There's a really fun, and creativity-inspiring, article in the most recent SMU newsletter. That's Singapore Management University, by the way. (Sorry to all of you Southern Methodist Mustangs out there!)
Fredrik Haren is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed when it comes to sowing the seeds of creativity around the world. A native of Sweden, who now lives in Singapore, Haren is a creativity expert who travels the globe speaking about creativity to hundreds of audiences in 30 different countries. Typically, he opens his presentation by asking his audiences if creativity is important to their work, and if they think they are creative persons themselves. The responses are striking:
- 98% of respondents think creativity is important to their work,
- 45% think that they are creative,
- 2% feel that their organization fosters, and rewards, creativity.
Here's another interesting nugget that Haren has gleaned from his travels. Icelanders have the highest degree of self-confidence regarding their creativity...and Asian countries have the lowest. Iceland???
Haren believes that our societal norms, expectations, and institutions are remarkably efficient at devouring all of our creative gray matter. To prove his point, he always asks his audiences to use their imagination to draw up a list of 10 "impossible" things that they wish to possess. From adult audience to adult audience, the answers are depressingly similar, e.g. "I want to fly." "I want to be invisible." etc. (With one billion+ different possible imaginative responses, adults can't even find 10 unique ideas!)
In contrast, Haren has received much different responses from preschoolers. "I want to touch love." "I want to lift a bus without breaking a finger." "I want to see with my fingers."
To Haren, this is proof positive that we are born creative, but lose our creative gumption somewhere along the way.
Where Does Creativity Start?
Says Haren, “I’ve met thousands of creative people. Some have to be with other people to brainstorm. Most prefer to be alone. I believe the way to teach creativity is to give a few examples and let each individual choose. Some people like to think big then make it realistic. Japanese like to do small improvements all the time. Indonesian innovations tend to follow how nature does things, what the Western world terms as ‘bio-mimicking’. There is no one particular technique.” So, in other words, go forth, be unconstrained, and, as they say, let the creative juices flow."
Haren also believes that creative ideas are rarely created spontaneously out of thin air. "There has never been a brand new idea or a person in history that has invented something brand new. Everything is just building on a previously existing thing,”
In fact, Haren has a formula for how ideas are created. He breaks it down to the following equation: idea = p(k+i) where p is the person, k is knowledge, and i refers to new information. “The ability to combine knowledge and information in a new way is important. Just because you have knowledge and information does not mean you are a creative person. But it is also impossible to be a creative person without knowledge and information."
Happy Birth Anniversary, Thomas Alva Edison
Speaking of creativity, Happy Birthday! to the most prolific inventor in U.S. history. Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio (1847). He eventually amassed 1,093 patents, the most patents ever issued to a single person in American history. His most important inventions were the phonograph, the light bulb, and the movie camera...and General Electric, one of the largest publicly-traded companies in the world.
Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."