Creating creativity.

I was just reading a new post on Creativity Unbound -- a GREAT blog, by the way – about creating creativity. Specifically, the post is about “Thomas Vogel, an Emerson College professor currently on sabbatical to research and write a book on” creativity. According to the post, Vogel will look at three things:

1. Techniques for identifying creative talent.

2. Whether a culture or environment can encourage creativity.

3. How to evaluate creative ideas.

I will want to read the book and I wish Mr. Vogel well in his endeavor, but I wonder if he isn’t chasing a chimera. I, for one, don’t believe there is any definitive way to reliably be creative. And if there is, it’s competition. I come from the ad world, so I base this observation on creative departments I have known, but I can comfortably say that the more competitive the group the better the outcome. Once some creative ideas had sprouted into being, then a more collaborative environment was good, because the talent of the full group could be brought to bear on the ideas showing the most promise. But to get those raw seeds of brilliance discord was better than concord. I wish this weren’t so, I truly do, but its truth has been demonstrated too many times. Especially in music.

Whenever I read that a new album just “came together”, that everyone involved was on the same page and ideas just flowed, I can be pretty sure it’s going to suck. Whereas the difficult albums (Axl Rose’s Chinese Democracy being a notable exception) are the great ones. Competition doesn’t always have to be ugly, either. Think back on the Stones and Beatles. They weren’t slinging mud at each other, but they sure as hell were trying to outdo each other. Even within the bands there was competition. Lennon vs. McCartney, Jagger vs. Richards. These guys weren’t all loveydovey. They were hell bent on being the best. Now consider a band that used to be competitive but is less so today, Metallica. I watched “Some Kind of Monster” with utter dismay, knowing that a creative process in which everyone has an equal voice is sure to result in mush.

No, the truth great creativity only happens when the individuals involved feel something is at stake and want to win and are willing to fight like hell (civilly, of course) to prevail.

More to come one this, but right now I gotta go be creative!