Nonprofit Studies Program, Rhode Island College
Providence, Rhode Island
- The word “creativity” suggests not only a state of mind where individuals or groups advance original approaches to artistic endeavors, but it also describes a path to problem solving and innovative thinking that challenges and confronts us all. Unlike “imagine,” which says nothing of active participation or expending the effort to realize a goal, “creativity” suggests being engaged and tangible results; it’s more of an action verb. We need to encourage every individual and organization to realize their potential to think and act creatively – despite their assumptions about what that word depicts - as a means to move towards ingenuity and problem solving. Creating is not for artists alone: Everyone should own a piece of it.
- Creating is giving birth to an idea and considers the implementation of it – a singular, exhaustive act – and is full of challenges. Like the word “imagine,” creativity suggests optimism and openness; it is seldom viewed as an unwelcomed trait. Who looks negatively on creativity unless the purpose is to do harm and trade in evil? We must make every effort to operate within the realm of the positive and to do good as we exercise our freedom to think inventively. Evil and profound self-interest exists in the world, as history has so illustriously proven. Equipped with an informed conscience, we must reflect on our motivation and actions. Turning this outward, we must also be courageous to speak to those “creative” measures implemented by other individuals, organizations and governments that are blind to the cause of human rights, the dignity of each individual, and the well-being of the environment that we all share.
- Risk and failure is often the unwelcome product of the creative act, and seldom do the initial results, trials and iterations reveal the kind of successes we are pleased with, and are applauded for. We should encourage those who are immersed in this endeavor to continue their work, to forge a path in hope, and to accept the struggle that’s intrinsic to the process. This requires time, patience and minimal distraction. It can be a hard but beautiful exercise to watch - be it student, peer, colleague or child – but encouraging words make a difference.
- We are a loud bunch of walking heads in search of maximum distraction. We don’t recognize the importance of silence in the pursuit of creative endeavors. Encourage most everyone to turn off their IPODs, shut off their TVs and unplug their laptops - at least for a period of time. We’ll all get better results when we can dismiss the chatter.
- We often don’t know what product or service we need until it is presented to us. The creative mind or corporation or nonprofit or educational institution will fulfill that need because they are examining and thinking innovatively. Maybe the motive is sometime in question, but it provides us with something we couldn’t articulate or order, let alone create ourselves. Surprising us with how well one thinks they know our needs is creative and worthy of our attention.
- Even though it can’t be defined, everyone wants to work in an environment that fosters creativity and encourages the capacity for our limitless potential; it is life affirming, potentially edifying, and downright fun. Yes, fun. Even with the struggle and hardship of creating a new concept/object/method, at some point in our lives, we seek the exhilaration of being part of something that transcends our mundane daily routine. As employers , teachers and administrators, we need to remind ourselves of those occasions in the past where we have experienced that kind of joy, and find ways to encourage that within the culture of the school or business.
- Collaboration matters, and for some it is the most direct path to thinking creatively, to testing an idea, to problem solving, or to playing to the strengths of others as a way to achieve an end goal. It is important to be generous to your partner or team and not be focused on who owns the idea or what part of it. It is a call to giving and selflessness for the good of the whole. In a rock-star culture that emphasizes the individual, this requires a real “death-to-the-ego” exercise, but once beyond that, it can yield some astonishing results. Go ahead and give it a try ... it’s been my professional mode of operation for 24 years.
- Learn from the shampoo instructions: lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I believe in that, too.