Top 12 Reasons to Be Creative

An excerpt from Creative Synergy: Using Art, Science, and Philosophy to Self-Actualize Your Life

By Bunny Paine-Clemes, PhD

CreativityAre you creative and don’t know it? Creativity is in almost everything we do. Why is it so important? Here are the top 12 reasons from Bunny’s book Creative Synergy.

1.    Develops Your Full Potential

As the old army recruiting poster said, “Be the Best that You Can Be.” According to Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy, we fulfill our needs in this order: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. We must first have air, water, and food; then we need to have a safe place to live; then we need to have friends and/or a group; next we need to feel good about our accomplishments; and at last we need to experience actualization of our full potential. In his later years, Maslow added an even higher need: “transcendence,” the need to transcend our narrow identities and expand our awareness.

2. Creates Rapid Growth through Competition: The Best Ideas Will Win

Thomas L. Friedman calls our current world “flat,” because technology has connected us and eliminated many hierarchies. Bloggers are competing with standard news outlets. Mega-corporations are now competing all over the world, and one entrepreneur with a computer and an idea can compete as well. Friedman says that since the demolition of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the mid-nineties proliferation of the Windows PC, followed by the explosion of the World Wide Web, we are all in competition with one another, and the best ideas will win.

3.    Creates Effective Use of Resources

Because of the “flat world” mentioned above, we will have to learn to use our human resources wisely. Peter D. Hart Research Associates asked this question of U.S. employers. In 2006, the firm interviewed 305  employers with a staff of at least 25 and conducted focus groups with  executives in Milwaukee, Wis.; Fairfax, Vaa; and Atlanta, Ga. Overwhelmingly, these employers said that they wanted to hire new workers who had the “soft skills” provided by a liberal education: among them, teamwork (76%), oral and written communication skills (73%), critical thinking and analytical skills (70%), the ability to be innovative and think creatively (70%), and the ability to solve complex problems (64%). In addition, employers felt that colleges did not place enough emphasis on the same abovementioned skills.

4.    Fosters Discovery of “New and Better Ways to Solve Problems”

See the survey listed above. With critical thinking you can break problems into parts and critique them; with creative thinking you can synthesize ideas and have the “aha” moment that leaps beyond logic. Richard Ogle says that imagination isn’t just another form of thinking. It is a discontinuous leap based upon what he calls “idea-spaces”—nodes of influence where “the extended mind” shares ideas with others.

5.    Develops Society

According to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,  says: [While] “left-brain” capabilities powered the Information Age. . . thecapabilities we once thought of as frivolous—the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning—increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders.

In other words, the new global culture demands creativity. Walter Isaacson says that in this new global economy, “A society’s competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic table, but from how well they stimulated imagination and creativity.”

6.    Enhances your “Knowledge” Base

When you study the notebooks of Leonardo, the design of Brunelleschi’s dome, the specifics of Newton’s experiment with prisms, or the process used by Einstein or Feynman to generate ideas, you will have a bag of tools that you can apply to your own life.

7.    It’s Part of Being Human

You may think that you are not creative, but you are. Most psychologists believe that like any other skill, creativity operates on a continuum, from the “Creativity with a capital C” that denotes the thinkers listed above to the “everyday creativity” you can apply to cooking or amateur art. By studying some processes and procedures, you can learn how to enhance the creativity you have.

8.    Augments of Your “Mental Health”

If we are prevented from exercising our full potential, we can feel depressed or even ill. Creativity, however we practice it, is part of our higher need for self-actualization. Industrial engineers have come to realize that the old assembly line jobs, with their mind-numbing monotony, have an adverse effect on workers. Creativity is one of the basic human virtues

9.    Grows Your Body of Interest

A rich diversity of materials is now available on creativity, from the popular to the academic or the pragmatic to the theoretical. Specialized approaches also abound. Biographies of scientists like Barbara McClintock and artists like Michelangelo illuminate their creative processes. The business community regularly comments on what it calls “innovation,” and in 2006, the academic liberal arts association AAC&U released an entire issue on creativity as one of its Peer Review magazines. Between 1920 and 1950, “out of the 121,000 titles listed in Psychological Abstracts . . . only 186 dealt with creativity . . . From the late 1960’s until 1991, almost 9,000 references have been added to the creativity literature.” See the bibliography at the end of this book for many examples.

10.  Applies to “All Disciplines” in Life

One of my colleagues, upon being told of creativity in science, engineering, math, business, and maritime transportation, exclaimed, “And I thought creativity was just an artsy-fartsy thing!” Not at all! Creativity is all around us, even in the everyday objects we use.

 11.  Fosters Effective Leadership

A leader today must know how to be creative and to inspire creativity in others. A good example is U.S. Captain Michael D. Abrashoff, who commanded what he called “The Best Damn Ship in the Navy.” He states his philosophy as follows: “I worked hard to create a climate that encouraged quixotic pursuits and celebrated the freedom to fail. I never once reprimanded a sailor for attempting to solve a problem or reach a goal. I wanted my people to feel empowered, so they could think autonomously.” In the modern maritime world, the empowerment that supports both creativity and leadership occurs in the system of Bridge Resource Management.

12.  Enhances the “Learning Process”

Thomas L. Friedman says that in our fast-changing global economy, “Average Joe has to become special, specialized, synthesizing, or adaptable Joe.” The world of the future belongs to the lifelong learner— someone willing to explore new ideas.

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

Bunny Paine-Clemes, PhD, is a professor of transpersonal studies at Atlantic University. For 20 years, she was a Professor of Liberal Arts at Cal State Maritime, specializing in humanities, world culture, and creativity. She has an MA and PhD in British literature. She lives with her husband, father, and many cats in an 1887 home once owned by a sea captain who corresponded with Albert Einstein and Edgar Cayce and is the subject of a novel by Jane Smiley. Her interests include creativity, metaphysics, Eastern philosophy, non-ordinary states of consciousness, reincarnation, and European culture. She is the author of the novels A Winter’s Day andLove and Death in Vienna, and many small works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

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