Ever feel like your job is a repetitive series of actions with little room for fun and creativity? Does the prospect of doing the same job for the rest of your life feel uncomfortable? It may not be your job specifically but the global changes that we are all part of.
A large survey of 270,000 people of all ages (in the US) conducted by psychologist KH Kim reported a downward trend in levels of creativity over the study period. Creativity was defined as the ability to come up with original ideas, think in a detailed and elaborative way, synthesise information, and be open-minded and curious. The study concludes that if this trend isn’t reversed soon, the challenges of the future will remain unresolved.
Sadly, research shows that it is perfectly possible for us to be satisfied with a mediocre job despite the niggles that tell us we’re not living up to our true potential nor contributing our best efforts.
But why is this creativity crisis happening?
OUR ORGANISATIONS ARE OUT OF DATE
Many of us grew up in a culture in which creativity is undervalued – it doesn’t seem like the path to a stable job and schools focus standardised test scores a legacy of industrialism.
Few organisations are moving beyond the industrial model to a 21st Century approach in business and work.
The industrial revolution and capitalism have been super successful at squeezing efficiency out of humans for mass production…
Productivity has become a function of process automation and we have been both operators of the assembly line and objects on the assembly line itself through our education system.
Our brain has been moulded for certain purposes to serve the needs of the knowledge economy that supports mass production, much of it to do with processing information and logical problem solving…
RISE OF THE MACHINES
The truth is that, depending on what kind of job you have, almost half of what you’re doing could be automated. Yes, you could be job sharing with a robot!
“Public services can become the next Uber, using the gig economy to employ locum doctors and supply teachers.” read an article in the Guardian two days ago. A concern echoed by a World Economic Report on Inclusive Growth and Development Report published last month.
A UK report published this month by Reform proposes that “chat bots” could replace up to 90% of Whitehall’s administrators, as well as tens of thousands in the NHS and GPs’ surgeries, by 2030 – saving as much as £4bn a year…
IS THIS THE END OF JOBS?
Mckinsey’s research on the other hand is more optimistic about our human contribution and points out that it is not the occupations themselves that will be automated but certain activities within them. These activities include anything that can be operated through an algorithm or number crunching…
They estimate that today’s technology could automate 45% of the activities across all occupations but only 5% of actual occupations.
Interestingly, these figures cut across the occupational income ladder and cooks, cleaners, gardeners and carers, who draw on intuitive decision-making and empathy, are more protected from automation than those in high paying positions with a lot of systematic data analysis. I mean, who wants their bottom wiped by a robot?...
Humans are still capable of being more innovative, adaptable, empathic and entrepreneurial than machines, which means there can be rich rewards for the creative…
WHAT DOES BEING CREATIVE MEAN?
First of all, it’s good to recognise your creative abilities. It doesn’t mean you have to be an oil painter or do pottery in your spare time. Most spiritual traditions speak of being like the creator, in the sense that we create new thoughts and experiences in the moment.
In a world that is still scarcity and survival driven, creating a compassionate or wise thought could be a masterpiece in itself...
In other words, cultivating wisdom, compassion and kindness - going beyond our lower, survival instincts - and tapping into our more deeply intelligent impulses is a creative act.
From a psychological perspective, this translates into tremendous abilities and resilience. General traits among the creative identified by in Dr KH Kim’s study include:
· Big-picture-thinking: Creative people think abstractly, looking past the concrete details of the current situation and seeking new solutions. However, with their optimism and curiosity, they are sometimes seen as dreamy and unrealistic.
· Spontaneous: Creative individuals tend to be flexible and act fast on new opportunities, approaching them with an open mind and a playful perspective—which can come off as impulsive.
· Playful: Creative people tend to be lighthearted and have a drive to explore the world. On the other hand, this can also be seen as mischievous.
· Resilient: Creative people can pick themselves up after a failure and bounce back from challenges, refocusing on new ways to overcome adversities. Sometimes, this comes across as combative.
· Autonomous: Creative people often strive for independence in their thoughts and actions, relying on intrinsic motivation to pursue their goals. At times, such individuals can seem out of control.
· Defiant: Creative people have a tendency to reject existing norms and authorities in pursuit of their own goals. This allows them to see what others cannot see and develop solutions that push boundaries, which can seem rebellious.
· Risk-taking: Fuelled by their optimism, many creative people are willing to forgo security in favour of uncertain rewards. To the average person, this may come across as reckless.
· Daydreaming: By daydreaming, creative individuals are able to envision new perspectives and solutions—but along the way, some of their ideas might seem delusional.
As you can see, these traits are not specific to the stereotype of the “creative” and reflect the wider creative ability that we all have in facing life and its challenges.
As an exercise, why not pick one of the above traits – particularly one that you feel will take you out of your comfort zone - and practise it for a week (or even a month) every day?
BECOMING A CREATOR: FIRST, RELAX!
Have you ever had a great idea while in the shower or solved a problem whilst doing something unrelated? That’s because your mind “relaxed” and became more flexible. It had more mental space to associate elements that were not obviously related into a new form (and kept your inner-critic at bay for the new idea to emerge properly).
Our minds are so focused on logical problem-solving that we miss out on the genius ideas that come out of the recesses of our mind. We squash our timelines for achieving goals and don’t allow enough time for things to brew. Big vision requires creative space which includes time to relax, get quiet and let the mind do its thing.
Rather than learning more skills or acquiring more knowledge, we need to undo the conditioning of our educational systems to churn out the results of conscious computation and make time for our creative, intuitive and playful faculties to flourish.
Of course, quietly sitting still is extremely anxiety generating in our culture but mustering enough focus and discipline to relax has enormous rewards.
So get your me time, meditation, exercise and walks in nature to the top of your to do list (and beware of the voice saying you don’t have time. As the Zen saying goes: “Meditate an hour a day. If you don’t have time, meditate for two hours”).
Bringing new experiences into our lives requires action but also a shift in mindset. Here are a few suggestions for brining more creativity into your life (whatever form it might take for you):
1) MINDSET: Become the creator.
· A creator is the opposite of a victim and sees a wider range of choice and possibility in everything.
· Carefully examine, address and weed out all excuses that come up as you try to take a creative step forward.
· Get involved in a creative activity every day. Whether it’s a hobby or a more creative approach to work (see traits above).
· Identify what is repetitive in your work and whether to modify, cut out, outsource or delegate it over a period of time.
· Make time, however, short to be deliberately creative by putting a regular time slot in your calendar. Include: 1) quiet time to get into the right headspace; 2) your creative endeavour of choice
· Create accountability and reward. Find support if necessary.
Make space for creativity in your life and creativity will come. Every time something feels automatic review and evolve it. You’ll feel more alive and you could also make your job more interesting as a result…
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