In a world infatuated with data analysis and efficiency, the value of creativity is too often overlooked. The hours of experimenting and testing something new, made in a new way, outside our field of view, spring from the fertile soil of a creative mindset. It’s where the genius happens. Creativity is sacrifice, but it is a labor of love. Creativity is progress. It is borne from the heart and cannot be stopped because it is a core part of our being. Having worked in the visual arts for most of my life as an artist and art educator, I witnessed (and experienced) first hand the empowering gift that making something new brings to a life. The force that is creativity obliterated internal doubts as I continually found myself trying to defend the existence of my public school art programs and justify my efforts as a working artist. It’s okay because the doubters miss the point. In a product oriented culture, creative processes are frequently forgotten for their value as the spawning grounds for innovation and progress. But process is everything in creativity. Developing new techniques which may or may not result in improved products or services requires reflection, an examination of the process. Creativity is not easy. It requires imagination, a strong work ethic, courage, and the resilience to see a project through to it’s successful resolution. It is vital to the success of a thriving individual, company, and society.
As a high school art teacher of 25 years, I saw firsthand the hesitancy and fear that comes with making something new and then showing it to the world. Being creative requires a leap of faith into the unknown. It is a ‘best guess’ risky endeavor where failure constantly lurks in the background. Fear of failure, as guided by the ego, directs us away from creative risk and back to the comforting certainty of the familiar. We are conditioned to try and look as successful as possible in the eyes of those around us. But this is a results oriented outlook that prevents people from taking chances in a creative space. It has been my experience that focusing on process rather than product is where the real value of creativity lies.
It is difficult to justify what we would see as a waste of time, especially in today’s “Get it done and get it done yesterday“ approach to just about everything we do. Creative acts are not as efficient as our linear socio economic system demands. In their purest most authentic form, new processes cannot and should not exist on a straight line path. By its nature, moving through a creative space involves trial and error. But think about your own development from childhood to the present. We are all taught to be as efficient and successful as possible. We associate efficiency with success and worship those who accomplish the most success with as little effort as possible; the path of least resistance.
I myself was guilty of being a part of an educational system which encourages straight line efficiency and successful results. Just look at education’s mass testing paradigm which is, in fact, the most efficient means of measuring knowledge. The question is, is it the ‘best’ means of measuring knowledge? What level of personal investment in their own learning does testing promote? I’d say very little. Learn largely irrelevant knowledge for the test, then forget most of it when it’s over. The hard drive dump. Results oriented standardized testing, I suppose makes sense to some degree as an efficient means of quantifying a person’s intelligence in an academic discipline. My colleagues in the art department and I grappled with this issue as we struggled to attach a numeric value to our students' creative efforts. Therein lies the most significant hurdle that creatives must clear in their quest for credibility in a world that measures success using numeric data. How do we assess creativity? Be it student performance, stock portfolios, or a company’s profit margin, we love the linear efficiency of measurement by numbers. Creative acts, by their nature, defy these rules of engagement. If measured on a numeric scale, I submit that creativity itself would die because divergent outcomes would no longer be valued. There would only exist one “best way” to complete tasks and we would all be traveling along the same straight line towards completion of the task at hand. I submit that, in education, the value of making new things lies in the process more than the product.
What role can creativity play in the ‘real’ world, in the business community? Are employees free to explore new methods of production, thereby taking prideful possession of their performance? Is it possible to accurately measure and attach a value to creativity in the work space? An individual‘s willingness to dig deep and find better solutions to problems has been identified as the single most valuable asset an employee can bring to the job. •Creativity resides in this space of finding solutions to problems. It requires tenacity as an individual explores a multitude of possible solutions to a problem or objective. Creativity is educated trial and error. It demands a sacrifice of something in short supply for many of us; time. We are all creative whether we want to believe it or not. But only those willing to spend time working through a problem reap the rewards of a creative mindset. So the question is, do you dare disrupt the status quo with the risk of losing time while creatively solving a problem?