Below is my latest review for Art Pulse Magazine. It should be on the stands any day.
Each summer, my family and I go camping. We love sleeping in tents—except for my wife. As expected as many issues are in camping, it still seems to be a time when I utilize the skills of creativity. From organizing a campsite, to storing food, to cooking breakfast, there are dozens of little moments when little “c” creativity comes into play. Little “c” creativity is a term for all those acts a person does when they innovate on a personal level. These acts don’t usually change the world, but they do change your way of thinking.
Shortly after arriving at our site, I found myself problem solving in a much more flexible way than usual. I had a lot of rope and a lot of problems. With a little ingenuity, I was able to solve many of those problems with the rope. We usually come armed with a bunch of clips to help with other problems. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose with those creative solutions. But at campsites, you always learn to be more creative.
Here are some creative camping solutions.
Plato said, “Science is nothing but perception.” That thought can apply to creativity too. Many inventions are the products of years of effort in the pursuit of a particular cause. Inventors know the problem and patiently work to solve that problem. But deliberate creativity isn’t the only way to invent, or be creative. Often times, creativity can be about seeing the opportunity in an accident. The trick is to be open to new ideas and perceptive. Here are a few accidental inventions.
- Saccharin – The chemist Constantin Fahlberg discovered it while eating a biscuit. He noticed it had an unusually sweet crust. The reason was that he hadn’t washed his hands after working in the lab that day. The next day he went back and tasted everything on his desk until he found it.
- Vulcanized Rubber – Charles Goodyear accidently flung a mixture of rubber and sulfur onto a potbelly stove and it charred into a leathery, but still elastic substance.
- Microwave Oven – Percy Spencer invented it after noticing a candy bar in his pocket melted after leaning in front of a magnetron.
- Velcro – While the Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral pulled burs off his pants and dog, he notices the little hooks from the burs would cling to any type of loop.
- Coca-Cola – The first Coke was invented when a lab assistant of John Pemberton accidentally mixed a cure for headaches with carbonated water.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, technology has been steadily displacing certain types of workers. The more physical and task oriented jobs have been going the way of John Henry. The good news during past centuries was that even though some jobs were being eliminated, technology was actually creating more jobs than it rendered extinct. Telephone operators for example, didn’t exist before the telephone. Today, it’s hard to tell if technology is creating new jobs or just lessening the need for humans altogether. Hopefully, that trend of technology creating more jobs will continue.
If you are looking to inoculate your career against the technological invasion, you may want to be more creative. The skills that creative people possess are more difficult to automate. They include: empathy, flexibility, storytelling, synthesizing ability and the ability to conceptualize abstract problems. Additionally, jobs in general are certain to be more cognitive in the future. And the jobs focused on physical tasks, like digging ditches, will be in very limited supply.
A couple of innovations showing in the news this week demonstrate all too well where the future of jobs isn’t. Walmart just began promoting new designs for its fleet of 18-wheelers that Jennifer Booton from Fox Business aptly called a “Fleet of Transformers.” Her article, Walmart’s Future Fleet of Transformers, is both exciting and a little scary. They are sleek and futuristic, using the latest in all technologies. But the real innovation seems to be coming in the way in which they travel. Walmart wants to enable “platooning” with these vehicles. That means they ride bumper to bumper down the highway. To do this, they need to be automated and to communicate with one another. You don’t have to think long to imagine that Walmart is looking to get rid of drivers.
Platooning Transformers is on the large end of the spectrum, but what about small things? Even honey bees might be out of a job soon. With the declining populating of pollinators due to mysterious causes, scientists have been working on micro-drones as substitutes. Dina Spector’s article, Tiny Flying Robots are Being Built to Pollinate Crops Instead of Real Bees, demonstrates that automation is coming to all domains, even the tiny ones. Micro-drones have huge implications because now even the tiniest of tasks can be automated.
In my mind, curiosity is the main contributor to creativity. That’s because curious people are compelled to seek out new things. Certitude on the other hinders creativity. People who are certain, are sure they already know the answers. Therefore, they don’t seek out new information. See Adam Savage explain how asking questions helped Richard Feynman, Eratosthenes and Armand Fizeau in his TED-Ed, talk, How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries.
The general impression among people is that kids are more creative than adults. The idea is that kids are more open to new possibilities and less constrained by rules and practicality. In support of this line of thought James Hamblin recently posted, Everyone Was an Artist in Kindergarten, in The Atlantic. The proof in this assumption comes from casual surveys taken by the creative consultant, Gordon MacKenzie, during speaking engagements with young students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade.
When MacKenzie would ask kindergarteners, “how many of you are artists?” all would raise their hand. But with older kids, an interesting trend develops. Fewer and fewer students identify themselves as artists as they grow up. By sixth grade, only a small percentage raises their hand in response to the same question of being an artist. The reason for this is that as kids grow up, they feel the judgmental pressures from others and don’t want to take the risk of being judged as weird.
But if we look deeper into the definition of creativity and how it works, there’s another way we could look at this same trend. The most widely recognized definition for creativity is “the production of something novel and useful.” It has three parts. The first part pertains to making. You have to actually make something to be considered creative. Secondly, that thing has to be different, novel, from other things already in existence. The extent to which this thing is different from other things ranges from being novel to you, to being novel to humanity. Then thirdly, this novel thing you create has to useful; it has to solve a problem. The better it does that, the more creative it is rated.
Young children do feel a sense of freedom because they aren’t aware of being judged. But they don’t create many finished products. And if you were to look at the things they make, they are very similar. And mostly, they are the product of what an adult has told them to do. In the end, these things that kids make are rarely more useful than refrigerator decorations. But as kids grow up, they tend to be more selective in what they choose to create. And they the things they create tend to be more functional. And as they get even older, their creations tend to be more unique.
I’ll give you two case studies, my kids (names withheld).
Case study #1
A long time ago (in kid years), my daughter would sing songs for me. I’d push her on the swing in our backyard and she would makeup songs on any topic I gave her. Usually, the themes centered on clouds, grass, fairies or other similar subject matter. While I was overwhelmed with enthusiasm about her ability to create such wonderful phrases, her creations would barely be considered songs if they were written down. In fact, she never wrote any of them down. That’s partly due to the fact that she couldn’t read or write at the time. Today, she can’t remember any of them. Five years later, she won’t sing any songs for me. She gets embarrassed. Did she loose her ability to be creative
Yesterday, my daughter took a sketchbook lying around her room and drew a bunch of dress designs. These days, she spends much of her time changing clothes. This is where her interest lies. The designs she created are all well documented, colored and have intricate patterning. Honestly, they are pretty sophisticated.
Case studey #2
My son, who is much more reserved than my daughter, used to create the most beautiful finger paintings while in pre-K. We even have one framed on the wall. Today as an eleven year old, he never paints.
What he does instead is to obsess on all things NASCAR. He watches races, plays with his collection of NASCAR replicas, and plays NASCAR on the Wii. He has an app on his iPod that enables him to create stop-animation videos of races he stages. Additionally, he has constructed foam core replicas of many of the racetracks in the NASCAR sprint cup series. He does this by drawing the general shape of the track on a flat piece of foam core, and then cutting it out with is pocket knife. Then, he cuts out the rails and tapes everything together. The tracks even include pit areas. He does all this all on his own. In time, he has created new ways of constructing tracks and more effective ways of filming his videos.
Are my kids more or less creative than before?
Let’s take a look back at being an artist. When we think of artists, we think of creativity. But not all artists are creative. Many artists, base their entire careers on tradition. This misconception often comes from people confusing creativity with expression. You can easily be very expressive without being creative. Also, artists don’t have a lock on creativity. Creative people are found in all sorts of fields. So just because kids don’t think of themselves as artists, doesn’t mean they don’t still want to do creative acts. Remember, I’m an artist who exhibited and sold works for years.
What I’m trying to say is that just because we don’t all see ourselves as artists, doesn’t mean we aren’t creative. Today all fields involve creativity, not just art. In fact, many adults are far more creative than kids. Partly, that’s because adults have the ability to follow through on their creative ideas.
With all the 3D printers, flying drones and app designs getting so much of the attention related to innovation these days, it’s easy to think technology is the answer for all things creative. But on the contrary, there are still tons of low-tech creative solutions to be designed. Many times, because of the simplicity in many low-tech solutions, they are the most useful. And what an amazing rush to create something new from things like cardboard, yard sale finds, or just plain garbage.It just takes is some open-mindedness, experimentation and time. Take a look at these examples of low-tech innovation.
Here are some related posts on some related creative strategies