Mark Argent
Creativity design composition spirituality work with organisations

Creativity

Creativity seems to be both prized and feared in organisations. It’s prized as a source of new ideas and possibilities, and feared for the changes it brings. I’ve met situations where people are encouraged to “think outside the box”, with a strong sub-text of “then go back into the box”.

That tension is natural and normal, but it also marginalises the creative process. Crucially, it pushes the creative process to an edge, to be grabbed at when there is a sense of a problem, rather than woven into the natural processes of the organisation. The speed of change in the world today

I spoke recently with someone whose successful business began when an opportunity presented at her former employer, which seemed very good, but the former employer decided not to grasp. She grabbed the opportunity and it has quickly grown into a multi-million pound business. Her former employer’s failure to grasp the innovation of its doorstep cost it a highly competent employee

Going deeper

My own view is that creativity is a fundamental part of being human. One layer of it is wrapped up in generativity and sexuality. The positive side is that we have been created and we create. The negative is that there are lots of social conventions and taboos which keep sexual energy from undermining society, and some of those get turned on the sexual as well, which creates some big inhibitions on the creative. It’s not simply a matter of ignoring the inhibitions, but naming them is a start.

Another way into this space is to get recognise that getting in touch with ehte creative is also about affirming the value of one’s own existence. Gay creativity offers illustrations of two ways this can go: for some, being gay is a struggle to exist and creativity is very hard, and for others — usually the ones who have found a way to recognise that their existence is good, whatever others have said — creativity becomes deeply life-affirming. It’s a journey from within which has rich fruits outside.

It’s interesting that we often talk of creative breakthroughs as “left field” and yet “sinister” from the latin for left (sinistra). I don’t think this is a coincidence, because creative leaps often involve revisiting things others have ignored, or dismissed as “bad”. This is not to say that all “bad” things are “good”, but is to say that the disruptive exuberance of creativity often challenges our assumptions. One of the reasons why people are encouraged to “think outside the box” and then step back into it is because the challenging of assumptions can make people feel uncomfortable. Yet with no challenging of assumptions there is no creativity, no change, and only a gradual stiffling.

Developing creativity

One of the paradoxes is that “developing creativity” on its own, as if it is a good thing is often more-or-less impossible. “Being creative” because it improves an organisation’s bottom line is usually self-defeating because it carries all the assumptions which make the current business model work. The trick is to learn to tolerate and even enjoy am element of chaos — not exactly as something disruptive, unless an organisation has become too rigid — but as something which is about being alive. It has to be little profligate, as trees bursting into bloom seem profligate, but it is in the chaos and the tolerance of chaos that it’s possible to catch the creative spark, and the serendipitous moment when a creative spark can turn into the light that illumines.