Saturday, August 28, 2004

Creativity and the Future

It has been said that mankind is the only specie that can contemplate its future. If that is so, then the study of the future is one of the highest forms of study that one can undertake.

Today, never has the future seemed more threatening. Arthur Clark has observed a number of year's ago talking about nuclear holocaust, "This is the first age that has paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one." Now nuclear holocaust doesn't cause fear as it once did, but terrorism, globalization and the battle for god does.

We all are interested in the future and have a view of the future whether we admit it or not. As Charles Kettering, one of America's greatest inventors said, "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." Every decision we make is based upon a personal view of the future.

What does the future hold in store for us? A lot of change. Economists and futurists who have studied economic and innovation have been able to-discern trends. From these trends they have been able to develop models that can be used to predict future events. These models predict that we are entering a period of the most profound social and technological change in modern history. The surge of innovative activity will provide us with significant opportunity and challenge.

Creativity will provide the discoveries, inventions, innovations, and improvements that will fuel global economic growth. Creativity will be needed by us to overcome the national economic problems that we find ourselves in, to face ever increasing worldwide competition, and to meet the challenge of a time of rapid innovation. We must become students of the future so that we may plan to meet these challenges. We must be sensitive to the present so that we may be able to detect those factors that will have a bearing on our future. And we must be willing to change; to move our interests to that which gives us the highest return for our investment, keeping in mind at all times the broadest definition of ourselves. This is imperative in a time of change for it is only within broad concepts that we can adapt to change.

Von Fange wrote in Professional Creativity, "to make creative contributions, as Einstein indicated, requires that one always search for what is fundamental. Or, to phrase it another way, if buggy-whip people had realized that they were not in the business of making high quality buggy whips, but rather in the business, fundamentally, of stimulating further output from the prime mover of the family conveyance, their factories would not now be gaunt skeletons upon the American industrial scene." History is full of examples of companies and industries, which did not react to change. No stage coach company became a railroad company. No buggy producer succeeded in the auto business. No railroad or bus company entered the airline business.

Creativity seems to be inherent in our nature. We are created creative. We lose some of our creative talents as we age due to the boundaries that society puts around us or that we put around ourselves. To be creative sometimes requires that we breakdown these boundaries. Anyone can be creative. To profess that you cannot create is to set a goal you will certainly achieve. Creativity is elemental to all change whether it be discovery, invention, innovation, or improvement.

Creativity is bringing something new into being; an attempt at immortality for that new creation may live beyond the creator. Rollo May in The Courage to Create captured the thought this way: "Creativity is a yearning for immortality. We human beings know that we must die. We have strangely enough, a word for death. We know that each of us must develop the courage to confront death. Yet we also must rebel and struggle against it. Creativity comes from this struggle - out of the rebellion the creative act is born. Creativity is not merely the innocent spontaneity of our youth and childhood; it must also be married to the passion of the adult human being, which is a passion to live beyond one's death." Yet immortality through creativity does not come easy. Edgar Lee Masters has one of the characters in Spoon River Anthology say, "Immortality is not a gift. Immortality must be earned."

Creativity requires courage. Picasso stated, "Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction." Creativity implies change and change implies abandonment of the old. It requires courage to break barriers. It requires courage to face the new. Jonathan Swift observed, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster." It requires courage to face the critics of change. It requires courage to face the anxiety produced by changes in our own thoughts. It requires courage to face the struggle, which is a part of the creative act.

In one of the Greek myths of the creation of mankind, Epimetheus, whose name means afterthought, a scatterbrained Titan who invariably followed his first impulse and then changed his mind, was given the job of populating earth. Before making men he gave all the best gifts to the animals, strength, swiftness, fur, feathers, wings, shells, claws, etc. until nothing good was left for man. At this point Prometheus, whose name means forethought, took over the job and he fashioned men upright, and went to the sun where he lit a torch and brought fire to man. And from fire, man learned many things that separated him from the animals. However, Zeus became angry with Prometheus, for giving man too much, and for having too much wisdom. Zeus had Prometheus bound to a rock where each day an eagle came and ate out his liver only to have it grow again the next day.

How many times have you felt the drain of creative energy thinking that it is gone, only to find it renewed after a day's rest? Creativity requires courage. Creativity also requires thinking. T. J, Watson in his collection of essays, As A Man Thinks stated it this way. "Thought begets the will to create." All thinking is mentally directed creativeness. We think only when we wish to achieve a conclusion that, by implication, did not exist before.

We do not do enough thinking. In a study of American businessmen it was found that they spent less than 3 percent of their time thinking. George Bernard Shaw observed, "Few people think more than two or three times a year. I've made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week."

What is thinking? To think is to exercise the powers of judgment, conception, or inference; to reflect for the purpose of reaching a conclusion. We must learn to exercise these mental powers. We must also learn use the right side of our brain. Researchers have found that while the left side is used for logic and speech, it is the right side that is connected with the insight associated with the creative act. Unfortunately the left side dominates our thinking and communication, and its methods dominate social convention and business.

In the final analysis, the ability to create is in each of us. We must find the way to unlock that creativeness. Quoting Krishnamurti, "In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, then the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself."

Paul Schumann

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