Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An opposing voice

Ted Talks are lying to you.
Those who urge us to “think different,” in other words, almost never do so themselves. Year after year, new installments in this unchanging genre are produced and consumed. Creativity, they all tell us, is too important to be left to the creative. Our prosperity depends on it. And by dint of careful study and the hardest science — by, say, sliding a jazz pianist’s head into an MRI machine — we can crack the code of creativity and unleash its moneymaking power.
That was the ultimate lesson. That’s where the music, the theology, the physics and the ethereal water lilies were meant to direct us. Our correspondent could think of no books that tried to work the equation the other way around — holding up the invention of air conditioning or Velcro as a model for a jazz trumpeter trying to work out his solo.
And why was this worth noticing? Well, for one thing, because we’re talking about the literature of creativity, for Pete’s sake. If there is a non-fiction genre from which you have a right to expect clever prose and uncanny insight, it should be this one. So why is it so utterly consumed by formula and repetition?
What I've learned in writing this blog is that while there is a lot we have learned about creativity, there is a lot still to be tweaked.  An ephemeral subject like this is a challenge to study because there are so many dependent variables.  It seems to me that we need fads like open offices or the cookie-cutter approach described today so there is enough activity to perform natural experiments.  If enough people are following the creativity gurus, they will have sufficient variation that new cues and leads can be seen through the noise.

Well, I hope so.

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