Creativity and productivity—a contradiction? In 2004, Benjamin Forbes and Donald Domm wrote about the challenge of resolving the conflict in the business sector:
An impressive stream of research by Theresa Amabile emphasizes the important roles of freedom and intrinsic motivation in fostering creativity (Amabile 1983, 1988, 1997). These factors encourage thinking outside the box and provide internal, task-related rewards for exploring new ideas and creating new products, services, processes, etc. However, a potential problem with this approach is that intrinsically motivated activity may become so rewarding that the creative person is reluctant to move on to the hard work of evaluating the ideas and putting them into practice. Highly productive creative work is challenging. In fact, highly creative individuals say the most important characteristics that set them apart are curiosity and drive (Csikszentmihalyi 1996). These are described as "the yin and the yang" of creative work. Curiosity is open and playful, while drive is serious, competitive, and achievement-oriented. "Both are required for creativity to become actualized."
The Soul of the New Machine, by Tracy Kidder (interestingly, also the author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, a biography of Paul Farmer’s journey in Haiti) tells the story of a team of engineers and their race to design the next generation of the 32-bit computer in the late 70’s. Faced with a seemingly impossible deadline, the engineers hire a group of young college students. This team, driven by innovation and creativity, ignore sleep and other personal pursuits in their drive to develop something never before imagined.
This may sound familiar. It has become almost cliché to drive innovation. Previously the domain of artists, writers and philosophers, creativity is fundamental for scientists, physicians, educators, corporations, and nonprofits. The importance of this shift cannot be overstated. Social media and blogging sites are a portal for ideas, and sometimes these ideas are catalysts for innovation. But at times, it can feel that we are overburdened by creativity. In our quest to be individuals, there can be a loss of the meaningful connection that is needed to affect a shift in paradigm.
Many young people are choosing the path of social entrepreneurship, working to improve the lives of others, rather than improve their bottom line. Many are still pursuing a traditional path of education, and the opportunities to bring game-changing ideas to the fields of medicine, the environment and agriculture are limitless. Creativity can be nurtured along so many paths.
The JDT Foundation is currently reviewing the profiles of exceptional young women and men for our 2012 scholarship. We are enriched as we learn of our youth’s vision for a world (including Haiti) that respects and celebrates human dignity. They have innovative ideas and are intensely creative—in music, art, environmental stewardship and poverty alleviation. But they also recognize the timeless concepts of the importance of family, friendships, and their role in their community. They channel their creativity not for self -indulgence, but for the enhancement of their family, neighbors and global community.
Creativity and productivity do occur hand in hand. We have a remarkable generation of young people finding innovative ways to improve their communities, and are doing the work to make it happen.