Creativity is NOT like Fresh Air or Clean Water

In Creativity, Value on 2010/01/20 at 7:10 pm

Unlike fresh air or clean water, more creativity is not necessarily always a good thing. This is not just wordplay.

Most of us (including teachers and parents, and even creatives) casually treat creativity as a neutral absolute — the more the better. “If only the schools can be more creative…” “We need to be more creative…” “(So and so) is so so creative…”

Creativity (or design, if you prefer a more tangible version of it) is value-loaded and culturally-motivated. Always. No apologies for asserting this point in your face early. Put it another way, there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ creativity, just as there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ design (see “12 Ugly Things“).  Creativity is therefore the equivalent only of air and water, and not of “fresh air” and “clean water” per se.

So when someone, organisation or comunity ask for creativity, always check the context and the relative difference it would make and at whose or what expense.  At the top level, it is not neutral, and its value needs to be carefully and critically evaluated.  Remember, the bank robber and computer hacker are creative in their own terms. They “think out of the box”, “take risks” and “break the rules” — terms we commonly lavish on our slection of ‘good’ creatives.  Depending on who writes their biographies, they can be either heros or zeros. Remember Robin Hood? Remember, too, Galileo? Zaha?

This as well as five  key issues on design-creativity will be the pre-occupation of this blog in the coming weeks:

1 The Purpose of Design with Style

2 The Paradox of Design as Thinking

3 The Prospect of Design in Practice

4 The Point of Design to Compete

5 The Privilege of Design for Life

Stay tuned.

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