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.

Wonder What Mr. Data Would Think: Robots Creating Ads? Hmmmm.

Lt. Cmdr. Data of the USS Enterprise

Well, Data, as all Trekkers know, was an Android, not a robot. It was a very sensitive distinction in his day. Yet, one can’t help but wonder what one non-human form of life would think of another non-human form of life creating advertising in the manner humans do.

While humorous, I can just picture Klaatu instructing Gort about a forthcoming ad for NASA’s Artemis IV mission to Jupiter. (Note: Those of you not having a clue as to what I am referring, Google “Day the Earth Stood Still” especially the 1951 version)

Gort

Recently, I read where a reporter from the Wall Street Journal did an article on the role of AI (Artificial Intelligence) writing and redoing advertising. Interesting, I thought, so I made it the focus of this week’s blog post about another aspect of creativity in the early 21st. Century. My thanks to both The Journal and Patrick Coffee for lending credence to this post.

In late 2021, as states eased pandemic restrictions and consumers began flying again, travel search company Kayak needed a message that would help it stand out against bigger rivals.

Most travel ads focused on “the family reunion space, soft piano music, the get-together on the beach,” said Matthew Clarke, vice president of North American marketing for the Booking Holdings Inc. company. Kayak took a different approach with the “Kayak Deniers” campaign, which went live in January and poked fun at the rise of online conspiracy theories. In one ad, an angry mother insists to her family that Kayak isn’t real, screaming, “Open your eyes!”

Inspiration for the ads came from an unlikely source: artificial intelligence.

Kayak worked with New York advertising agency Supernatural Development LLC, whose internal AI platform combines marketers’ answers to questions about their business with consumer data drawn from social media and market research to suggest campaign strategies, then automatically generates ideas for advertising copy and other marketing materials.

Supernatural’s AI found that Kayak should target its campaign largely toward young, upper-income men, who it said would respond to humor about Americans’ inability to agree on basic facts in politics and pop culture, said Michael Barrett, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Supernatural.

“That gave us a good amount of license to zig where the category was zagging and to be more relevant, more provocative,” Mr. Clarke said of the AI findings.

The campaign has been one of Kayak’s most successful to date in driving brand favorability, Mr. Clarke said.

Marketers have primarily used AI in a creative capacity in services like creative automation, which tests thousands of slight variations on elements such as ad copy and color schemes to determine which combinations will best attract consumers’ attention.

But AI is expected to change marketing practices drastically in coming years thanks to new tools like OpenAI Inc.’s automated language generator GPT-3, which allows algorithms to better understand different languages and produce original text content, said Tom Davenport, distinguished professor of information technology and management at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., who co-wrote a 2019 paper on the subject.

Unilever PLC’s Dollar Shave Club recently began working with AI firm Addition Technologies Inc., whose platform can analyze millions of social-media posts, to help identify themes for use in marketing products that range from razors to wet wipes.

“It’s like having a machine hive mind that you can just keep asking questions because it has completely consumed all comments on the subject,” said Matt Orser, vice president and head of creative at Dollar Shave Club.

Addition also worked with ad agency Droga5 LLC to create an interactive ad campaign for the New York Times that turns headlines from each subscriber’s reading history into a visual “portrait” of that person. Some headlines were too long to fit within the portraits’ design, so Addition programmed its platform to rewrite them in fewer than 50 characters, said a Times spokesman.

AI’s primary benefit for marketers is its ability to quickly complete projects, such as brand strategy briefs, that would take humans days or weeks, giving staffers more time to focus on other work, said Supernatural Chief Creative Officer Paul Caiozzo.

When Signal Messenger LLC, maker of encrypted messaging app Signal, wanted to plan its first major marketing campaign in 2021, it turned to AI marketing consulting firm DumDum LLC.

DumDum invites marketers to discuss their most pressing challenges in brief “thinkathon” sessions, then runs those ideas through an AI platform that matches them with potential solutions based on a growing pool of behavioral data and consumer surveys conducted by DumDum to provide CMOs with outside perspectives.

DumDum presented Signal with several options, and executives chose one that focused on the fact that Signal, unlike many other digital platforms, doesn’t collect user data. They bought several Instagram ads designed to highlight how its parent, Meta Platforms Inc., targets users with their own personal data, said Jun Harada, head of growth and communication at Signal. One post began, “You got this ad because you’re a certified public accountant in an open relationship.”

Facebook responded by shutting down Signal’s ad account, according to Mr. Harada. The move came only days after Apple Inc. announced sweeping data-privacy changes that would upend the digital advertising industry.

When used correctly, AI forces marketers to consider new perspectives and avoid simply repeating approaches that worked in the past, said DumDum founder Nathan Phillips.

“You can create a dance between human and computer that changes the way you think,” Mr. Phillips said.

The idea of AI as a creative partner isn’t new, but most campaigns have positioned it as a gimmick.

In 2018, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus released what it called “the world’s first advert to be scripted entirely by AI.” However, a Lexus spokeswoman described that effort as a “one-off,” and it still needed a human director.

Increased use of AI could potentially eliminate some entry-level marketing jobs, but it will never replace the people required to ensure that content is fit for public consumption and to prevent controversies such as Microsoft Corp.’s anti-Semitic chat bot, said Mr. Davenport, the Babson College professor.

Ad industry leaders agreed that AI will supplement, not supplant, human ingenuity. “While [AI] can unlock the creative capacity of people by making their work more efficient and effective, sometimes we need to throw logic out the window and fall back on our intuition,” said Rob Reilly, global chief creative officer at ad giant WPP PLC.

More creative firms will begin using AI tools in the coming years, but most will not position themselves as AI-driven businesses, because CMOs aren’t particularly concerned with the process as long as the resulting campaigns are successful, said Mr. Caiozzo of Supernatural.

“AI is just the tool that is freeing me to do my job,” he said. “Most people don’t care how you bake the bread.”

Like it or not, AI is here to stay and will only adjust and modernize the ad industry for years to come.

 

Notes:

Sources: The Wall Street Journal and Patrick Coffee. Appeared in the August 11, 2022, print edition as ‘Robots Turn Creative as AI Helps Drive Ad Campaigns.’

 

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.

Quotes – It’s What They Said

It’s that time of the month again when we feature different quotes from a variety of people in the fields of creativity, the arts, psychology, advertising and many more. Some are very well known while others not so much. In any event, they are thought-provoking, interesting and in some cases, rather surprising.

 

Creators, makers of the new, can never become obsolete, for in the arts there is no correct answer. The story of discoverers could be told in simple chronological order, since the latest science replaces what went before. But the arts are another story — a story of infinite addition. We must find order in the random flexings of the imagination. – Daniel J. Boorstin

The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus the issues of his time. — Rod Serling

Rod Serling on set

Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas. — Donatella Versace

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. — Edwin Land

If you can’t turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn’t be in the ad writing business at all.
Leo Burnett, Advertising Hall of Fame

Creativity is no longer about grabbing attention or raising consumer awareness. Its goal is to remind consumers about what is fundamental and gratifying about a brand. — Peter A. Georgescu, Advertising Hall of Fame

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. – Milton Berle

Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. – Yo-Yo Ma

Meetings are all too often the burial grounds of great ideas. — Keith Reinhard, Advertising Hall of Fame

The more complex the world becomes, the more creative we need to be to meet its challenges. – Sir Ken Robinson (Mar 04, 1950 – Aug 21, 2020)

 

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.

Quotes – Special Edition

Forty-seven years ago this week, June 28, 1975, creativity lost an icon. A mentor to many both near and afar and an inspiration to those of us putting “pen to paper.” Rod Serling, creator and host of the TV series, The Twilight Zone, was a master at utilizing one’s imagination and turning it on its ear. And we loved him for it!

These quotes pay tribute not only to Rod but to various creative artists and thought leaders who have also played a role in tweaking our imagination and how we think.

I just want [people] to remember me a hundred years from now. I don’t care that they’re not able to quote any single line that I’ve written. But just that they can say, ‘Oh, he was a writer.’ That’s sufficiently an honored position for me.Rod Serling

An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all. — William Bernbach, Advertising Hall of Fame

Human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings. This, I submit to you, is not a political thesis at all. It is simply an expression of what I would hope might be ultimately a simple humanity for humanity’s sake. ― Rod Serling

Like the musical score, a mission statement is only as good as the performance it inspires. — Keith Reinhard, Advertising Hall of Fame

Let’s gear our advertising to sell goods, but let’s recognize also that advertising has a broad social responsibility. — Leo Burnett, Advertising Hall of Fame

Treasure diversity. Seek unity, not uniformity. Strive for oneness, not sameness. — Dan Zadra, American businessman and author

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. – H. G. Wells

Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone. — Fairfax M. Cone, Advertising Hall of Fame

In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd. – Miguel de Cervantes

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt
 
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. – Truman Capote

 

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.