Creativity is to imagine and produce something new. As children, we were all creative. We drew freely, built without rules and made up our own language or songs. It was all so natural and fun. It was not new or valuable for the world, but it was for us.
Somehow with adolescence, college, and employment, most of us lose all this creativity.
Unless we are lucky enough to be artists or working in a creative profession, which is a small part of the population, we don’t do much that’s original in our adult life.
We are unique among myriad species to be so creative. So why is not seen more often in us?
Perhaps nature places less importance on it compared to other abilities that more directly support our survival? Hunting, gathering, farming, manufacturing, and fighting, and all the associated commodities generated by these primary occupations, are considered a lot more valuable. We can use the term ‘labour’ for these occupations, even if we use our minds more than our bodies in many of these productive professions.
And to do them more efficiently, we’ve evolved tools, techniques, and standards. But these are not originally creative constructs when they are applied millions of times to make useful things.
So, what is the value of creativity? It could be useful to the species in two ways — invention and social bonding. These products of creativity increase the control we have over the environment and, therefore, our chances of survival.
A similar evolutionary value applies to games and sports as they, too, increase our physical and mental fitness and social bonding. That is why creating is enjoyable, like sports, games, the act of procreation, cuddling our children, and many other seemingly unproductive indulgences. If we enjoy it, we will do more of it and increase the survivability of the species.
The prevalence of creativity may be low, but its effect can be significant. Creativity can give us new insights into the world and its ways, practical tools, beautiful things, new ways of communicating, and myriad other useful and enjoyable inventions.
It is the inventiveness of highly creative individuals from ancient times till now that has ensured our material and intellectual progress.
Put this way, being creative may sound very utilitarian and dull. But we can safely ignore the underlying instinctive reasons and simply enjoy it, naturally. We do this anyhow when we draw, paint, arrange flowers, cook a new dish, write a story, a poem, or hum a tune of our making.
There should be the right balance in society between the number of people formally in pure production versus creative pursuits to make sure that neither invention nor social bonding suffers. What is a good ratio? 80:20? 75:25? And how does this change with the affluence of the society?
But another aspect is that there needs to be a balance even within individuals. Without this balance, working life will be either dreary or ineffectual.
Neither can an artist always work without any system or method nor can a factory worker be completely uncreative. As an individual, the former’s output and survivability will be at risk and the latter’s mental health and quality. And society will suffer from both outcomes.
From what we can see all around us in the world today, the balance certainly is off, both in society and individuals. I believe we are being held back by a shortfall of creativity.
Both societally and individually, we need to be more creative in our daily lives.
Let us consider how the majority of us that are in humdrum occupations can be more creative.
It needs creativity to introduce creativity into our daily working life! But it can be done, whether in the home, office, field or road. It can be introduced into the work itself or into the spare time within work, after or before work. The latter is probably more for the better off who do have spare time. The former may be the only recourse for those who need to toil most of their waking hours.
Maybe an IT programmer can imagine new ways of coding or make pottery. Perhaps a salesperson can think of new ways of increasing his sales or write poetry while travelling. Possibly a home-maker can be very inventive with her dishes, and maybe she can paint. Perhaps a factory manager can reward good work in a new way or write a book in his spare time.
I am not advocating that expressing creativity be at the expense of productive work. I believe that in our daily waking lives, there is a substantial amount of time that we are neither productive nor creative. We are either not finishing our work efficiently or wasting time in passive entertainment. If we become aware of this and apply more methods to our work, I am positive we will easily find some time to be creative.
With greater creativity will come better solutions to our problems and more cohesive and co-operative society. And of course, we will get some pure pleasure in the creation.
Let us have a flowering of creativity in the world. It will add to our joy and our progress equally.
Shashi on LinkedIn