Creativity as a basic human need


Picasso is quoted as having said that “every child is an artist” and I would agree, the challenge is how to remain one when you grow up. What is particularly troubling is all the talk about creative people, like they are somehow a class of their own and different from the rest of us. Depending on who you talk to of course the definition of and membership of this group differs. Advertising executives talk about creatives, designers think of themselves as creative, scientists sometimes call each other creative as a derisory term, suggesting that if one is creative, one is somehow not following scientific practice to the letter. All of us have also heard about ‘creative accounting practices’ that doubtless lay behind the woes of Enron and other malpractice in the financial sector.

Regardless of the public views about creativity, I cannot help but arrive at the conclusion that not only is creativity one of the factors that sets us aside from our closets cousins in the animal kingdom, but it is also a human need. Maslow talked about the need for self-actualisation as being the most elusive and enduring human needs after all our basic needs of food, shelter and love have been satisfied. Self-actualisation sounds broader than creativity and it is, making a mark on the world can take many shapes, but I would like to argue that specifically doing it as an outlet of one’s creativity is the key.

As head of the LEGO Learning Institute I have the opportunity and privilege to work closely academic experts in such varying fields as developmental psychology, cognitive and neuroscience as well as media and communications to name but a few, and what has really struck me from all the work we have done together how wide-spread the myths about creativity still are. What is known in academia about creativity today, especially as recent findings really have increased our understanding of creativity enormously, is still at odds with how misunderstood creativity is in general. As adults we are amazed at how children engage in creative activities without as much as a thought, whereas when we grow up we become concerned about degrees of creativity, comparing creativity with the ability to use the the tools and techniques those more capable than ourselves use to express their creativity and leading us to the conclusion that we therefore are not very creative anymore.

Not only is creativity a human need, a desire to see the world afresh and rejoice in the act of generating ideas and things that are new, surprising and valuable to us, it is something we are all capable of, if we put our minds to it. Creativity can be found in virtually every field out there, but equally there is something to the fact that when creativity becomes work, it’s not nearly as fun as when we engage in something for its own sake. The closer our creative explorations are to play, the more we enjoy it.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. chriscaff says:

    I have to agree with you here. Playing is the key to creativity, and to learning, I’m sure. That’s why children do it so well. At this stage in human life we HAVE to learn all we need to survive. Without play, animals don’t even learn. A lion can’t catch prey without first playing with its’ mum or siblings. The games it plays teach it how to hunt. To retain the art of creativity, we do need to stop being concerned with results, status or failure and enjoy the journey of discovery found in learning.
    I play with my camera. I don’t learn well from techy books. I learn by putting the camera in front of my eye and experimenting. Long live play!

  2. Jon Vagg says:

    I’d agree with you.

    I know quite a few people who for one reason or another suppress their creativity and they’re never happy – or maybe they have problems that make them unhappy and their creativity is blocked? But I also know people who do dead-end jobs but are immensely creative, usually in ways they hide from other people until they get to know them well.

    I would say, though, as a writer, that despite the pleasures of working on something for its own sake, a deadline is quite an effective way to get creativity flowing. But maybe that’s just me?

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