The State of Creativity

This is a collaboration with my all-time favourite fellow thinker @creative.dumpling! Interested in what we think about creativity? Read on! (btw guys the photo below is a stock photo - yes i know there are plastic cups in the photo, and please chill… no plastic cups were harmed in the making of this blog)


The State of Creativity

Cooking yummy ideas with the creative dumpling since 2018

Why are we so scared of being creative?

Kammie: Why are we so scared of creativity? I went to a workshop the other day and we were asked to talk about ideas. We think every single minute of the day, why are we short of ideas? Perhaps it’s always tied to the concept of ‘creativity’. We always have the perception that creativity is something unique, different, which is not wrong, but we also associate it with adjectives such as ‘brilliant’, ‘wonderful’, ‘wow!’

What exactly is creativity? Is a brilliant idea a showcase of natural gift in creativity? Or is it a result of a person constantly thinking of ideas, and not being emotionally / psychologically punished, assessed, or inhibited. Perhaps out of 1000 ideas, there’s one that is so good that it finally warrants attention and hence called ‘creativity’?  Creativity is so well celebrated, and much needed in our civilisation that we might have elevated it so much that it becomes ‘something hard to reach for mortals’. ‘Oh, it’s the creatives’ job.’ Well, they are the professionals, and they deserve to be because they make a living out of it, and it’s admirable. But it doesn’t mean that we, non-creatives, aren’t creative. The level of scale, depth and variation of our ideas might not be comparable, but it doesn’t mean it’s non-existent in us.

🥟🥟🥟: Amazon launched the world’s first checkout-free supermarket. This is creative, because it uses reliable technology to improve the supermarket experience by saving people’s time from queuing up at the cashier. In the context of supermarket experience design and technology, this is groundbreaking. It changes the game. It is market disrupting. This is the type of creativity people drool over and admire. Yet, we don’t need to be an Amazon, Apple or Alibaba to be creative.

Kammie: Totally. At the workshop, one fellow participant exclaimed, ‘You’re so creative! You’ve got so many ideas! I can never be creative.’ It just was not true. We should all be creative, and we are. A creative idea doesn’t have to be revolutionary. When we have that ‘ah-ha!’ moment when we saw something interesting - doesn’t it mean that we get excited by new ideas? We are naturally tuned to like interesting ideas, and usually they are different, unique, exactly how we commonly define creativity. We like creativity.

🥟🥟🥟: To answer your question above on what creativity is - Creativity is apparent when there is a goal to achieve, from as small as choosing what to wear on a first date, to asking a favor from your colleague when you’re off on vacay, to saving up for the family. To do these kind of things, we have to be our own stylists. We have to be storytellers. We have to find ways to make our lives better. Every conscious effort in reaching these goals is a creative endeavor. By nature, we are all creative problem solvers, because most healthy human being need to express ourselves, communicate with others and strive for a better future. Creativity does not have to change the world, creativity is the practice of everyday life. That’s what creativity is.

Creativity does not have to change the world, creativity is the practice of everyday life. That’s what creativity is.

Kammie: Not only is it ubiquitous, Creativity is much needed for our society to progress, but it’s not always grand and glam. But we gave ourselves too much restrictions. We need creativity every single day. We do it when we solve problems, we do it for fun. It’s not something to be punished, or ignored.

🥟🥟🥟: The fear of robots taking over our jobs in the future has brought a renewed interest in creativity, as people talk about how it is a unique human trait AI cannot replace (yet). The challenge is, how can we train and teach creativity? Why is one thing more creative than another? How can you measure creativity?

When we describe something’s creative, this remark is nothing more than ambiguity if there’s no further elaboration. Creativity is not the easiest to define and quantify, but here are four basic criteria for creativity which is useful for any kind of creative critique and review:

  • Problem-Solution Fit: Does it solve the problem?

  • Product-Market Fit: Is it needed in market?

  • Aesthetics: Does it visually express the concept?

  • Impact: How is it affecting people, the environment or the world in a positive way?

Kammie: Interesting. I like the framework to critique and review ideas, to take our ideas to the ‘next level’. But we must be careful that these criteria shouldn’t discourage us from trying. Perhaps we are talking about different stages, or even different definition of creativity!

When creativity meets execution

There are times when creativity is considered as something bad. ‘I like your ideas, they’re creative, but I like XXX’s idea more, because they are doable.’ That to me, is something interesting to think about.

Does a creative idea mean execution? Having an idea doesn’t mean it will solve world problems the next day, and it certainly doesn’t mean the idea will 100% work. I define creativity as simply connecting the dots, making things work in a way that’s different from what you have done yesterday, or how another person do something the day before. A creative idea does not mean an entrepreneurial idea that will drive on its own and give you millions. Creativity does not have to be a goal, but a means. It’s hard to be creative for the sake of being creative.

A creative idea does not mean an entrepreneurial idea that will drive on its own and give you millions. Creativity does not have to be a goal, but a means. It’s hard to be creative for the sake of being creative.

Perhaps being creative means feeling entitled to generate new ideas with a purpose. It also involves exposure to other new ideas, and most importantly an open mind that accepts that one can have (even just occasionally) creative ideas. It’s not a task forced upon us, it is something we are entitled to doing.

That creativity doesn’t include execution doesn’t mean execution is not important! I’ve been reading a book called Creative Curve by Alan Gannett. It talks about creativity as a journey and definitely tons of hard work! It talks about the history of when we consider creators as ‘geniuses’ (are we romanticising it?) and even breaks down the biological basis of that ‘ah-ha!’ moment. He pointed out that a ‘creative idea’ alone is insufficient, what makes it ‘big’ is the ability to publicise it. A creative idea with ‘mainstream success’ means mixing familiarity with novelty. It requires knowledge and experience to identify insights, to add that little twist and novelty.

Final word

When I was young, I used to hate creative writing. Now I know why. It was without purpose. It was creativity for creativity’s sake. It is misguided. It is just random. There’s a difference between randomness vs creativity. Both requires imagination, but I guess the only difference is: purpose.

Now I’ve changed. I still hate creative writing, but I don’t think I am not creative. I know for a fact that I am not as creative as my Creative friends are, but my mindset has shifted to be: I can be creative.

So what exactly is creativity then? Perhaps it is a question that warrants a creative answer.