What creativity can do

“If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.” – Paul Arden

Before 1697 it was impossible to fathom that a swan could be any color other than white. “Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno” the saying went, “a rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan.”

Early digital computers were often the size of entire rooms and were only used for complex calculations. In 1977, then President of Digital Equipment Corp. famously quipped: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Up until Salvador Dali made The Persistence of Memory – detailed clocks painted as melting over a desert landscape – very few people (if any) had thought of incorporating scientific theories into surrealistic artwork.

Of course these things are all easy to scoff. Of course swans can be colors other than white. Of course computers would have shrunk to fit in our hands. And of course paintings can incorporate deep scientific or philosophical meaning.

Yes, of course, here we are.

But remember that it was once common to believe the world was flat. That was reality some centuries ago. It was right to believe that nobody would want a room-sized computer in their home. It was expected that swans could only be white.

We see these things as flawed thoughts today because we know that they are. We have the evidence – black swans, iPhones, paintings made by computers – in front of us.

How many things do you believe exist today that are wrong? How many impossibilities will we, as a species, overcome? What can creativity do?

There are problems in the world today which solutions certainly exist for, we simply haven’t thought of them yet.

We can start small, your dreams of starting a business, of hanging your work in a famous museum, of publishing a popular book. All are ideas that can certainly exist.

It’s not a matter of whether or not these things are possible. To solve the world problems, to make our ideas a reality, is a matter of how tackle the tasks.

In all areas creativity is the approach we must take. That’s one part of the reason creativity matters, and that our future depends on educating the value it provides. It’s not enough to emphasis intelligence and analytical thinking in today’s world. We must recognize just how powerful the creative mind can be.

Some solutions will fail, of course. Some will remain incomprehensible until other realms of technology or thinking improve themselves. But anything is possible given enough brain power and time.

To again quote Paul Arden: “If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.”

If you want to help move the world forward, even just a smidge, you have to start by pursuing creativity. You do that by breaking the rules of what you believe or think you know.

Photo by Dylan Steinberg.


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