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Dare to explore

In all my conversations about the future of work, creativity tops the list of

“skills we need moving forward.”

It’s a troubling thought that creative thinking is in such short supply. Though not surprising in cultures where tasks that can be easily measured are prioritised and errors hidden without any learning taken from them. We all want to be productive and for certain tasks there is satisfying and measurable progress toward a defined and predictable goal. This was ideal in a world of risk avoidance and productivity monitoring, where employees were hired, evaluated, and rewarded based on efficient delivery of established, often repetitive tasks.

So, what happens when success is reliant on innovation?

Assumptions about productivity rely on squeezing value out of existing resources,

but creative thinking is about discovering new resources. The creative mind manages risk and productivity in its own way. Core to success is some degree of risk, which almost always involves discomfort.

Danny Hillis, the parallel computing pioneer, noted “unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together. Instead of classifying organisms, we construct them. Instead of discovering new worlds, we create them. Our process of creation is very different.”

Creativity needs time and space to make new connections. This calls on learning about things that might not seem relevant or obvious, as a we build a base of knowledge and memories to draw from. Creativity is a prime example of cross-disciplinary thinking. One of the most glorious aspects

of exercising creativity is looking beyond the boundaries imposed on us -

not reproducing the visible but making something visible.

If only creative minds could report and be evaluated on the flow state. That state when we temporarily deactivate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – where we find our inner sceptic, the voice of doubt and disparagement. This deactivation makes us less critical and more courageous, primed to imagine possibilities

During this our system is flooded with norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anadamide and serotonin. This is the seduction of the creative flow. Pleasure is heightened and performance enhanced as signal to noise ratios are lowered and pattern recognition sharpened. Being more productive can be satisfying, but ultimately you are a more efficient cog in a machine. Being more creative, brings very different forms of fulfilment.

It’s not revolutionary to say creativity will struggle to flourish in any environment where risk avoidance is encouraged, and it would be remiss of me not to offer an opinion on where to start.

The place we look for inspiration is filmmaking.

As practitioners, advisors and trainers, we have studied and learnt from the masters of an industry which illustrates the paradoxes underlying creativity. This in turn shines a light on the foundations of organisations and organisational change in the 21st century. Success comes from a guiding vision but contains literally tens of thousands of decisions, made under enormous financial and time pressures.

Risk is inherent in the movie business - when we create something new, we can’t guarantee the outcome. There are inspirational lessons for anyone wanting to understand productive creativity. Creative, business and technical leaders generate and sort through a mass of ideas to find the ones that fit into a coherent whole. Not a simple task considering the demands of audiences for new ideas, and investors seeking highly profitable outcomes.

When the right choices are made you are efficient and if you do things right you are effective.

I’m not suggesting people have to become full-time artists - even if you have wealthy patrons - but creativity is essential in our future. We must prepare people to look beyond managing productivity in the familiar, linear fashion, and learn to value cross disciplinary, convoluted exploration and decision-making.


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