Turkey: On Creativity

Last Updated: 15 September 2016
Article by İzel Levi Coşkun

In an exam I had to sit as a Ph.D. student, one of our professors asked which major phenomena would be shaping business life in future. My answer to that question was very simple and clear: Creativity.

Is not it creativity what breaks vicious circles, makes the unsolvable solvable and prepares us for the future in whatever it is that we do?

I believe that in the near future we will be seeing special creative teams be formed, "creativity" of system managers be brought to the foreground and career announcements contain expressions like "creators wanted" (only for design) for every sector and profession (including my own profession, accounting and consultancy). I certainly did include these in my answer to fancy it up a little...

But then what is "creativity"? Einstein's description of creativity is interesting... He describes creativity as "combinatorial play": "If associations are made between concepts that are rarely combined – that is, if balls that don't normally come near one another collide- the ultimate novelty of the solution will be greater". (I recommend you to visit www.creativethinking.net to learn more about combinatorial play). I will be mentioning the underlined expressions of "rarely combined", "associations are made" and "novelty" later in this article.

Studies show that one of the fundamental components of creativity is "spontaneity". The book "Psikodrama'da Seçme Konular" edited by Deniz Altınay contains several definitions on the characteristics of the spontaneous individual. Similarly, M. Kalliopuska defines spontaneity as "the ability to express oneself"; Thomas A. Wyatt as "lack of consciousness, a form of unconsciousness"; Gordon Moskowitz as "childness" and David Read Johnson as "assuming a risk without self-doubt and feeling guilty". If we put these definitions together and place Gordon's definition of "childness" in the center we will see that they are all pointing to a very young age when we were able to express ourselves freely even if we did not know how to speak and be "ourselves" only.

J. L. Moreno, the founder of psychodrama which roughly refers to "using the theater as a treatment tool in psychology" defines spontaneity as "here-and-now". With its functionality, spontaneity drives the individual towards a new behavior intended for a new situation or an old situation. The process here may then be compared to the process of problem solving. A striking example to that would be Alexander the Great's story of overcoming the Gordion knot with a spontaneous move of cutting it.

According to Morena, creativity of individuals whose spontaneity is suppressed is hindered. In consideration of the fact that childhood spontaneity is the natural state, an individual whose spontaneity is hindered to result in unproductiveness and failure to reflect inner energy will melt away and disappear.

But why have I told all these? It is because I believe that creativity is the most important component that adds value to systems.

Creativity, combined with spontaneity which would refer to being natural or spontaneous or perhaps in other words, being oneself, one takes the first step to being creative.

Yet the reality is we are all brought up in a system where acting like a child is disapproved; an individual who acts fully natural is declared "abnormal" and excluded; making mistakes requires feeling guilty and where asking too many questions are considered inappropriate. In fact, a system that hinders our creativity and does not allow us to be ourselves and work places with generally the same structure...

Taking into consideration the where globalization, reshaping our lives with its recent level of acceleration currently stands, we can see that culture industry (*) patrons are producing forming assimilated individuals and a personality model which does not search and adopt consumption as their motto instead of production. In shorts, both employers and consumers are being assimilated. Sadly such standardization has become effective in our understanding of production to date. We have accordingly turned into a country which does not take creativity as basis but is extremely good at contract manufacturing – a country which with its low production costs in textile has been among countries on the top of the list for years. Until China traveled all the way to join the competition. Avoiding creativity and maximizing consumer benefit; not orientating towards branding which is the challenging part of the job; failing to make difference develop towards such goal and adopting standard production instead of developing difference to create added value are the reasons for the crisis the textile industry is experiencing today.

In consideration of all these, perhaps the worst we can do to ourselves in life is to deprive ourselves of creativity, a blessing of God. Similarly, the worst that a company can do to itself is to deprive itself of creative individuals. Where creativity is lacking, it would be impossible for companies to attain a sustainable competitive advantage. I will continue with a quotation from Jack Foster's "Ideaship": "It's hard to overstate the importance of creativity in the workplace, of having employees who bubble with ideas and solutions to problems. Indeed, Nathan Mhryvold, former chief technology officer of Microsoft, says that a great employee is worth 1000 thousand more than an average one. The reason? Because of the quality of her ideas."

Rollo May explains in his book "The Courage to Create" as follows: "Nor is the courage required (to create) mere stubbornness- we shall surely have to create with others. But if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself."

Going back to the definition of combinatorial play that was made earlier, whether you are currently working or searching for a job, please do not hesitate to combine only the rare associations that reflect you and can bee seen by you to enrich your ideas and introduce those around you to novelties. For systems which do not allow for this you have two options. Either change the system or move to another system... But definitely keep in mind that you may be the creator of a new system.


(*) One of the fundamental concepts that express the general approach of the Frankfurt School; particularly developed and used by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno.
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