When I lecture on entrepreneurship I often set some simple tasks to test the creativity or otherwise of the audience. It is not surprising to me that the same, non-creative, answers are the quickest to appear.
For many in the audience have been conditioned by an education system that believes that there is one right answer. As a consequence people are inclined to look for the answer that is likely to be the safest and runs the least risk of being wrong.
Einstein once said that ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’, and John C Maxwell said that ‘creativity requires the willingness to look stupid’. And yet people continue to choose the safe option rather than risking people laughing at their answer.
But I do not believe that this failure to create can be put solely at the door of education, albeit the desire to evaluate and examine has not helped the process. What a pity there is not a third alternative to a tick or a cross.
Whilst we do not need to band together in tribes for physical survival, either to sustain life or to fight wars, this desire to belong seems to be permanently encoded in our DNA.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are many examples of people banding together in society with good objectives. Many of the social clubs across the world attest to this, as do many charitable groups.
However, this built in desire to belong is to be found in many walks of life, whether in politics, in youth gangs or various pressure groups. It is also to be found in business groups and worker groups. Lately, thanks to social media, this has spawned many other groupings such as Facebook as well as mothers groups such as Mumsnet.
What has changed in the establishing or continuation of such groupings has been the concept of loyalty. This has forced people to make binary choices of either being in or out of the group. There is less and less opportunity for there to be a broad range of views within groups.
Increasingly, group membership entails not only following the ethos of the leadership but also being opposed to those that the leadership determine should be opposed.
This has created an adversarial society where membership of a group not only brings you in contact with likeminded thinkers, but it also requires you to reject alternative views without question.
A simple example of this adversarial approach to grouping is seen in sports such as football. I do not understand why because I support say Tottenham that I must hate anyone that supports Arsenal regardless of whether they live next door or work at the next desk.
We hear much in the press about free speech, but it seems as if free speech is only OK if you agree with it. Whatever happened to Voltaire’s world where he said ‘ I disagree with what you say but defend your right to say it’?
What this present approach to groupings does do is to further reinforce the belief that there is only one right answer, opinion or way to solve problems. That in itself is enough to further reduce the willingness to be creative.
I am not sure how we generate a space where a plethora of views are not only tolerated but are actively encouraged. What I do know is that without such a space I will continue to get the standard answers to my challenges rather than the creative ones.