.

There are two related tasks. First, to unlock the creative abilities in each individual. We all have creative abilities and we all have them differently. Creativity is not a single aspect of intelligence that only emerges in particular activities, in the arts for example. It is a systemic function of intelligence that can emerge wherever our intelligence is engaged. Creativity is a dynamic process that draws on many different aresas of a person’s experience and intelligence. We need to look at what it is in companies and organizations that blocks individual creativity. But this is only half the job. Creativity and innovation must be harnessed and not just released.

Creativity is not purely an individual performance. It arises out of our interactions with ideas and achievements of other people. It is a cultural process. Creativity prospers best under particular conditions, especially where there is a flow of ideas between people who have different sorts of expertise. It requires an atmosphere where risk-taking and experimentation are encouraged rather than stifled. Just as individual creativity draws from many different skills and expertise in the single mind, corporate creativity draws on the skills and expertise across organizations. Creativity flourishes when there is a systemic strategy to promote it. The cultural environment should be modeled on the dynamics of intelligence.

Ken Robinson
Out of Our Minds
The Power of Being Creative