The Importance of Creativity in Society

Most people stand in awe in front of the expressive nature of a hundred million dollar Picasso painting. But they really don’t need to have one. They may however need the latest improvement in a minimally invasive microsurgery to repair something that has gone wrong inside themselves. Creativity exists, and influences society in all kinds of ways. And, in some ways that are more than just expression and incremental improvements.

Society cannot exist without creativity and creativity has no platform without society. The two are connected together in an endless march forward for humanity. I see society placing important value on creativity in three essential ways.

The first and most obvious way is in the form of artistic expression. Creativity functions as a central medium in the relationship between people, culture and society. Creativity is the fuel that artists, writers, poets and musicians use to produce cultural events and societies artifacts. It’s essentially, along with talent, what draws thousands to concerts, museums and coffee shops on a daily basis.

The second, more subliminal, but more functional way creativity usually plays a role in society is through constant innovation, or as Moran puts it, improvement. Often we, as a society take innovation for granted. Although, we happen to be living in one of the most impressive displays of innovation mankind has ever witnessed, the maturation of mobile, digital, communications technology. Normally innovation happens somewhat more in the background of society.

I’ve been witness to the constant cycle of innovation in the medical industry. As a service provider, I’ve worked for several small groups of individuals over the years that collectively innovate new medical products. They usually start together in a large company, come up with an idea for improvement or in some cases revolutionary ways of delivering treatment. They often spin out of these larger companies with venture capitol money, spend a few years developing the technology to where it is market ready. Then they sell the company to a larger company in that market space, take their proceeds and go on vacation for a year or two. Until, the urge to innovate again brings them back into the marketplace, where they reform their group and start the process all over again.

While there is undoubtedly an intentional profit motive behind their actions, there is also an undeniable purpose, a desire to help the health of people with their inventions and ideas. This process quietly creates a “positive spiral of productivity” that directly benefits mankind. Most of us never see innovation at work, until we need it. Often times, it’s in an emergency room or surgical suite that we see the results of improvement or innovation in society.

The third way I see creativity playing a role in society is through hope. Hope for the future. To this I look to NASA and companies like Space X. Creativity in the larger worlds of public science, like the human genome project and space explorations gives mankind hope for a better future, without which, things can look pretty grim sometimes. Why go to the red planet? It’s through these big thoughts, and daring creations that mankind forces or hurls itself forward.

Much has been said about the roles of benefactors, regulators, and certainly the historical time periods of great creativity and exploration, 1996, Gardner. The role of power and the political climate in specific countries throughout time has had an enormous affect on what a society creatively leaves behind. What would humanity have, if not for the many cultures that have contributed to the collective creations of mankind? And, love them or hate them, it is the political systems that create stability and opportunity that best helps creative mankind.

How does all this come down to a single classroom? What can we do as teachers to contribute to the clear movement that is already underway? The current trend, which has brought technology, information and creativity directly into the hands of every individual, is having a profound affect on what societies produce, now and certainly in the very near future. It has been labeled “The Democratization of” . . .   You can see the effects of technological democratization in a revolution of new, creative forms of communications that are leading change in every field, especially medicine and the life sciences where I teach and work.

STEAM is new? But it’s as old as renaissance thinking. The best way I can think of helping this form of thinking move back into the forefront, where it belongs, is to keep my classroom open to creativity and communication. To listen to the twenty something’s, who are revolutionizing the tools of economies and societies. To make sure my students understand that it’s OK to be creative. And maybe get out of their way when they are.