Creativity is the connective tissue that is holding us all together


The problem with my shoulder.

I've got a problem with my shoulder. Actually, it is many small problems compounding one another; all regarding a piece of anatomy regarded as the largest and most complex joints in the body. My small problems include: a shortened clavical/ collar bone following a complete break (from a motorbike accident in my teens); a small tear to my infraspinatus tendon (from swimming butterfly without proper warmup) and a severed nerve from surgery removing a melanoma.

The result of all this is lack of power in that arm, frequent stiffness, some pain and lots of irritation. Many visits to physiotherapists, chiropractors and biokinetists has not set me right - yet. Another result for me is a huge appreciation for connective tissue. We tend to take it for granted until it is not working properly!

The magic of connective tissue

We have many types of connective tissue in our bodies. They include adipose connective tissue (pictured above), blood, tendons, cartilage and bone. When our connective tissue is not connecting properly, well, 'Houston, we have a problem.' Broken bones, torn tendons and blood deficiencies stop our bodies temporarily (or permanently) from operating as they were designed to.

Our response is key. If we ignore these problems they are likely to get serious. Usually, the quicker we respond and act with deliberate counter measures (a splint for our broken bone, physical therapy for our tendon tear) the more quickly we are able to heal and restore our strength. This action requires an investment of time and money and, most often, regular, persistent effort. (Yes, I know, I should have done my prescribed shoulder exercises more diligently at home!)

Creativity is the connective tissue that holds us together

Yesterday I was inspired by Adobe CEO, Shantaru Narayen's, powerful opening address at the launch of Adobe's AdobeMAX global conference. He said:  
"Now more than ever, the world needs creativity. In fact, creativity is the connective tissue that is holding us all together. It is creativity and ingenuity that will allow us to emerge stronger." Shantaru Narayen, CEO Adobe

I love this image of creativity as connective tissue. Creativity is what we all have in common. I truly believe that we are creative by design. Part of our purpose as humans is to co-create the world we live in. Whether we are building families, businesses, societies, communities, objects, artworks, philosophies or cities, we are engaged in the creative act of making something that was not there before we got involved. We all have an innate desire to create. 

 "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul."  - Dieter Uchtdorf 

Connective tissue binds structures together, it forms a framework and it supports all the organs in the body. Similarly, creativity not only binds us by our common desire to create but it gives us a framework for thinking (like our skeleton) and provides every person with life support (like our blood.) Let me explain how.

Creativity as a framework for thinking

Dr Ruth Noller's formula for creativity provides a simple and helpful way of understanding this complex concept. 

C = fa(K,I,E)

Noller applied her background as a former professor of mathematics to develop a formula describing the factors that produce creative behavior. In her formula, represented as C = ƒa(KIE), she explained that creativity is generated by the interaction between Knowledge (K), Imagination (I), and Evaluation (E). This is all multiplied by (a) = our attitude.

It's helpful to think of creative intelligence (when defined as problem solving ability) not as a singular quality but a spectrum. On one end is deductive, rules-based reasoning and on the other is imaginative, possibilities-based improvisation.

  • K (knowledge) – obtained through our life experiences.
  • I (imagination) – ones ability to generate ideas or make connections.
  • E (evaluation) – examing the advantages and disadvantages of a particular idea or situation.

Consider a child who’s perceived to be strong in imagination and not as strong in knowledge or evaluation. Likewise, adults may possess varied levels of knowledge and evaluation, but may lack the belief or understanding of how tap into their imagination. 

So creativity as a framework for thinking, shows us that we not only need knowledge (K), but we need to critically evaluate (E) what we think, say and do. Where I come from, most schools score well on getting knowledge into children's heads, but not so well on getting them to evaluate what they learn and deduce their own opinions. The I in the middle of the formula, Imagination, is often stamped out of us by the time we leave school. This is the wild, juicy, freedom to perceive and create things in our minds that are not immediately apparent to our senses. When all of this is multiplied by the right attitude (hope rather than despair, self-belief rather than self-doubt) our imagination enables us to conjure up ideas, see possibilities and wonder about the great thing that could be. 

Creativity is our life support

Ever get cold fingers that turn yellow and go tingly? Our tissue does not do very well without blood flowing to it. Left for too long without blood, it will die. I once saw a picture of a mountaineer whose nose had got frost bite on Mount Everest and had gone black and fallen off. Awful! I'm sure you can think of some people who are so drained of creativity that they hardly seem alive. A life  without creativity is like a zombie life. It's moving but its dead inside. Some corporate cultures are like this! There is no energy, no vibrancy, no natural sparkle in people's eyes. Running a business with a culture like this, is like keeping a fleet of Ferraris in your garage and only using them for their sound systems. The machines need to be taken out on the open road and raced at high speed. People need to get their brains out of the garage and put into action finding solutions, solving problems and coming up with brilliant new ways your business can succeed. 

Are you living on false life support?

Aside from serious conditions and illnesses, such as clinical depression, consider these scenarios. If you're only living to get to Friday, take a good look at the health of your creativity. If you can't remember when last you did something that made you feel truly yourself, examine the flow of creativity through you. If you feel joyless and like you've 'lost your mojo', you may be needing to unblock creativity in your life. 

A call to creativity

Shantaru Narayen, closed with a call to creativity. He urged us to use our creativity and to inspired others to use theirs to. With our creativity we can create the positive change we all long to see. 


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