Out Of Our Minds is about how we can set ourselves and our children up for doing good work in organizations around the globe, thanks to leaving behind the old mass education model and unleashing our individual creativity.
This is my fifth time making an active effort to be creative today. I’ve written four answers on Quora, three of which I made up from scratch and one I adapted from a previous piece of writing. Now I’m writing this summary and in between, I watched a movie, talked to people, read and listened to music. My life is a creativity powerhouse and I love it.
It wasn’t always this way. It used to. Way back when I was little. I’d play and dream and build Legos and make up stories. And then school came around. Then high school. And college. Inch by inch, the creativity was driven out of me. Like it has been out of you. It’s time we take it back.
Not just because we deserve to, but because we have no choice. Creativity is the most valuable skill you could have, given the future of the world is more uncertain than it ever was. In fact, it might be the only valuable skill.
Here are 3 lessons from Sir Ken Robinson’s Out Of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative about why, what it is and how to avoid being bound by old thinking:
- Since the world keeps evolving faster, creativity will be our way to stay on top.
- You can look at creativity as applied imagination.
- We’re scared of being creative because we think we have to give up our rules and take the blame alone.
In a world where we need to adapt faster than ever to succeed, it would be out of our minds to not get out of our minds. So let’s soar and take a look from up high!
Lesson 1: As evolution changes faster and faster, creativity will become our competitive edge.
One of Google’s scientists concerned primarily with the future coined a phrase: the Law of Accelerating Returns. It describes the habit of evolution to speed up. For example, ships and carriages were the de facto mode of transportation for almost 2,000 years before 150 years ago, we came up with steam engine trains. A mere 30 years later, we had cars. Another 20 and we had commercial airplanes. Little after that, we set foot on the moon.
The gap of modern technology to past accomplishments gets wider and wider with each new pc, each new smartphone, each new piece of tech. For example, while a modern watch has more power and memory than the 1969 Apollo Moonlander, a modern smart watch or iPhone has more computing power than we had on the entire planet in 1940.
What does all this mean? It means we live in a world where the rules change faster than we can keep track of and in such a world, following the rules is dead.
If you’re hoping you can get a nice, cushy job, where you do what you’re told for 40 years and go home with a big, fat pension check, you may kiss that fantasy goodbye right now. It’s very unlikely to happen. From here on out, all good careers will be built on being creative.
Lesson 2: Creativity is applied imagination.
Few of us ever bother to do it, but if we researched what makes humans unique in the animal world, we’d realize biologically, there are very few elements we don’t share with some other species. What no other living being can do like us is psychological: simulate. Our imagination is limitless.
We can mentally travel back to the past, analyze it and learn from it to do better in the future. We can consider our context in the present and imagine our situation from someone else’s perspective. And, our ultimate simulation power, we can consider the events we haven’t yet experienced.
All creativity really is, then, is applying this imagination in the real world. We do this by channeling our creativity into one of three kinds of mediums:
Physical, like forming steel, weaving cloth or cooking food.
Sensory, like singing, giving a speech or performing magic.
Cognitive, like writing or crunching numbers.
Whichever medium we step into, the creative process then always plays out in the same two steps, over and over: we come up with ideas, which we then either improve or eventually reject.
So what’s stopping us?
Lesson 3: A common mistake in creativity is that we think we have to let go of our rules and take the blame.
Besides the old, industrial model of school, which keeps us thinking in boxes, there are two common pitfalls that keep us from using our creativity to its full capacity in our careers:
We think we’re the one to get blamed if ideas don’t work out.
We believe creativity is synonymous with chaos.
In reality, it’s our job as leaders, regardless of how much responsibility we carry, to make it easier for others to be creative, so that the whole business may thrive. People need to feel comfortable and safe to dare and try new things. In the same way, having rules is actually helpful, as it sets up a frame of control, which we can then step out of at certain times.
Only when you learn to get over these old, albeit persistent dogmas, can you develop the flexibility you need to thrive in today’s uncertain world.
My personal take-aways
Sir Ken Robinson provides interesting insights all around. From framing recent human history in minutes to make the speed of evolution graspable, to going from abstract concepts to concrete implementations, to showing ways in which our current business landscape is flawed in fostering creativity, he provides a nice overview of one of the most important topics of our time.