Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Importance of Creativity

I've been watching a lot of online videos from the TED conferences... one after another after another. It was first introduced to me by my friend, Dawg, who shared a talk by Sir Ken Robinson, when he spoke at the TED conference in March of this year. I won't get into it, but it was inspirational for me, as are most things that have come out of TED. I decided to look more into this person and came across the following video. I'd encourage you to watch it before I continue. *sits back and relaxes with cuppa tea*

Ok, now you've seen it. Here are some things that really struck me:

Kids will take a chance.

If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.

We stigmatize mistakes. It doesn't matter how many people say how important it is to learn from your mistakes. You make a mistake, people remember you badly for it.

Formal education came about during the Industrial Revolution. People are talked out of doing creative things. The result is that highly talent, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at school was not valued or was actually stigmatized. We can't afford to continue that way.

Ok, let's imagine this:

There's a kid at school. We'll call her Sarah.

In kindergarten, Sarah plays at the water table, practically all day. She watches how the bottles she fills with water sink to the bottom of the pool. On days when there are bubbles in the water table, she observes their colours, how they burst and re-form. She observes how she can keep dripping water on the surface of an already-filled cup and how it won't overflow until it is truly full. She watches how air escapes out of vessels she has pushed into the water upturned. She won't let any of the other children play in the table, she is so fascinated.

She goes into grade school. She's often off on her own, watching the clouds at recess. The teachers often have to search for her to bring her back in because she has wandered off, maybe to look at the nearby creek, or to listen to birds, or is so busy building something in the sandbox that she doesn't hear the bell. "She's in her own world," the teachers say. "She needs to learn to focus."

In high school, she is asked to write a paper about importance of the local dam to the region, its history, how it came to be. She ponders this for a while, and decides to think a bit bigger, and writes about the importance of water in industry, how it has powered machines through its own force, how it powers steam engines, and then narrows the focus to the hydroelectric industry, finally zeroing in on the local dam. She gets a failing grade because it's three pages too long.

She gets a degree in engineering, gets a consultant job in a firm that mines resources.

And then, one day, on TV, she sees the news about the huge oil disaster in the United States. How the oil is pouring into the ocean, and nobody seems to know how to stop it.

She thinks she has an idea of how she could stop it. But she would have to go out on her own and find someone who would believe her, and find someone who would be willing to test the idea, and buy the equipment and take it down south, and then find someone to stay there and manage the whole operation. That's hard.

And besides, she might be wrong. And that would be horrible.

So, she sits back and lets the experts deal with it. As we all are.

I'm not saying that we should all go down there and clog the telephone lines with all our maniacal ideas. That's not practical. But...

I can't help but think of how, in the Middle Ages, when a house was on fire, everyone came running to throw a bucket of water, or to help the family. There was always the "strange one" who had some radical idea to stop fires starting in the first place.

And I can't help but think that there's someone out there who can help stop this kind of disaster that is currently happening with this oil leak. And they're too afraid to say so, because they are afraid of their idea being wrong.

And I can't help but think that, if we weren't so afraid to be creative, if we weren't talked out of thinking outside of the box, or if being creative and artistic was rewarded monetarily... well, maybe, just maybe, things would be different down there.

It's a hypothesis. And I might be wrong. But what the hell: there are worse things happening, after all.

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