Thursday, May 26, 2005


the consequences of "mass creativity"

I've been pondering the meaning of a single paragraph. It appeared in an article called "Immaterial Design" in the Danish magazine Design Matters.
Futurologists have defined the emerging persona of the future -- creative man. What characterises these creative people is that they are involved in design their own lives -- they are innovative and creative individuals who prefer to modify their surroundings rather than adapt to them.
On one level, there is nothing extraordinary here. Homo faber has always been an identity of humankind. Man has competed with nature from the start of our species. And we have long had a creative tendency to alchemically change what we encounter. What stuck me is the suggestion that we are losing our capacity to adapt. The will to change things is powerful, but only part of what we need. Will must be balanced with adaptation. The discipline of biology increasingly informs other areas of life about the importance of adaptation. A business whose strategy was change everything, and never adapt, will surely run out of luck sooner or later.

I am a little alarmed at the notion being marketed, that people can, and should, get anything they want. Such notions as mass customization and markets of one can subtly influence one's perception of one's context. Design often feeds egocentricity, but it at best yields short term benefits. Longer term design needs to build on notions of "sense and respond". There are some good ideas in organizational psychology about "sensemaking" that provide inspiration here. Adaptation can be creative, it doesn't need to be reactive (i.e., put up or leave). What the author didn't acknowledge is that awareness and sensitivity are key elements of creativity -- they provide the basis for making creative choices. Unless these attributes develop on a mass scale, I not sure the "creative man" concept is going to happen.

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