On Imagination – Another’s Thoughts

“To see, to hear, means nothing. To recognize (or not to recognize) means everything.” – André Breton

This week’s creativity blog shares another’s perspective. I’m on her email list and this particular email dissertation I found quite interesting. She goes by the name “The Used Life” and is an artist extraordinaire.

Here are some of her thoughts . . . what are some of yours?

I think of my art as an articulation of my inner life. That all of the scenes that take shape in my collage art (and poetry, too) also exist within me. There is a mystery in that which I love: that is, the mystery of human imagination. Indeed, it is a rare occasion when I am able to explain clearly and succinctly what I believe my artwork means. I like not knowing. No, I love not knowing. It is the mystery that makes it meaningful.

It is also, I think, the element of mystery that creates something akin to a mystical or religious experience—the feeling that, when I am creating, I am acting as a conduit, or channel, for “something else”, something almost otherworldly or unreal.

But, what’s the “something else”? What do I think is really happening in those moments, and what is the role of imagination in that process?

First, let me clarify by saying that I don’t define “imagination” as the ability to conjure images at will. That, I think, is a very small part of what comprises our imaginations. Here are some thoughts.

Imagination is a loss of separateness.

It is the recognition of ourselves in another—in another person, in an animal or landscape, in a character from a novel, a scrap of discarded paper, or a cardboard box. I would suggest that this “moment of recognition” is where the feelings of awe, of ecstasy, or even love that often accompany or precede creativity come from.

“Imagination is the outreaching of mind…the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images and every sort of psychic phenomena welling up from the pre-conscious.” – Rollo May

What psychoanalysts might call a kind of projection, or a “leaky” subconscious. Imagination is the outpouring of inner images onto the outer world, such that a third image—a new image—may be born.

Imagination is a way of perceiving.

Maslow talks a great deal about what it means to see “unitively”, suggesting that many self-actualizing people encounter the world in a manner that allows them to see the sacred in the everyday. In the essay, “Theory Z”, he suggests self-actualizers may be divided broadly into two groups: those who experience episodes of self-transcendence (i.e., artists, poets, musicians, other creators), and those who are more pragmatic thinkers (i.e., businesspeople, entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists).

The difference between them: pragmatic thinkers deal with the here-and-now, operate within the confines of concrete reality. Transcenders are able to perceive the stuff of everyday life within the context of eternity and, as a result, are able to perceive (or feel they are perceiving) the “sacred” or “miraculous”.

What I think: the latter see imaginatively. What Maslow refers to as the perception of eternity is a function of imagination. It is the natural “outreaching of mind”, the involvement of the subconscious, or preconscious, primordial images and the emotions they carry. That’s where those feelings of “eternity,” “otherworldliness,” “surreality,” or even of encountering “the sacred” in the everyday (or in a work of art) come from.

What’s more: children see imaginatively. We were all, at one time, able to see imaginatively without trying…which leads me to my last point.

Our imaginations transform the everyday into the extraordinary.

Without the imaginative encounter—that is, without the fusion of inner and outer worlds—I doubt we would ever be able to perceive the extraordinary. I think we need those subconscious projections, those “leaky” images, impulses, and ideas. They tell us who we are. They help us make meaning. That outpouring of the unreal is what gives reality its shine.

 

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.

Nurture Creativity By Building Supportive Environment

Every so often I run across articles on some aspect of creativity. This week I found an article on nurturing creativity by building a supportive environment. It’s a recent study co-authored by professors from Rice University here in Houston and the Barcelona School of Management in Spain. I’ve reflected the study’s findings here in this blog post.

Creativity in children develops their spirits. Playing at or with almost anything spurs their creativity. (I wish this could be said about most adults.) Coaxing creativity from adults is more challenging. Creativity in adults enriches productivity — especially at the office.

Creativity is where ideas come from; ideas form the basis for innovation. In an increasingly competitive world economy, it’s innovation that allows businesses to survive and thrive. This makes creativity a prized commodity in the job market. For managers, cultivating creativity in their workforce is a crucial professional skill. (Note: Yet I think creativity is still a very undervalued skill, if not misunderstood.)

Current academic research takes a more holistic look. By studying the interaction between the character traits of the worker or the team, the leader or the supervisor, and the prevailing atmosphere at the workplace, researchers are unveiling new insights.

Studies show, for example, that the benefits of benevolent leadership expand when workers recognize creativity as an important component of their role. Not only that, creativity is highest in employees who experience high levels of both positive and negative moods and feel supported by their supervisors. Other research finds that leaders who empower their workers get a greater payback in creativity.

To explore these findings further, *Zhou and Hoever developed a typology that sorts out research about workplace creativity based on interactions between the worker (which they call the “actor”) and the workplace (which they call “context”).

The best-case scenario is a positive actor in a positive context, a mix that is synergistic for creativity. Worst case: When a positive actor languishes in a negative context or, similarly, when a negative actor stews in a positive context. At the extreme end of possibility, a negative actor in a negative context is downright antagonistic to creativity, Zhou and Hoever found.

There’s one final type of employee-workplace interaction: the “configurational” experience, which includes factors that are neutral in shaping creativity, but, when combined with other factors, cause a kind of chemical reaction that boosts or blocks creativity.

Zhou’s research serves up some bad news and good news for managers. Choosing and hiring employees who are creative is not enough, it turns out. If your workplace is discouraging, creativity will wither in almost anyone. On the brighter side, cultivate a nurturing environment and creative tendrils may sprout even in the most no-nonsense workers. Best of all, good managers can build a nurturing greenhouse environment. Practically speaking, it means that companies can and should train supervisors to cultivate creativity in their management choices. (Hmmm, wonder what an 8-year old supervisor would do!)

Plenty of research gaps remain, however. To fill them, Zhou has outlined an ambitious agenda for future research, including a close look at the impact of workplaces on collective creativity; exploring as-yet unidentified factors in workers and work settings that spark creative thinking; and seeking ways to vanquish the effects of unsupportive environments.

Making creativity happen at work, in other words, isn’t child’s play. It is, in fact, hard work, especially if the environment is less than stimulating.

——

*Identifying the best circumstances to make creativity bloom is one of the driving questions in this study by Rice Business Professor Jing Zhou and colleague Inga J. Hoever, a professor at the Barcelona School of Management in Spain.

 

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.

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.

Originality: Not required for creativity

Whether or not you agree with the premise, I found the following essay from Psychology Today an interesting take on a myth that still finds itself debatable in certain circles. Where do creative ideas come from? Are they truly original? Well, according to the essay . . .

One of the most persistent myths is that a creative idea is a totally original idea. That is, to be creative one must be able to create ideas that have never been thought before, ideas that never existed before, absolutely original. {Personally, I don’t buy this.}

{One could consider saying that all original ideas are creative but not all creative ideas are original. I would not necessarily agree with the first part of that statement but I would agree with the second part.}

The truth is that most innovative ideas are not original ideas. In most cases, they are simply the combination of previous ideas into a new concept or format. It’s about making connections with stuff that’s already there. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, brought this all into perspective when he said:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they really didn’t do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or that they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

 

One of the most-oft cited cases of creativity centers around Johannes Gutenberg who, in 1450, combined the wine press and the coin punch to create movable type and the printing press. Movable metal pieces allowed pages to be printed much more quickly than the standard wooden blocks used to press ink onto paper.

His “combination of pre-existing technologies” created printing presses that could print thousands of pages a day. This revolution allowed books to be printed more quickly and more efficiently, allowing the middle class to obtain them as never before. The result was the rapid spread of knowledge across the European continent. That intellectual revolution came about due, in large measure, to the combination of two previous (and seemingly unconnected) ideas: a wine press and a coin punch.

Creative Combinations

Ancient Greeks were also aware of the power of creative combinations. For example, it was the Greeks who combined soft copper with soft tin to create hard bronze. At their most basic levels, Gutenberg’s printing press and the creation of bronze were simply a combination of already existing ideas. History also records these interesting combinations of pre-existing concepts:

1. Copier + telephone = fax machine

2. Bell + clock = alarm clock

3. Trolley + suitcase = suitcase with wheels.

4. Igloo + hotel = ice palace

5. Mathematics + biology = laws of heredity

We like to believe that creativity is the result of a determined, focused, and solo entrepreneur who, through a flash of inspiration solves a problem for the betterment of humankind. It’s a great plot line for a TV special, but it ignores a basic fact of life about the stories of most innovations: They rarely include the human networks that sustain (and make possible) radical new ideas or changes. In fact, history is frequently edited in order to recognize a sole genius or innovator. Phil McKinney, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Killer Innovations, puts it this way:

We have a saying in the innovation industry: “There’s no such thing as a truly new idea. Ideas are the result of building on the work of others.” Many of the creative ideas that led to creating great companies were the result of a team. Some examples: Microsoft, Intel, Google, Skype and many more.

We continue to think that to be creative is to have the ability to create new ideas rather than to combine old ideas into new configurations. It’s a persistent myth that frequently blocks us whenever we’re faced with a personal challenge or work-related endeavor. To the contrary, however, creativity is not always a series of “brilliant new ideas,” but often is the result of a lifetime of experiences and diligence in working on combinations of those ideas (instead of giving up on them after one or two failures). The myth that every idea must be an idea never considered before (in the history of humankind) is a significant impediment to our ability to think creatively.

Key Takeaways

  • We often make the mistake of assuming that creative ideas are always original ideas.
  • Creativity is, quite often, a combination of two “old” ideas.
  • One’s creativity can be enhanced by linking two or more disparate concepts.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint, never be afraid to brainstorm with your own imagination and consider borrowing from other ideas. Those ideas can always be improved upon and/or give birth to a totally new and different idea. That’s being creative.

 

Thanks to Dr. Fredericks for the essay and for the various examples of original thought on which this post is based. Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D., is Professor Emeritus of Education at York College of Pennsylvania and the author of From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them.

 

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.

Where Does Creativity Come From and How to Increase Your Own

I recently ran across a newsletter article on creativity and wanted to share some interesting aspects of it with you. Though the main source seems to be the Monitor of Psychology and its author, Kirsten Weir (see footnote below), there are numerous additional sources cited to supplement the creativity aspect.

Creativity means different things to different people. Seemingly, creativity is mostly aligned with marketing, design and the arts. But, what about science and engineering? Literature? Man’s simple ability to think? Let’s explore this to get a better feel for where creativity comes from and how best to enhance our own experience.

Creativity in the brain

What, exactly, is creativity? The standard definition used by researchers characterizes creative ideas as those that are original and effective, as described by psychologist Mark A. Runco, PhD, director of creativity research and programming at Southern Oregon University (Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2012). But effectiveness, also called utility, is a slippery concept. Is a poem useful? What makes a sculpture effective?

Runco is working on an updated definition and has considered at least a dozen suggestions from colleagues. One frequently suggested feature is authenticity. “Creativity involves an honest expression,” he said.

Meanwhile, scientists are also struggling with the best way to measure the concept. As a marker of creativity, researchers often measure divergent thinking—the ability to generate a lot of possible solutions to a problem or question. But measures of divergent thinking haven’t been found to correlate well with real-world creativity.

Does coming up with new uses for a brick imply a person will be good at abstract art or composing music or devising new methods for studying the brain?

Maybe we move away from defining creativity based on a person’s creative output and focus instead on what’s going on in the brain, ponders Adam Green, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at Georgetown University and founder of the Society for the Neuroscience of Creativity. “The standard definition, that creativity is novel and useful, is a description of a product,” he noted. “By looking inward, we can see the process in action and start to identify the characteristics of creative thought. Neuroimaging is helping to shift the focus from creative product to creative process.”

Creativity often involves coordination between the cognitive control network (of the brain), which is involved in executive functions such as planning and problem-solving, and the default mode network, which is most active during mind-wandering or daydreaming. The cooperation of those networks may be a unique feature of creativity, Green said.

Green’s work suggests that targeting specific areas in the brain could enhance creativity. Yet no one is suggesting that a single brain region, or even a single neural network, is responsible for creative thought.

In search of the eureka moment

Creativity looks different from person to person. And even within one brain, there are different routes to a creative spark, explained John Kounios, PhD, an experimental psychologist who studies creativity and insight at Drexel University in Philadelphia. One involves what cognitive scientists call “System 1” (also called “Type 1”) processes: quick, unconscious thoughts—aha moments—that burst into consciousness. A second route involves “System 2” processes: thinking that is slow, deliberate, and conscious. “Creativity can use one or the other or a combination of the two,” he said. “You might use Type 1 thinking to generate ideas and Type 2 to critique and refine them.”

Which pathway a person uses might depend, in part, on their expertise. “It seems there are at least two pathways to get from where you are to a creative idea,” he said.

Coming up with an idea is only one part of the creative process. A painter needs to translate their vision to canvas. An inventor has to tinker with their concept to make a prototype that actually works. Still, the aha moment is an undeniably important component of the creative process. And science is beginning to illuminate those “lightbulb moments.”

The rush you get from an aha moment might also signal that you’re onto something good, said Jonathan Schooler, PhD, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Creativity is at the core of innovation. We rely on innovation for advancing humanity, as well as for pleasure and entertainment,” he said. “Creativity underlies so much of what humans value.”

He and his colleagues studied these flashes of insight among creative writers and physicists. They surveyed the participants daily for two weeks, asking them to note their creative ideas and when they occurred. Participants reported that about a fifth of the most important ideas of the day happened when they were mind-wandering and not working on a task at hand. “These solutions were more likely to be associated with an aha moment and often overcoming an impasse of some sort,” Schooler said.

Six months later, the participants revisited those ideas and rated them for creative importance. This time, they rated their previous ideas as creative, but less important than they’d initially thought. That suggests that the spark of a eureka moment may not be a reliable clue that an idea has legs. “It seems like the aha experience may be a visceral marker of an important idea. But the aha experience can also inflate the meaningfulness of an idea that doesn’t have merit,” Schooler said. “We have to be careful of false ahas.”

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Cannes Lions 2022: The State of Creativity

Every summer the advertising world treks to France and pays tribute to its version of Mecca, the Cannes Creativity Festival. In the words of a UK publication who was onsite last week, “Cannes Lions is a circus, a meeting of minds, a place to hear the same buzzwords again and again and a chance to listen to celebrities try to explain how to do advertising to rooms full of people who do advertising for a living.

But it’s also a chance to take the temperature of creativity once a year. Seeing all the work that’s winning and being surrounded by people talking about creativity gives people a unique bird’s eye perspective for just one week.”

So, while talking to the cross section of creative leaders, a very broad, but pertinent question was asked: “what is the state of creativity in 2022?”

Here’s what some of them said.

Caitlyn Ryan
VP, Meta

There’s much more optimism and real celebration. We were seeing lots more joyful work. There was one piece that won Gold [in Social & Influencer], for BMW China for the Lunar New Year. The team worked out that the word for BMW in China includes the word horse, and it was the year of the Tiger. It’s properly bonkers but it’s also so joyful. I think it’s a really great example of a couple of things, this celebration and joyfulness, but also as a social campaign. They created all of these assets that then they gave over to the community that allowed them to socialise the idea. I think it’s quite complex but it looks simple and fun.

Yes, there of course is social purpose work – and there was amazing work, especially the charity work The Lost Class, which was just beautiful. That definitely triggers a reaction and wanting to sign up to a social purpose activation. Also we can sell products through joyfully co-creating with the community. I think that’s a really important next step out of the pandemic. It’s incredibly important that we get the economy up and running again, and we use creativity to do that.

Bruno Bertelli
Global Creative Director, Publicis WW and CEO, Le Pub

On one level, there’s a little bit of dated work. Still purpose-led, still a little bit from the past. But on the other hand, there is a trend which is interesting, which is that today brands cannot tell people [things] or inspire people, it’s much more about supporting people doing things. Even if it’s for a small issue, it’s much more about supporting people in what they want to achieve. Story-doing has become much more societally relevant and less strategic – what’s your purpose, what’s your message? Some of these activations don’t even need a message because it’s clear that ‘here’s an issue and I’m just here to help’. It’s a very gen-z attitude. The other thing is not all brands are understanding the importance of being topical today. It’s so important after covid. If you’re not topical, you’re not going anywhere. 

Anna Qvennerstedt
Senior Partner and Chairman of the Board, Forsman & Bodenfors

Last year I was judging brand experience and activation. And I think that my big takeaway from last year was that there are so many really ‘nice’ ideas, but you can feel how quite a few of them are just… very reasonable. You look at it and it’s well done… but there’s no tension in it. There’s no element of surprise. It’s just basically very, very clever. And I think in the jury, when you look at it, you know that it’s going to do well, but then you see something where there’s an actual idea that is expected and no one saw coming, and that sort of changes you a little bit. Those are the ones that win the big awards, I think, and there are not many of them. I mean, again, lots of great work, but those really unexpected ones felt quite rare.

But I think there’s a renaissance for really creative ideas, that we’re sort of starting to see a little bit in the requests from clients.

Rod Sobral
Global CCO, Oliver 

I am a paranoid optimistic. I know it’s a cliche, but I use it all the time. I think every leader should be a bit of a paranoid optimistic. You have to believe that things are going to change, that it’s going to evolve in order for you to be in the right state of mind, and to take some risks. 

My view on that is absolutely, still the most important thing in the marketplace – and I don’t think this will ever change – is the idea. And an idea that connects with you on an emotional or a rational level, sometimes both. 

I think we do have this superpower in our industry to change people’s lives. It can be an ad that’ll put a smile on your face or remind you to call your mom or it can be an app that will help you to deal with your asthma or to run better. So I know that this is possible. And I think we should be doing that. 

I believe, when it comes to the state of creativity, we are in a very exciting place, frankly, because I feel that there’s a lot of energy to try things. Let’s be honest, with digital, with commerce, we have so many platforms, we produce so much. Any creative can relate to the many times you create something and you end up with one asset that people see for a fraction of a second. There is a lot of vision from people saying, ‘I don’t want to be part of the clutter, I want to be part of the signal’. The more clutter there is, the more anxious people get to change, to try to do something to break the mould.

John Berghdal
Global Creative Lead, Forsman & Bodenfors

There was so much fear in the last few years and everybody was thinking about just controlling things, not wanting things to get out of hand. And of course, then you lean on data, and you’re like, ‘OK, Facebook, Google, what can you give me? This is my budget and let’s just use programmatic. Let’s just steer this thing to not have a catastrophe, we’re going to control the situation’. Through creativity and unexpectedness, you have to be bold. You have to risk something – and I don’t think people have been in a risky kind of mood… [We were talking earlier] about the pendulum and maybe this is when people are waking up and coming out and saying, ‘OK, wait a minute, let’s build brands that people care about.’

 

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.

 

Live long and prosper, Ukraine.

How Trauma Affects Creativity

Last week my post dealt with emotions and their interplay with creativity. This week I found a “sequel” if you will regarding creativity and how trauma affects it. The input that follows is by the same therapist as last week, Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. It’s an interesting read and one in which I hope you’ll get as much out of as I did.

Mihaela Ivan Holtz

During my creative endeavors, I have experienced most if not all of what Mihaela talks about. When I’m in a slump, it’s not fun. When I experience a setback, it’s definitely not fun. In fact, it’s quite stressful. That’s why I have a weekly talk with my therapist to go over what’s bothering me.

Take it away, Mihaela . . .

Creativity is a vital life force energy. We connect with that energy within us and use it to express art that comes from the deepest parts of the self.

Creativity feeds off of other vital energies that exist inside of us, including imagination, courage, authenticity, and vulnerability. Creativity requires our passion, love, and playfulness. It requires our curiosity and our spirit of exploration. It requires us to show up and do the work of creating in order to keep it alive.

Creativity asks us to trust in our abilities and our vision. It asks us to call on our talents, skills, and unique gifts and use them to make that inspiration into reality. It asks for our determination and devotion. It asks us to invest in ourselves and to commit to our own sense of agency.

Our creativity is there at all times. It’s a flicker ready to be ignited by our life experiences and turned into a great flame. It wants to guide us along the quest to create a life inspired by our dreams and goals.

All these – our imagination and passion, vulnerability and courage, curiosity and playfulness, trust and determination, talents and skills, exploration and commitment, and our sense of agency – come together to make up our creative emotional space.

The creative emotional space is a beautiful, powerful space that every artist and creative hopes to be in just about all the time. Unfortunately, it can be diminished or destroyed by our unhealed backstories. Unresolved emotional trauma can hold us back and take us off track.

Creatives and Artists Respond to Trauma in Different Ways

Some remarkably productive creative people can actively transform their pain into creative endeavors. Their creativity becomes a vehicle for healing. Their internal healing and growth continues to inspire and motivate them to be more creative.

Their creativity and emotional healing work together in a synergistic relationship. They are healed and transformed by their creative work, and become more and more creative as they face their pain.

Some people can be very creative despite trauma, but they are not engaged in a healing process. They can access their emotional creative space and make music, movies, novels, books, paintings, fashion, or build businesses, and consistently turn their ideas into reality.

But, when they move outside that creative space, they live with unmetabolized emotional pain. This often shows up as with anxiety, depression, and/or addictions.

Then there are those who can access their emotional creative space but the exposure to their inner world causes them to be re-traumatized, over and over again. Their stories or creative endeavors trigger unhealed trauma and they get trapped in old, painful patterns. Sometimes, very successful creatives get stuck in this unproductive emotional creative space when they least expect it.

Despite years of success, depression, anxiety, or addictions can emerge from those unresolved emotional wounds and trap an individual in a loop of creative decline. 

Female with long hair, looking down, her face covered by a hat that she is holding with one hand

There are some who can’t access their emotional creative space, and that in itself feeds their emotional pain, depression, anxiety, and addictions. They can’t realize their creative potential and feel unable to access and use their true resources. This sense of being cut off from their creative self is traumatic in itself.

They feel they’re living a small life in which they don’t belong. They know they could accomplish more and experience a more fulfilling life, but they are trapped in longing.

Perhaps you see yourself in one of these profiles? Whatever experience most closely matches yours, there is support.

What else do creatives need to know about the role of trauma can play in work and life?

Continue reading

Emotions and Their Role in Your Creativity

Every once in awhile I run across an article that really speaks to me about my creativeness and my own psychological workings. This particular article by Dr. Mihaela Ivan Holtz speaks to that. I’ve highlighted her work in some of my previous blog posts. You may very well already enjoy a good relationship with a psychotherapist who understands your background and troubles. If not, seek one out. And refer to the link at the end of this post for more insightful information.

Now, Dr. Holtz, the floor, er, uh, post is yours . . .

As a creative, you use your emotions to tell compelling stories. When your art is born from a genuine emotional expression, you offer your audience a glimpse of the unique you – your interpretation and manifestation of human experiences. 

There’s something about living in the full depth of human experience that is conducive to creativity. The extent to which one can step into the full breadth of their emotions is what makes them a true artist. The ability to be with and use complex and mixed layers of emotions is important for creativity.

It’s through the moments of deep insight and states of intimate connection to your inner world that your craft comes alive.

When you are intimately connected to your emotions’ texture, nuance, and depth, it comes through your art. Your audience can feel the depth of your feeling, and your work truly speaks to their hearts. 

Thanks to the  expression of pure emotion, others can find a piece of themselves in your art. When art comes from an intimate connection to your internal world, the people who witness it  can feel seen, heard, or validated. They are transformed when you share your own experience of transformation.

Uninspired man holding a guitar

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find and maintain this connection with your emotions and convey them in your art.  Unhealed emotional trauma, unconscious conflicts, and unhealthy defensive strategies that you may have developed to cope with life’s challenges can all interfere with your creativity.

When you hit a creative block or a prolonged dry spell, you may find yourself wondering: “Why do my emotions mess up my creativity?”

Many times, unprocessed trauma causes your emotions to feel too intense, overwhelming, or  painful. You can’t stay present with such feelings and you disconnect from your own inner emotional world.  You may feel like you can only tiptoe around the edges of your experience, but can never go too deep. You keep a safe distance from your own emotional experiences. It doesn’t seem possible to  tap into the depth and beauty of your emotions and use them to further your creativity. 

This inability to engage your emotions and go deep are all signs that you may need to do some emotional work to help you process trauma, conflicts, or defenses that are locking you out of your emotional creative space. 

If you’re someone who feels comfortable in your inner creative world some of the time but then loses touch with that place at other times, you may find yourself confused and looking for answers. You may be grieving the loss of your creativity since it has been so long since you were able to access your creative emotional space.

To reconnect to your creativity, you need to do your own inner healing work. Your current struggles are a sign that emotional trauma from your past needs to be examined, processed, and integrated. 

How can doing your “emotional work” help you regain your creativity? 

When you do your emotional work to heal old conflicts and trauma, you can access the full spectrum of your emotions and use them to enhance your art. You can remove the barriers to creativity and  find that you can organically enter your artistic flow.

Thanks to the healing process, the “emotional work” you can do with a trained psychotherapist, you can connect with all that you are. Your emotions, talents, and skills can come together and you can express yourself and you trust your creativity. 

The creative brain is unique, and that is why therapy for creative people needs to be sensitive to your specific needs. 

Creative people have greater connections between two areas of the brain that are typically at odds with one another.  The brain regions associated with focus and the brain network of regions associated with imagination, spontaneity, and emotions are in conversation in the creative brain.

Unfortunately, these connections usually tend to be impaired by unhealed trauma. Psychotherapy can help you reconnect these parts of your brain so you can regain your creativity and discover new creative energy. 

Focused and passionate female dancer practicing in a studio

When creative people commit to doing their emotional work, they develop their ability to stay in complex and even seemingly incompatible states of being. In other words, they can access the messiness of their minds and human experience with more comfort, ease, and focus. They can really dive into their old and present emotional experiences and internal world to create.

What kind of psychotherapy would help you? 

There is no cookie-cutter treatment plan for creatives with emotional trauma. The treatment is a creative journey in itself. Together, we enter a meaningful process  uniquely crafted to help you get in touch with your life experiences and reconnect you with your own artistic voice and expression. 

When you process the emotional trauma and conflicts you will feel: “My creativity is the core of who I am. My past struggles do not define me.  My past can inform what I create, but is not the core of who I am.”

That shift will help you stay intimately connected with your emotional world to make your authentic art that will touch audiences and, in some way either great or small, transform our world. 

I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives face and shift emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creative blocks, and addictions – to be and live their own best version. You can read more about Therapy for Creatives and Performers here.

 

 

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.

Live long and prosper, Ukraine.

Quotes . . .Quotes . . .

It’s that time of the month again wherein I present an array of quotes from a variety of well-respected folks offering numerous perspectives. From Obama to Burnett to Serling and more.

Take note. Take a listen. Take heed. Put ’em into practice if you can. Enjoy!

 

Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient, especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. – Barack Obama

Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.  – Mae Jemison

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance. — Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

The place to start in advertising is the basic selling appeal. An appeal that fulfills some existing need in the prospect’s mind, an appeal that can be readily understood and believed. — Morris Hite, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one. — Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure. – George E. Woodberry

A teacher’s influence doesn’t stay in school. It goes out into the world and cannot truly ever be measured. Every student you inspire to do something great goes on to inspire others. There is no limit to your impact. – George Couros

It has forever been thus: So long as we write what we think, then all of the other freedoms – all of them – may remain intact. And it is then that writing becomes a weapon of truth, an article of faith, an act of courage. – Rod Serling

A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable. — Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one. — Alex Osborne, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

 

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.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!