Creativity and why it matters
Creativity is a funny thing. We call artists “creatives,” graphics for ads in marketing-speak are “creative,” and we sarcastically refer to ill-fitting solutions as “creative.” We’ve commandeered creativity to mean many things, but is it something valuable for ourselves and our businesses?
I recently watched a TED Talk on creativity, a topic that keeps cropping up on me. It chronicled the story of Damon McLeese, a man who runs a community art center serving the elderly and people with disabilities. He shared how, despite the nature of his work, he hadn’t allowed himself any room for expression. It wasn’t until an accident sidelined him that he had time to attend some of his organization’s classes.
He found it a refreshing change of pace, a wonderful outlet to express himself. Perhaps the most important lesson he learned was that creativity is messy and imperfect. Unlike art, creative expression can be entirely free from expectation.
This first talk connected well with another by educator David Kelley, known for popularizing design thinking. Through the lens of design thinking, or designing with humanity in mind, he found that many people lack confidence in their creative skills. As an educator, he discovered that everyone starts as creative children and gradually lets comparison and perfectionism destroy their joyful creativity. Rediscovering the confidence to engage in creative pursuits is something many adults find difficult.
David compares this fear of rejection or criticism to a fear of snakes. He shares a story of a psychologist who slowly exposes his subjects to snakes, with many of them able to overcome their phobia. He employs a similar method to foster creative behavior in adults who have written themselves off as uncreative.
The third TED Talk I watched featured actor Ethan Hawke, who believes creativity is vital to human existence. He argues that creativity bridges the gaps between us and helps us discover our identity and purpose. He also found that creativity is at its purest in kids, who are free from the burden of expectation. When you put a child in a creative endeavor, they share without worry of accomplishment or worthiness.
All three of these men arrive at similar conclusions. They find that creativity has transformative power in our lives, that it has been beaten out of us by the time we get through school, and that we can regain it with effort. It takes a certain vulnerability, a willingness to ignore the critics, and to allow ourselves to open up.
It is no easy task, especially as most of us wouldn’t identify as creative people. Damon explains that creativity is not artistry. We need not be artists to be creative people, but we do need to give ourselves a chance to be creative.
David Kelley’s message is that creativity is worth the work. It brings new ideas, fresh visions of possibility, and changes lives.
Ethan Hawke wants to remind us of the necessity of creativity and art in improving our lives.
I do want to mention a mindset toxic to creativity. An optimal, efficient life with no room for messing around, and no room for chaos, removes the possibility for creativity. Efficiency is king in business, but it can be a trap.
However, life cannot be all finger-painting. You still need to go to work, make money, and pay your bills. Balance reigns supreme.
Creativity is a neglected but necessary part of our lives, one worth nurturing back to health. It offers benefits for our mental well-being and the success of our businesses. Creative people feel free to innovate, to play around with the boundaries our industry sets for us. They can arrive at conclusions outside the old “we’ve always done it this way.” Creativity can change your business, so foster it in your people.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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