Creativity as a Natural Resource

In 2010, as part of their Global CEO Study, IBM asked over 1,500 executives to survey the scarred landscape of global economics and report what they saw. The financial crisis revealed an “unprecedented level of interconnection and interdependency” that made all of us vulnerable to systemic failures and that required systemic solutions. In the survey, CEOs named complexity as the biggest challenge they faced and creativity as the single most important leadership capacity needed to manage this complexity.

I highlight this because, in general parlance, we think of creativity as something fluffy, something extra, something to get to only after we’ve managed the essentials of living. We often fail to recognize the presence and importance of creativity in the everyday problem-solving we use in our homes, in our relationships, and in our work. And as global CEOs have recognized, we need an increased capacity for creativity to help us meet the challenges of our time.

So, let’s get specific about defining “creativity.” Think of it as starting a fire by hand. In one hand, we bring together imagination and a form- that form could be clay, or paint and canvas, or it could be the ingredients in our fridge we might use for dinner. The imagination and form are the steel we strike against the flint of a problem we need to solve, and that strike sparks something new and useful. As an example, Food Share is working to alleviate hunger in Ventura County. They recognize there is tons of unused produce in personal gardens and yards but no way of getting it to hungry families (PROBLEM). They brainstorm (IMAGINATION) what resources they have and what are needed to collect the food (FORM) and they design a network of people, transportation and communication channels to address this issue (CREATIVITY). The systems that they implement to execute this solution are considered innovation. We can think of “creativity as a skill and innovation as a process”, as Jim Link, author of “Idea-Links:The New Creativity” expresses on his blog.

There are initiatives around the world that working to increase collective creative capacity. Creative Oklahoma is a statewide program to increase creativity in education, commerce and culture. The National Creativity Network is a coordinating body that extends that effort to governments as well, stating on their website, “the very future of our communities and institutions depends on our ability to nurture and harness imagination to creatively solve problems.” One of the objectives of the Creative Cities Network, a program of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is to establish creativity and the cultural uniqueness  of their member cities as key ingredients in sustainable and ethical global development.

Starting at home, we need to begin with recognizing human creativity as a resource, a constantly renewing resource like sunlight. Our communities in Ventura County wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our resources- oil and gas production, agriculture and our glorious climate. But profound changes are coming to all three. If we looked at our collective creativity as a resource, we could learn to cultivate it and then ultimately channel it to help us meet the personal and systemic challenges, and promise, of our times.

This is what CreativityWorks hopes to help do.

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