Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Dark Side of Creativity by David H. Cropley, Arthur J. Cropley, James C. Kaufman and Mark A. Runco

This is almost a must read for anyone engaged in the sustainable innovation discussion. The material is a bit uneven and a few of the contributions should have been left out (low academic level and nothing really relevant to contribute), but overall it covers many interesting aspects of creativity.

The discussions about the consequences of creativity should have included more about large scale problems outside the military (Climate Change, endocrine disruptors, economic policy’s resulting in poverty are just a few that would have been interesting to discuss). But the one major area that I would like to have seen included is current marketing/PR and the consequences on creativity in society. The fact that many are wasting their creativity selling things that are bad (for ourselves, other people, other living beings and the planet) is

Still the book is filled with short chapters that cover interesting fields, such as:

1. What happens when successful creativity that delivers something good becomes a cage that makes it difficult to continue to be creative?
2. How can the educational system talk so much about creativity and do so much to kill it?
3. How close is creativity to madness?

There are also very interesting gems about the development of the nuclear industry (and the end of it) where the unwillingness to take sound decisions is explained from a perspective where companies become overconfident at the same time as they are under market pressure resulting in a situation where “new technologies were being developed without objective assessments”. James Jasper, who wrote the chapter that included the nuclear power discussion made me interested in his idea about “players or prizes?”

Liane Gabora and Nancy Holmes short chapter “Dangeling from a Tassel on Fabric of Socially Constructed Reality” is as poetic as it sounds. It makes me happy to see such a chapter included as this kind of texts are not often found outside the more “arty” fields.

I would have seen a longer version of Arthur Cropley’s chapter “Creativity in the Classroom” where he developed more concrete ideas, and did this in relation to a situation where students will be connected and have access to ideas/input that no generation before have.

In the chapter “The Dark Side of Creativity and How to Combat it” Robert Sternberg discuss what I think is the most important aspect, wisdom. It does not really say anything new, but the things we already know are sometimes the most important.

I’m not sure why, but I think the chapter “Neurosis: The dark side of emotional creativity” by James Averill and Elma Nunley is my favourite. The way they use Dostoevsky, William James and Otto Rank to discuss creativity reminded me of Marsel Burman’s “All that is solid melts into air” and in all its lack of focus also brought back “Ideology” from Otto Rank that I have not been thinking about in a very long time.

It is a joy to read books where the authors actually have spend time to think about the issue they write about. I hope that I can stay away from the “airplane literature” that is written by journalists as entertainment and with more focus on short nuggets that people can quote over the dinner table than any actual knowledge. I wonder if the “airport literature” are spread due to the fact that other journalists (with similar lack of deep knowledge) like them as these books are the kind of books they potentially could write (good in style but without much depth in knowledge). Are they the books equivalent of Fox-News/The daily show, entertaining at best and oversimplifying mainly? Hopefully the future will have more of these books where people with knowledge explore issues in depth.