New Aspects of Creativity for 2022

Creativity can spring from a variety of different sources, some even unlikely. Behind each scenario is a person or persons developing the idea and following it through to completion. Below is a report on such creativity.

Each year, Fast Company reveals a new list of the Most Creative People in Business. The folks we highlight have accomplished something in the past year that no one in their field ever has before, something that’s already having a discernible and important impact.

As you’ll see, we take a different view of creativity than our fellow business media outlets do. To us, creativity isn’t limited to the fields typically thought of as “creative,” such as entertainment, marketing, or branding. We know that creativity is happening everywhere: science labs, law offices, parliamentary halls, and even the open seas—and thank goodness. Creativity is what leads people to fix the world’s most urgent problems.

The work that’s been done by this year’s cohort of 56 Most Creative People in Business showcases several ways that creativity can lead to bold and substantial change. Here are some of the lessons they offer, for 2022 and beyond.

Just do something

Dismayed by the rise in fentanyl overdoses among recreational drug users, Allison Heller and Dean Shold took action. Their organization, FentCheck, is putting drug-test strips where the users are, and saving lives. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, is building a robust academic pipeline that’s creating more Black doctors and health industry leaders. Not content to live with the glaring vaccine inequity across the world, Baylor College infectious disease experts Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez developed the first-ever open sourced COVID vaccine, called Corbevax, which has already been administered to tens of millions. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Pavel Vrzheshch redeployed the employees at his branding/ad agency as “creative warriors,” which led to the wide-reaching, Zelensky-endorsed “Be Brave like Ukraine” campaign.

Put people first

After Whitney Pegden noticed that Walmart delivery customers were bonding not just with the service but the delivery workers themselves, she expanded the program accordingly. With various societal needs exposed by the COVID pandemic, Norma Edith Garcia-Gonzalez converted LA’s county parks to health centers, shelters, and food pantries, with great results, and focused on helping (and employing) local youth. Audio engineer Heba Kadry enhances the connection between musical artists—such as Mdou Moctar and Japanes Breakfast—and their fans. Seniors thrive when they’re part of a community, which is why Selfhelp Realty Group’s Evelyn Wolff has built The Atrium at Sumner. As climate change makes hurricanes, floods, and wild fires more frequent and extreme, Resilience Force founder Saket Soni is standing up for disaster recovery workers, and securing them better employment terms.

Protect what’s important

Microsoft’s Tom Burt is calling upon his legal background to safeguard users’ data from hackers, thieves, and foreign adversaries. Through a logistics app called PRoduce, Crystal Díaz is restoring food sovereignty to Puerto Rico, which currently imports 85% of its food. Gina Asoudegan is bringing regenerative agriculture to supermarkets at scale with Applegate Farms’s new Do Good Dog. Knowing that a free (and robust) press is vital to our democracy, New York Times vets Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor have written a book called Chasing the Truth to share what they’ve learned with young journalists and encourage them to “engage with the world and make progress.”

Stand up to the giants

As the behemoths of Big Tech continue to grow even more dominant, several courageous individuals are finding innovative ways to keep their power in check. The EU’s Margrethe Vestager led the passage of two new landmark pieces of legislation that will go further than anything before to level the playing field worldwide. Gretchen Peters is working with lawmakers to expose organized crime on social media. Creative-thinking attorney Jay Edelson is leading winning lawsuits that protect users’ biometric data and more. And while there may be a ton of hype out there about the new world of “Web3,” Molly White sees right through it (and enables us see, too).

Blur the lines

Singer-songwriter Arooj Aftab has made the ancient art of ghazal feel brand new. Sort Of co-creator Bilal Baig positions gender-fluidity in a fresh and sensitive way. Fashion designer Kingsley Gbadegesin channels the queer community’s perspective (and has gained wider following because of it). Former YouTube superstar Casey Neistat chronicles the rise and fall of another YouTube star, David Dobrik, in a revealing documentary called Under the Influence. Puppetmaster Toby Olié figured out how to translate Spirited Away‘s ethereal characters to the stage. Unity’s Timoni West is transporting actual data into immersive digital worlds in order to solve real-life problems.

Run clean

Wind-powered charging buoys that power idling cargo ships at sea? Maersk’s Sebastian Klasterer Toft and David Samad are developing that. An electric speedboat that virtually flies above the water? Candela’s Gustav Hasselskog just built one. Meanwhile, Maxine Bédat wrote a widely read book (called Unraveled) about the pollution-heavy life cycle of a single pair of jeans and is now fighting, through her New Standard Institute, to hold the apparel industry accountable. Sharon Prince is fighting for accountability, too; she’s gotten construction industry leaders and major architecture firms on board to ensure that their materials aren’t produced with slave labor.

Make it fun

Mark Rober is the Willy Wonka of science. Kyla Scanlon uses a spoonful of sharp comedic timing to help to the financial education go down. Walt Disney Studios’s marketing chief Asad Ayaz keeps the multiverses spinning. With Twelve Minutes, Luis Antonio brings character study to gaming. In addition to being a world-class surfer, John John Florence has created a performance-wear and clothing line, Florence Marine X, that lets other surfers in on the creative action.

 

Thanks to Jill Bernstein of Fast Company for contributing the information.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

Contradictions and Creativity

There appear to be many factors that infiltrate the creative realm when dealing with problem solving. Obviously, the way we think is of paramount importance. Rarely do we think along the “straight and narrow” but usually have to navigate various problematic areas before arriving at some conclusion. Notice I didn’t say the “correct” or most viable solution.

Studying this trait in creative development, Art Markman, Ph.D., a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think, drew upon a paper, referenced below, that deals with creativity research and how contradictions play a part in evolving a solution.

Research on creativity points out that most thinking follows a path of least resistance in which a situation reminds people of experiences related to that situation, and they determine what to do based on what emerges from memory. This use of memory is valuable, because it is what enables people to use their experience to guide their actions. After all, people should generally do what they did in the past in order to navigate a situation effectively and efficiently.

As a result, if a situation calls for creativity, it is important to block that path of least resistance in some way. A paper by Ella Miron-Spektor, Kyle Emich, Linda Argoe, and Wendy Smith in a 2022 issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes suggests one way of blocking this path of least resistance in group creativity.

They suggest that there are two factors that can come together to promote creativity. The first is that teams need to embrace contradictions when generating creative ideas rather than choosing a trade-off between them. For example, when designing a product, there is often a trade-off between expense of the materials and design and the performance of the product.

A designer might opt to create a luxury product that is high in price and performance or an economy product that is low in price and performance. But a creative team that embraces contradictions might seek new materials that provide an improvement in performance while keeping prices low.

In order to do this work of embracing contradictions, though, teams must also be motivated to think carefully about the problem rather than just going with the first idea they think of. The researchers suggest that the ideal combination for creativity requires both an orientation to embrace contradictions and the motivation to think deeply about the problem.

They tested this possibility in two studies. Participants were placed into teams of three people and given a design problem to make a prototype for a creative but affordable car using parts from a building set. To simulate the expense of the car, each part had a price associated with it.

The researchers manipulated both people’s orientation to contradictions as well as their motivation to think about the problem. They influenced people’s orientation to contradictions through instructions. Some groups were encouraged to embrace the contradictions they saw rather than deny them. Other groups were just told to review different perspectives without suggesting that they embrace the contradictions.

They manipulated people’s motivation to think in different ways in different studies. In one study, participants given high motivation to think were told they would be interviewed about their team strategy after the study and that they would watch a video of their brainstorming and be asked to comment on it.

Knowing they would have to justify their responses was expected to create high motivation to think carefully. The control group was not told about any interviews. A second study manipulated motivation to think through instructions that either asked participants to review and understand opposing perspectives or simply said that successful teams look for compromise.

The creativity of ideas was assessed by independent raters who examined how novel and useful the ideas were. This is a standard way of evaluating the creativity of the ideas people generate. Consistently, the most creative ideas were generated by those groups who had been asked to embrace contradictions and had a high motivation to think about the ideas.

All of the other conditions had lower and roughly similar levels of creativity. One of the studies also had raters look at the group dynamic and assess whether all the group really elaborated their ideas by discussing them and explaining their usefulness. The groups that embraced contradictions and were motivated to think were more likely to elaborate their ideas than those in the other groups.

This research suggests that contradiction can be a fruitful source of creative ideas. Contradictions can be used as a motivation to seek a new way of resolving a conflict rather than just compromising. However, putting in the effort to really embrace a contradiction requires being motivated to think through ideas carefully rather than just reaching a quick compromise and moving on. Ultimately, creativity requires effort, and so teams that are asked to be creative need some incentive to want to do that work.

Agree? Disagree? No opinion? Regardless, drop a comment if you so choose and  let me know.

Key points

  • Most thought follows a path of least resistance and is not creative.
  • Embracing contradictions can be a fruitful path for creativity.
  • Teams embrace contradictions only when they are motivated to want to think deeply about a problem.

Thanks to these sources for supplying the information on which this blog post is based.

References

Miron-Spektor, E., Emich, K. J., Argote, L., & Smith, W. K. (2022). Conceiving opposites together: Cultivating paradoxical frames and epistemic motivation fosters team creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 171, 104-153.

Art Markman, Ph.D., is a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.