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Creativity in the 21st Century

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The G 20 summit in Toronto is now over and, not surprisingly, one of the conclusions of the conference was that in order to attract investors, nations need to provide an "environment that promotes creativity."(1) From politics to business to education to sports, creativity is one of the buzzwords of this decade. We used to think of creativity as the province of artists, musicians and writers. Now we're waking up to the fact that all facets of modern life demand creative input.

Do you think of yourself as creative?

Let me suggest just a few of the reasons why you should foster your creative skills, regardless of how you answered that question (and yes, you are creative! The human brain is actually built for creativity, so take advantage of your innate abilities).(2)

The information/technology explosion, along with cyber-communication and globalization, are transforming the way we learn, the way we do business and the way we form relationships with each other. Things are changing so rapidly in the 21st century that you need to exercise your creative abilities just to survive (let alone thrive!). This is because there are no longer any rulebooks for how to move forward -- as a business, as a society or as an individual. And yet we are being propelled forward at breakneck speed by our own technology! We don't have any choice: either we keep pace or we fall behind.

Think about this: If you own a business, how are you going to fight the uphill battle of cutting costs while maintaining quality and providing an innovative product or service rather than the same old product that your competitors are providing? If you're currently unemployed, how do you navigate the job market in the midst of an economic downturn where both recent college graduates and middle-aged out-of-work executives with loads of experience are competing against you? Reinventing your business or your career may be a necessary part of the survive/thrive process today, and that takes both creativity and courage.

How about your social interactions? Look at how technology is transforming the way we meet potential mates. In the old days, you met new people in school, the workplace or blind dates set up by friends. Today, you meet new people on Facebook or Match.com. Often that means you are competing against the whole universe of other singles who are looking for love in all the "throng" places. How do you compete? Like bowerbirds (who build creative nests to attract mates), you gotta be creative!

If you're a parent, how do you manage to pass on family values to children who live more harried lives than most adults did just a generation ago? How do you communicate with a child who, despite your best efforts, is wired 24/7 to iPod, Facebook and Grand Theft Auto? How do you impart a sense of balance to a child who is constantly bombarded by media that equate self-worth with anorexic thinness, pleasing a man in bed or having the athletic prowess of a superhero? You can do it; but as a parent, you need to come up with creative ideas to compete with electronic gadgets and today's sensationalized media agenda for your child's attention.

Speaking of which, how do you keep yourself balanced when there are so many demands on your time and personal resources? To maintain your energy -- and your sanity -- you need to find creative ways to manage your time so that you can juggle the demands of modern existence while still insuring that your hours and days remain rich and meaningful.

In short, creativity is important for artists, writers, musicians and inventors; but it is also crucial for societies, businesses and individuals who need to juggle fulfillment with the demands of the rapid-change culture. You not only need to be creative to enhance your life, you need it to survive.

In future posts, I'll be keeping you up to speed on the latest research findings in the field of creativity, including psychological and neuroscience findings. I'll also share tips with you on how to enhance your creativity and productivity, as well as stories about individuals -- past and present -- whose lives were changed by exercising their creative brains. If you have a story about how a creative idea has changed your life, or the life of someone you know, please share it. We are going to explore the world of creative ideas about creativity together!

Today's creative tip:
Read widely on a variety of different topics (the Huffington Post is a great place to start!). Try to expand your areas of interest. Become an information sponge. The essence of creativity is the ability to combine disparate bits of information in novel and original ways to form new ideas.(3) In order to do this, you want to expand your brain's repository of "bits of information" by learning about new topics and developing new skills.

References
1. Source: http://g20.gc.ca/minister-van-loan-promotes-canadian-economy-and-technologies-at-g-20-summit/
2. Carson, S. (2010). Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
3. Mednick, S. (1962). The associative basis of the creative process. Psychological Review, 69, 220-232.

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