Creativity, or elitism?

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Bruce Nussbaum argues that Design Thinking is a Failed Experiment. Some of this resonates with me. He thinks the ideas behind it have turned into a simplistic stagegate process effectively selling out to corporate notions of efficiency. And the term itself is alienating:

Creativity is an old concept, far older than “design.” But it is an inclusive concept. In my experience, when you say the word ‘design’ to people across a table, they tend to smile politely and think “fashion.” Say ‘design thinking,’ and they stop smiling and tend to lean away from you. But say ?creativity” and people light up and lean in toward you.

I’ve always felt a bit queasy about the term myself; it seems to take some very human ideas about working well together and turn them into something somewhat elite. When people say “Everyone in your organisation must learn Design Thinking”, I cringe.

So when Nussbaum suggests he wants to go back to plain old creativity I feel relieved. But when he starts proposing CQ, an apparently measurable Creative Intelligence, I fear we’re slipping off the path yet again.

One of the most useful guiding ideas in improv theatre is the value of the ordinary and doing the obvious. I get quite depressed that many conversations about creativity and innovation seem to make it an elite activity. There’s a terrible creeping pomposity around so many supposed innovation hubs, especially those with large amounts of funding and therefore hangers-on.

Nussbaum’s article is peppered with high status name drops, and nearly all of them fixed in one (American) culture. And take this paragraph near the end:

Let me end by telling you my dream: It’s 2020 and my godchild Zoe is applying to Stanford, Cambridge, and Tsinghua universities. The admissions offices in each of these top schools asks for proof of literacies in math, literature, and creativity. They check her SAT scores, her essays, her IQ, and her CQ.

That just makes my heart sink. Creativity, caring about each other, playing together, conversing… these are all good enough for me. We don’t need another concept or acronym.

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