The vital importance of creativity

To make the whole society more creative, a revolution is needed, which collectively demands our creative birth right.

Ideas

Creativity is to come up with new ideas or expressions regardless of what aspect of life it concerns. Creativity is about the creative process – how to dig into a problem and about the result – the idea, the invention, the artwork, the feeling, the laughter. Creativity can range from everyday life’s simple problem solving to artistic expression, research, business development, politics, how we live our lives and how we become happy.

Creativity is based on pleasure, joy and curiosity, but creativity also gives rise to pleasure, joy and curiosity. Creativity is about seeing the world with new eyes, discovering new patterns and relationships, finding new problem solving and creating art touching and raising thoughts. But creativity can also be to see its idea realized. The thrill of having gone all the way from a first inspired thought to a service or product that may change people’s everyday lives. Creativity has then gone all the way from thought to innovation.

Creativity is something that engages people (445 million Google hits) – but not as much as sex (5 540 million hits). Creativity is also one of the fastest growing fields of science with more than 2.5 million scientific articles in such diverse areas as psychology, neurobiology, anthropology, economics, history and art.

A field of science that has exploded in the last 10-15 years is neuroscience. With modern imaging techniques, researchers can now, in detail, see what happens in the brain during the different phases of the creative process and an increasingly detailed understanding of the biological basis of our ability to think and to create also gives us insights how to train our creativity just as we can train to become a good athlete.

New neuroscience insights have also made the divide between science and spirituality ever less. In the same way as acupuncture has been accepted by Western medicine as a proven way to relieve everything from pain to nicotine cravings, modern neuro research has shown how, for example, meditation and the breathing exercises practiced in yoga affect the brain in a way that facilitates associative thinking and creative insight.

When Michelangelo created his sculptures during the Renaissance, he was convinced that he was merely the instrument of God and through history, the sudden creative insight, which is often comes within a fraction of a second and without any warning, has been regarded as a divine inspiration.

We now have a significant knowledge of how such insights are not sudden but instead arise after a time of incubation when the problem was handled by our subconscious associations, but the moments of absolute clarity that follow can be so strong that they even with all our knowledge provide a strong sense of being “connected” to something greater than ourselves, a similar feeling as that that can be achieved through regular meditation.

We live in an interesting and exciting, but also scary time. Young people today face challenges that far exceed those of any other generation before them, and how these challenges are dealt with creatively will not only affect them and their children but will be crucial to the survival of all humanity on our planet.

The next 50 years, will be critical for how successfully we will cope with global warming, how we will succeed in the necessary energy transition from fossil to fully renewable energy, how to adapt to the galloping technological development, how we can deal with a brand new global economy where today’s developing countries will no longer compete with cheaper prices but also with advanced technology, quality and design, how we can handle the growing migration and integrate all those who will continue to risk their lives to come to Europe, how to deal with the increased threat of global terrorism and how we finally succeed in stabilizing the world’s population at a sustainable level with a world order that also satisfies the legitimate demands of the poorer parts of the world for a more equal global distribution of resources. In truth, no small challenges.

But the new challenges reside not only in the major global issues, but also within the personal sphere. Computers and smartphones make us constantly connected and the wheels are rolling at an ever-faster pace, making it harder to sort out our life puzzle. This places new demands on adaptation, but also requires mental relaxation and battery charging where we can gain new power from creative and cultural experiences – music, art, dance, poetry, literature – or even better create them ourselves.

To cope with all these big and small challenges, we need to break away from old thought patterns and learn to see the world in new ways – in short, we need to become more creative.

Many associate the word creativity with great revolutionary inventions, breakthroughs within art or discoveries that changed the world; Galileo’s discovery that the Earth revolves around the sun, Newton’s definition of gravity, Edison’s light bulb, the Wright brothers’ airplane, Picasso’s cubism, Arnold Schönberg’s twelve-tone music, Einstein’s relativity theory, Stephen Hawkins black holes and other ideas and innovations that changed and revolutionized our everyday lives.

But creativity is not just the big revolutionary ideas. The most common forms of creativity relate to refinement, variation and further development within established areas, based on new connections and combinations of existing ideas. This creativity in a smaller format is the most important for our daily lives. Most of the products on the store shelves are more a result of the many small improvements than the big idea leaps.

Here we also count most of the artistic creativity; music, painting, fiction, poetry, sculpture, where its creators act within an established tradition and are regarded as more or less creative, often based on the prevailing norm and taste.

Finally, we have the personal creativity, where we solve everyday problems for our own personal benefit and express ourselves in a creative way. In our everyday lives, new demands are made for creative adaptation. When the direct contact with a limited number of people in our immediate vicinity has been replaced by hundreds of friends on Facebook and other social media, one needs to stand out of the noise of everyone else.

Creativity is also of value to our love life. In several different surveys, creativity is among the ten characteristics that are most attractive to the opposite sex, and sexual creativity can definitely help maintain and strengthen the relationship. Many researchers even consider that the attraction of creativity on the opposite sex has been the main reason for creativity to be selected as a human trait during the millennia of evolution.

There is no strong link between intelligence and getting creative ideas, and creativity is not just for a small elite of particularly creative individuals who enjoyed the big genetic lottery. While intelligence is hereditary to 80%, only 30% of our ability to think creatively can be attributed to genetic inheritance. This is good news, because it means we have the opportunity to become more creative by searching for creative environments and deliberately developing our creative qualities. We all have an inherent and amazing creative potential to imagine new solutions to the changing challenges of everyday life.

The big problem is often not that we lack creative ability, but instead we think we lack it, and that we therefore live our lives without giving our intrinsic creativity an opportunity to flourish and express itself. To a large extent this is a learned behaviour. The small child does not hesitate a second facing her creativity. A box is not just a box, but a ship at sea or a knight’s castle or a cave where you can hide from the dragon.

This spontaneously wonderful creativity is then demolished by the school’s demands for consistency and focus on the kind of knowledge that only has the one right answer, instead of a thousand different ways to look at the matter, whether correct or incorrect. Thus, we are trained to become uncreative. On top of that come the teenage years of insecurity and desperate endeavour to fit in and then the demands of adult life to become a well-functioning cog in a larger societal machinery.

But what can we do? Can we take back our birth right and learn to become more, instead of less, creative? The answer is an unambiguous yes. By understanding how our brain works and how to train its creative qualities and break loose from established patterns, we can learn to access our untapped potential. But to make the whole society more creative, a revolution is needed, which collectively demands our creative birth right.

Illustration: pixabay.com – qimono

svensk_flagga   Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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