Simply getting older-participating in the entropy attendant to a certain number of solar orbits-confers nothing. Even the much-vaunted acquisition of “life experience” isn’t much good unless, with reflection on it, some testable hypothesis about how the universe might be put together and improved is validated or revised along what prove to be wiser premises. I’ll beg permission to stipulate that I have done at least a bit of the experimentation required in 64.8 revolutions.
It is an interesting time. Never has the human capacity to create been more necessary. In a certain way, we can argue that we’ve entered a new Age of The Polymath. The last one was called The Renaissance. Way more than then, today is ripe with tools and connections for our Leonardo’s. Since our first African Grandmother jumped onto a new branch of the evolutionary tree, we’ve used the accident of a particular adaptation so well Darwin would either applaud or blush over it and here it is: We can put thoughts into the heads of others about things that we imagine. That’s why we—a squishy life form with no fangs, claws, armor or fur; one that can’t run very fast compared to predators and one so fragile that we can’t survive on our own for years after our birth—have taken over a planet. Ironically, this is an ecosystemic authority we may be about to abdicate if we fail to bring this very gift to bear skillfully.
I’m going to argue that all the hooey out there about “making” and “design thinking” is mainly promulgated by people who want you to think there is A Way and that you don’t know it. I’m going to argue further that there are actual definitions we can use to put around components of the observed ability of Homo Sapien Sapiens to make things up. Useful things. Beautiful and elegant things. Profoundly horrible things.
- Artistry: The practice of a skill set allowing the practitioner to express an idea in a form.
- Creativity: The ability to synthesize something which has never before been from fragments that are part objectively “real” and part mind.
- Innovation: The applied confluence of Creativity, Artistry and skillful action-over-time, causing a value-creating measurable change.
KEY POINT: All humans do these things. Artists, writers, musicians and actors do it in a particular way, inventors, particle physicists and engineers do it differently, so do parents, teachers, police, welders and pet groomers. What we share is that the moment we begin to use our prefrontal cortexes to imagine and give that imagination form, we are putting our existence out there. I don’t care if you’re figuring out how to keep the fire burning in the cave or revising the last chapter again, we are taking risk, not only on the pragmatic plane of “Does it look, sound, smell, function, good?” but more deeply, “Am I good?”. When we don’t make it, that second piece is what stops us. There it is. You can’t take the creator out of the creation. The good news…? We’re still here, and African Grandma would approve. In the face of incredible odds, we’re not only still here but animating Van Gogh paintings, making sculpture in virtual space, writing for genres and producing media forms we didn’t even have as late as 10 years ago, blowing away barriers around materials, access to audiences and brilliantly solving problems at an astonishing rate and volume.
Yay us, and here is the sermon’s apotheosis: it is supposed to feel a little scary. The artists, writers and other marvelous alchemists who really make it happen out there aren’t braver than the rest of us, they’ve just gotten used to the fact that every time they step up, they risk their emotional stability and very existence. They are driven to make the poem or build the app because it is what they do. Failure? Total ignominy? A lifetime of “you suck”? No big deal. The moment we realize that it’s OK to feel that freaked out about the script, to feel almost paralyzed by the thought of showing someone a new drawing, to wake up with the cold sweats when, we think about pitching the new show—that’s when we exercise our power and fulfill our evolutionary niche by doing it anyway.
Creation is work. Innovation is even more work. We have an opportunity to use the magic conferred by our odd double-helix for greatness on literally a cosmic scale. We also might blow it really bad. Through some life experience and reflection, I’ve noticed this playing out real time in the wild. I’ll stick my neck out here and even say that its objectively true. The future outcome of Earth’s Grand Mammalian Experiment will be determined by those that are willing to embrace their birthright, take the risk and make the new art, science, engineering and consciousness that will grant us a future. Encourage each other. Play together. Put it out there. Its good stuff. YOU’RE good stuff.