Saturday, May 27, 2006

Straw Into Gold

Creativity is making something new from two old things.
It is a simple idea, isn't it?

Quality has nothing to do with it. In absolute terms, the success of an idea is whether it succeeded in being useful.
Daydreaming produces an endless stream of ideas. But, quite rightly, we usually chose to ignore most of them. We just don't have the energy. There is a natural selection process. Part of your experience as a creative person will be determining whether an idea is worth pursuing, or not. With that in mind, the discernment aspect of creativity is critical. Sometimes the choices you make will carry a concomitant element of risk. On one hand, do you risk your resources: time, money…paint on something that might fail? On the other, do you risk your resources on something lacking distinction (unoriginal)… or which just reinforces the orthodoxy of your discipline; then there is an equal risk that you will have wasted your energies.

In many cases quality is assigned in hindsight. The typography of David Carson influenced a generation of print designers (not always in a good way). Classicists and modernists alike also despised it. In many ways the radical of yesterday will often become the establishment.

I have a personal suspicion of creative people who fail to risk anything, preferring to emulate a style or surf a wave of trend.
At the heart of creativity is the idea. But novel ideas are worth more than reiterations of the proven. Novel ideas that survive and succeed are the ultimate.

But there is no n'est plus ultra. Ideas feed creative minds who breed new ideas, displacing what went before.

Registered trademarks, registered designs, patents and other forms of commercial monopolisation of ideas willcontinue to be measures of commercial creativity. However the democratisation of creativity is relentless and is an innately snowballing process.

In developed countries, at least, we live at the top of Maslow's hierarchy - our basic needs are well and truly catered to. (In New Zealand cases of death by starvation are few and far between). We are deeply immersed in a hedonistic self-actualisation. Most people have an ever-increasing amount of leisure time, the wherewithal and access to digital technologies like the Internet, cameras and computers.

We reported trendwatching.com's concept of Generation C in issue 3 of Idealog magazine. We are driven to express our ideas and creativity. More leisure, plenty of time and a relentless desire to be stimulated also creates a ready market with which to produce and consume the outputs. The convergence of economic and social forces has created a maelstrom in which the sluggish, conservative will be consumed. Because of this contemporary intellectual property concepts designed to protect the owner of an idea and offer a monopoly for a period in which its owner can exploit it will offer only nominal protection in real terms. Market forces will simply divert around the obstacle toward further progress, as a river changes course. In this case it is a river of lava. Meanwhile the owner of the IP depletes their energy conserving and protecting what has already been made and is, therefore, history.

Creativity is an irresistible human force. A perpetual motion machine. Ideas are its fuel, talent is the engine and the market is the racetrack.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Progress Report

I once dated a woman who was an occupational therapist. Her motto was "activity is therapy". The sloth in me wants to rebel against this idea. Activity sometimes is activity. The spinning of wheels. Friction and heat, but not much light. Perhaps its not even the sloth, but the voice inside that says, 'maybe you should quiet the voice inside?'. Isn't that the ideal of meditative religious forms.

Ommm.

Ummm, I just find it nigh on impossible to shut myself up.
I even find it hard to concentrate on reading without my inner dialogue drifting off at tangents, thinking about the ideas on the page. My current source of torment is a brilliant collection of essays by the British historian Ronald Wright called Short History Of Progress. Picked it up on Saturday afternoon and wasn't able to stir myself to any form of activity for the best part of Sunday. His thesis is that progress might well do us in. He points to civilisations that have vanished - The Sumerians, Easter Islanders, The Mayans and even the mighty Roman Empire. He uses the history of these cultures as if they are 'black boxes' of crashed airliners that he analyses and looks for errors to be avoided in our own relentless pursuit of progress. As someone pretty much dedicated to commercial creativity I guess that I am a cog in the machine. Perhaps more of our invention and innovation needs to be applied to containing rampant consumption and creating sustainable strategies for the future.

I recommend the book to you. It exhausted me. I'm off to have a wee lie down.