Confused world of creativity

The trouble with creative people is they don’t know when creativity ends and pure invention begins.

That is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from a survey of 30 leaders of the creative world conducted by Through The Loop Consulting on behalf of the Creative Summit, an international conference to be held in Sunderland in September.

Plenty of concepts to grab hold of in that last paragraph. The creative world, for example. A universe of its own peopled by beings, some of whom are leaders, who create. Create what? A fuss? A noise? An impression? Less problem with Through The Loop Consulting, a research company screaming out to be recognised, if by nothing else than its silly name. The Creative Summit, now there’s a thought: a pinnacle at which the finest in the creative world meet to make a fuss. Sunderland?

At any rate, Round The Twist Consulting sought out the 30 leaders and asked them some questions. The results, published last week, show there is something rotten in the state of creativity. It suffers from an “old stereotype”. It is seen as stuffed with scruffy types with ponytails who are unreliable and elitist.

There is something odd, and peculiarly creative at work here. For this is a survey not of how others see Planet Creativity, but, since those questioned are of it, how it sees itself. Odd that such a world should be held back by a poor view of itself. If its inhabitants don’t like those wretched ponytails, their creativity should extend to cutting them off. Nor can low self-esteem be reconciled with self-diagnosed elitism. On the other hand, they are by their own admission unreliable.Worse still, all this slovenliness, superiority, and unreliability is having a dreadful effect on their ability to compete with other, more distant inhabitants of the creative globe. And this, despite their boasting the title of the fastest growing sector of the British economy, with revenues of &£60bn and employees numbering 1.4 million. Seldom has world domination been held back by the want of a few haircuts.

Amazingly, however, that is not the most bowel-bursting finding of this research. Carol Samms, of Through The Loop and Away with The Fairies, says: “The most striking thing that came out of this was the belief that the education system is fundamentally flawed. The global economy is becoming increasingly competitive but the education system is not delivering minds capable of thinking freely. Without that creativity and imagination, businesses don’t generate ideas, don’t create products, don’t explore new markets and don’t progress.”

That really is striking. Here we have the fastest growing sector of the economy, staffed, and one supposes generated, by 1.4 million people whose fundamentally flawed education rendered them incapable of free thought. Striking, too, is the revelation that this &£60bn industry neither sows nor does it reap, for it cannot generate ideas, create products, explore new markets, or progress.

There is, however, an internal contradiction in this puzzle. For, to judge by the findings of The Loop’s discussions with the 30 leaders of the creative world, these giants are possessed of brains whose clutches are disengaged and whose thoughts are coasting in neutral. That they have mastered such free and abandoned cogitation, untrammelled by logic, gives the lie to the notion that our education system fails to deliver what is required.

David Kingsley, chairman of the Creative Summit, and therefore a leader among leaders, says that successful entrepreneurs and inventors are the exception. He’s right, of course. Since enterprise carries risk and risk implies failure, and since the power of invention is given to few, successful practitioners of both crafts have ever been the exception.

Even so, says Kingsley: “Britain has the potential to be the hub of the creative world, surpassing even the US. We have the talent but we have to grasp the opportunities presented by new technology.”

These creative minds move so damn fast in neutral that it’s sometimes impossible to keep up. To recapitulate: our creative types see themselves as scruffy, unreliable and elitist; stunted by a flawed education, they cannot think freely but do so; they comprise the fastest growing sector in the economy but are without creativity and imagination; they have the potential to be the cynosure of their world but are held back not by their education, nor by their self-perceived scruffiness and unreliability, but by their failure to grasp the opportunities presented by new technology.

They are, in short, confused, and those who listen to them will quickly find themselves in a similar condition.

Which, thank heaven, brings us to the answer. Creative people are in truth inventive, resourceful, gifted, amusing, entertaining, economically valuable and much else besides, but with one proviso – when they talk to a wider world about themselves and their work they talk nonsense, and, more often than not, pretentious nonsense. They should get on with the job and let their creativity do the talking.

There is still time to put aside the market research bunkum, forget about image, and admit that no one outside the creative world gives a fig for the moody self-analysis of a handful of fortunate people. Still time to cancel the hotel rooms, return the air tickets, unpack the bags, leave the speeches unwritten, and let down Sunderland gently. Still time to cancel the Creative Summit. Let it be done now.

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