Monday, September 12, 2016

Halting Creativity

In the movie “The Wall,” during the song “another Brick in the Wall,” the accompanying visuals show a classroom filled with students, where the students all of a sudden have the same face.  During the same song, they are seen on a conveyor belt moving towards a meat grinder.  The underlying point, through the dystopian and horrifying representation, is that the students molded into the same image; following the same mold without deviation.

As we get older, does this “you must follow the masses” mentality help or hinder creativity?

As the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has gone on to create one of the most disruptive technologies.  Prior to that he worked on Wall Street.  He tells the story of informing his boss at the time about his intentions of leaving his company and starting his own business.  After taking a two-hour walk to discuss Jeff’s thoughts on his potential new venture, the boss agrees that it is a great idea, but someone else should do it (wanting him to stay and follow the mold).  Lucky for us, he left the job and started the company that has forever changed the way we shop.

I have sat in meetings where a great idea has come up – “That is not how we do it here,” is sometimes the response.  Or, in a group discussing change where a measure of creativity is utilized.  Everyone agrees, nods their heads, and then through some measure of subtlety, leave the room as if the conversations never occurred.  This can be stifling to ones endeavors, shut down creative thinking and, potentially, lead to others rolling their eyes and have the thought bubble appear over their heads stating, “Here he goes again.”

There is this thinking in the arts as well.  In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand displays a potential impact of a mass entitlement mindset, where creativity is put down, and if you are creative, the masses should receive the profits.  In George Orwell’s classic, Animal House, the pigs end up enforcing an attitude of “You will do as we say, not as we do,” to keep the farm animals to not show any creative thinking.  In music, there have been examples, most notable was a folk singer that had the label of being the voice of a generation.  He played the traditional folk instrument of the acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied with his harmonica.  But, oh the outrage, the heckling and the booing when he came out for his now legendary second set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, when Bob Dylan went “electric.”

As we have seen in the extremist world, having any independent thoughts can lead to ostracizing, or in the most extreme, beheading.  We need independent thinking.  We need individualism.  We need creativity.  Without them, we would still adhere to the often used quote (for which I could find no original source), “If men were supposed to fly, he would have been born with wings,” and not have air travel.  Without creativity, humans would never move forward, we would still be sitting in the dark, still be using columnar paper and travel by horse.

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