Updated: Jun 9, 2020
We are entering an age where creativity is not just desirable, but vital.
The good news is: You can learn it.
There are no shortage of dystopian visions of a future where we are all replaced by machines. It’s hardly a new theme as we’ve been gradually cutting ourselves out of the loop for some time now - whether that’s using a windmill to pump water some 1,500 years ago or the introduction of the steam mill in the 1800s to manufacture textiles.
The worry has been largely misplaced as these innovations led to more opportunity as economies prospered due to increased production, lower costs and new goods and services.
The difference now however, is that the majority of automation has involved replacing our mechanics and not our minds...until the digital age that is.
A world where humanity is enslaved by a superior AI is unlikely to happen any time soon. However, one short-term reality takes the form of a growing socio-economic divide, as more opportunities are afforded to those able to create and invent, whilst the skilled labour force is pushed towards redundancy by leaps in automation.
In a world where it’s possible to print objects or market products globally from the comfort of your sofa, the days where job security is afforded to those who merely follow orders are numbered. If you behave like a machine then it’s likely you’ll be replaced by one.
The businesses that see agility and ‘true’ innovation as a priority will not only survive, but thrive in what’s being referred to as a 4th Industrial Revolution.
Despite the worries, it’s not all doom and gloom. Automation in most cases alleviates a huge volume of boring, dirty and dangerous jobs allowing us to focus on more complex tasks and build meaningful relationships.
Attempting to reverse engineer our skills and abilities has forced us to reflect, sparking a new appreciation for what it means to be human.
In most cases, what we find easy, computers find hard. The reverse is also true. For example, take our ability to recognise emotions vs attempting large calculations.
Ask a stranger to recite the first 100 digits of Pi or ask a computer to tell a joke. Which do you think is more likely to get a laugh?
Creativity is as hard to define as it is to replicate. Whether or not we are all replaced by machines one day, it’s going to be one of the last things taken from us.
So, what is creativity exactly?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary it’s ‘the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative.’ Einstein thought of it as: ‘intelligence having fun’ and Steve Jobs said: ‘Creativity is just connecting things’.
You could spend an eternity on the internet looking up definitions only to feel more confused about the meaning.
My most recent punt is as follows: Creativity is to build and demolish. It involves connecting experiences and knowledge to form something new whilst breaking rules and challenging assumptions (pretty fluffy, I know).
The truth is: if you have a brain, you’re creative. It involves a vast collection of complex neurological processes that science is only beginning to understand let alone define with a snappy ‘one liner’.
Fortunately for all of us, creativity can be learned and improved, like the majority of other human abilities. Although the relationship between mind and body is respected by most, the degree by which one can affect the other is significantly underplayed in society.
The mind exists within the body so therefore the activities and environment that your body is subjected to will have an influence. This is key to understanding how to develop yourself as the quality of your mind governs your perception of reality.
The creative process can be hard to grasp because it has a lot to do with the subconscious brain. This part of the brain is immensely powerful but controlling it is often like herding a wild animal. You can’t really speak to it directly, but you can indirectly encourage behaviour by altering its environment.
Creative thoughts and ideas can be complex and abstract. Perhaps another reason people discount themselves is due to their ability to identify, articulate and explore these ideas and thoughts.
It’s often assumed that if you’re not proficient at activities such as drawing, writing, and crafts then you’re not creative. The reality is that these skills are often just a bridge between your imagination and the outside world.
The ability to identify, articulate and explore can be the difference between those who make careers as office drones or entrepreneurs.
Some individuals are born with incredible, natural creative abilities however. Like athletic strength, you can’t expect great success without training.
“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
The key to being more creative lies in the aggregate of daily activities and environment over time. Small but consistent daily actions can nurture and train the creative mind to produce performances that you may not have thought possible.
Good habits go a long way.