Scott Adams on Creativity

He suggests that you can’t generate creativity, that creativity is something that people just innately have or don’t have.

“There’s no way to stop creativity unless you kill the people who have it. Creators will change jobs, defy the government, move to other countries, and do whatever they need to let the creativity out.”

This blog started during a particularly low part during my career, when our company was floundering badly, and I wasn’t being listened to or respected. In fact, I was being downright abused, and sometimes wish instead of continuing with blogging, I would have just gone to look for another job, back before the financial crisis. But I don’t deny that a particular appeal to the medium was as a creative outlet. I think this point is particularly salient:

I’ve noticed that creativity so often springs from hardship or pain that I wonder if it’s a precondition. That would make sense from an evolution perspective. Humans don’t need to come up with new ideas when everything is running smoothly. We need creativity when we’re threatened and all of the usual defenses are deemed inadequate. In other words, the best way to generate creativity is to induce hardship on humans, which would be unethical. Conversely, the best way to reduce creativity is to – wait for it – make things nice and comfortable for creative people. In other words, any ethical attempt to encourage creativity will have the unintended effect of killing it. Happy creators are not productive.

I think he’s onto something here. When I think back, I’ve come up with some of my best ideas during times of extreme hardship. Interestingly, unemployment seems to stoke my game development itch. The last time I didn’t have a job or a prospect I wrote a pretty large chunk of an online text adventure game (which were still popular back then). Once I got a job, and felt “safe” it just kind of died. This bout of joblessness, I have all kinds of crazy game ideas popping into my head. My best work at my previous employer was when new leadership who listened to us took over, and it we all went from apathy into “save the company” mode. Things were very crazy and uncertain, and I was constantly worried about my job, but I did some of my best work for that company in those couple of years.

At least from my experience, Scott Adams was right. Adversity definitely seems to be what gets me thinking.

2 Responses to “Scott Adams on Creativity”

  1. Andy says:

    The best Smashing Pumpkins was while they were all still high. A corollary to “Creativity is born of stress/hardship”.

  2. Harry Schell says:

    Creatvity can be assisted with education that encourages thinking skills and some balancing of the rote and “no, don’t innovate here” facts of life.

    An inquiring mind that doesn’t accept rigidityneeds some balancing. There are things, like the physics book, which are very hard to argue with. Knowing there are such things channels creativity toward solving unique problems or situations with both skillsets.

    Parents who let their kids flounder around without guidance or comebacks for bad behavior, fearing to stunt their creativity, are either idiots or lazy. For one thing, such behavior communicates indifference to kids. A devastating thought…the people who brought you into the world don’t care what you do.

    Also, creating and building something new takes a lot of disciplne, capacity for disapppointment and real skills, much of which is trial and error. Kids who expect praise for anything they do often don’t have guts when they need it most. The chips are down, you have a bloody nose and nobody likes you…now what?

    Many kids are being taught the wrong stuff, and they will not rise above it in the statist atmosphere Obama and his ilk want to further establish.