Wired for creativity

Qantas Wunala Dreaming, By Balarinji. Munro Photography.

A survey reputedly asked a group of lawyers, doctors and bankers if they would prefer to be artists, musicians or writers. A high number replied they would. When the question was flipped and asked of artists, musicians and writers, not one of them wanted to swap. Unsurprising. Creativity feeds the soul. But since most creative practitioners live on a financial precipice, few big-end-of-town professionals would jump if an exchange were actually on the table.

Not everyone has a novel in them, nor sings in tune on cue. Few of us will paint a masterpiece. Fortunately creativity is not always predicated on genius. It is also a mindset. For me, it is the number one resilience factor for business success. I love the fact we have on staff a financial controller who dances competitively, a client manager who collects art, and a program manager who writes comedy. They bring an extra dimension.

The Oxford Dictionary defines creativity as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness. Business Dictionary.com says it is the ‘mental characteristic that allows a person to think outside of the box which results in innovative or different approaches’. The California State University describes creative people as those ‘who experience the world in novel and original ways…whose perceptions are fresh, whose judgments are insightful.’ So what wires a workplace for creativity?

We build creative workplaces by investing in a creative society, and our practicing artists are society’s creative brains trust. It may not be immediately apparent how a concert pianist brings power to a logistics business, a novelist to a software mogul, or a ceramicist to aviation. But they do. Arts practitioners generate phenomenal intellectual and spiritual horsepower in the pursuit of their craft. When we experience their artistry, we glimpse the workings of the creative mind and take something new away with us. We’ve all felt the power of a film that profoundly moves us, a book that jolts us, or a piece of music that transports us. It runs deeper than entertainment. We return to the “real world” slightly changed.

So where do we think our society incubates creativity? Why do we place such a low value on our artists? In December 2015, in practically the same breath as the Prime Minister announced a $1 billion package for the sciences to “kick start innovation culture”, the government made a raft of paralyzing cuts to the Arts. That disconnect completely misses the point. It sets innovation up for failure, by starving the most fundamental form of human creativity.

As business owners or professionals, a personal contribution we can make to building the well of creativity in our community is to get more involved in the arts. Buy tickets, speak up about funding policy, sponsor events and artists, follow crowd funders, take a writing course, make a reading list, go to a festival. Creativity brings the X factor to business, and the arts can lead us there.

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