On 24th July, three of the authors of Creative Superpowers, joined us for an evening in the YCN Library to share the inspiration behind their new book.
Described as a "modern skill set for creative problem-solving", Creative Superpowers is the new book co-authored by Founder of The Boom!, Scott Morrison, author of Copy Copy Copy, Mark Earls, co-founder of Utopia, Daniele Fiandaca and co-founder of Mr President, Laura Jordan Bambach.
Its promise: to unlock and unleash your creative skillset and empower you to be a better leader in the age of creativity. According to the authors, the secret to implementing fresh creative thinking and powerful change in an organisation lies in rediscovering and re-learning our forgotten childhood traits, such as curiosity, empathy and fearlessness.
Structured around the creative problem-solving skills of hacking (used to tackle problems in different ways), making (opening up new parts of your brain), teaching (to consolidate yours and others' experience) and thieving (by looking to what already exists as a tool for solving problems), Creative Superpowers collates and builds upon the contributions of creatives from a cross-section of industries: "architects, CEOs, creative directors, culture hackers, educators, fashion designers, marketers, musicians, storytellers and many more."
Here’s what we learned.
Welcome to the age of creativity
Daniele highlighted to us the motivations behind this joint endeavour by asking, "what technology do you think is going to have the biggest impact on us as human beings in the next five years?". VR, AI and voice assistance technology were popular guesses. For Daniele, it's AI that "will have the biggest impact on the workplace that anything has had in the last 100 years". Now that we are starting to look at AI as “intelligence augmented – IA – we are seeing how we can use artificial intelligence to allow us to be more creative". AI eliminates the routine, giving us more time for creativity and, "once we understand what kind of information AI can give us, we can start using that as a platform to become more creative."
Part of neuroplasticity is simply "memorising stuff less": we don’t need to know our friends’ telephone numbers anymore because we have inbuilt contact lists on our devices. Neuroplasticity is the opposite of what we call 'hardwiring' – the shortcuts the brain creates to make everyday tasks easier, so that can we do things like turning on a tap or putting our shoes on without thinking about it. A new emphasis on neuroplasticity, said Daniele, is about "rewiring the brain," to open our minds to new ways of thinking. Learning is now as much about unlearning to relearn, "proving the old dogs new tricks adage wrong” and supporting the idea that we only progress by continuing to innovate and improve existing systems.
There has never been such an abundance of platforms for creativity
Virtual reality is set to change the face of consumerism and entertainment, while 3D printing means ideas can materialise at an unprecedented rate; "the platforms for which to be creative [and] the platforms to get your ideas to market have never been richer". Creative Superpowers, for example, was crowdfunded. “The reality is, all you now need is a good idea. Brands are now competing with their customers," who can come up with their own ideas. “We now have an ideas economy where the most simple ideas become billion-dollar businesses" – just look at the Airbnbs and Ubers of the world.
What can we do that robots can’t?
At the World Economic Forum 2018, leaders from around the world listed their most desirable skills, with creativity taking the top place. This, and emotional intelligence, also listed, are the crucial things that "differentiate us from robots and allow us to thrive as human beings". If you’re not someone who considers themself creative, the “creative superpowers” identified in this book may prove you wrong: Daniele told us how the four themes that appeared as the book took shape account for many different types of creativity.
Hackers who build
The first of these is hacking. Breaking away from the traditional definition of the word, Daniele looks to a hacker of the past, Florence Nightingale, whose background as a statistician led her to record the number of patient deaths in surgery, and thus highlight the importance of sterilisation. Her simple realisation came as the result of dismantling an existing system and finding out where the problems lay. Some people, Daniele suggested, are born "naturally curious with a hacking state of mind" and "a drive to make things better". However, if you are not naturally inclined to enjoy taking calculated risks, Daniele maintains it is something that can be taught and trained. His top tip: "if you fear vulnerability, see what happens when you swap vulnerability for courage".
Teachers who learn
Scott next spoke about teaching, and the importance of sharing knowledge. Forget the traditional perception of teaching – before we pass on knowledge, we must first teach ourselves. For example, when the air masks come down on a plane in an emergency, he said, the first thing you do is fit your own mask – thereby enabling yourself to help the hypothetical small child next to you. Self-teaching is about seeking out the tools to equip yourself, learning by doing, and swapping a 'fixed mindset' for a 'growth mindset'. Again, future thinking depends on our neuroplasticity and the ability to unlearn to relearn. Part of this, added Scott, is rejecting the misconception that we can only learn "old to young": if we only perpetuate existing knowledge we risk becoming stale, stagnant or antiquated. In a period of such rapid technological advances, we should be looking to and learning from the younger generations.
Makers who thieve
The misconception that creativity is the same thing as originality will put people off describing themselves as a maker, Mark argued. The culturally iconic moment at which David Bowie first sang Starman on Top of the Pops, in 1972, he has observed, was an example of remarkably creative reinvention: the "Starman, waiting in the sky" chorus echoing the notes of "somewhere, over the rainbow". Recognising and reinventing existing materials is a form of creative problem solving: “creativity is solving problems with things that already exist". He quoted Grayson Perry ("Originality is for people with short memories") and David Bowie ("I’m only interested in art that I can steal from") to illustrate the point that creative people see the world as a source of materials; thieving, borrowing, referencing, reconstructing, deconstructing, reinventing – these are the skills of a maker.
"Creativity comes from diversity"
Very aware that "there are loads of books on how to be creative – that’s not how creativity works," Creative Superpowers is made up of real-life examples from a diverse line up of contributors from different organisations around the world, underlining the universal value of creative skills. Describing it like "a conference," the authors took their own experiences and backgrounds to write each of their sections – the hope is that any reader will be able to relate to at least one of the types of creativity explored in the book.
How do we teach creative thinking to future generations?
The irony is that, as children, we already possess the skills that we are so desperately trying to relearn in adulthood. The authors unanimously agreed that it is a failure within our education system that causes creativity to be devalued at such an early stage. To ensure the spirit of creative thinking lives on from an early age, we must learn to reconnect with children, answer their questions, encourage their curiosity and, where possible, learn from them.
All photography Sam Bush.
Location:72 Rivington St,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:24th July, 2018 at 6:30pm
End:24th July, 2018 at 8:00pm