Is creativity a form of madness?


People have been asking my opinion on this article and the research behind it. So here it is.

Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness’

Are creative people ‘mad’? Is creativity a ‘madness’? Or do they mean that we had all better watch out, because if you’re one of those creative types, you’re probably going to go mad and be depressed, and if you try to ‘get creative’ you may even end up killing yourself.

This is, of course, not what the researchers are saying.

“Lead researcher Dr Simon Kyaga said the findings suggested disorders should be viewed in a new light and that certain traits might be beneficial or desirable.

For example, the restrictive and intense interests of someone with autism and the manic drive of a person with bipolar disorder might provide the necessary focus and determination for genius and creativity.

Similarly, the disordered thoughts associated with schizophrenia might spark the all-important originality element of a masterpiece.”

The fact that lots of famous authors killed themselves, or were depressed, proves little as there are plenty of authors who are happy and still alive. There’s a tendency with statistics to point to the conclusion you want to make.

For me, the danger with the popular media view on this topic is that creativity and mental illness are portrayed as interchangeable. Beth Murphy of the mental health charity Mind agrees, “It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses”

And by the same token, we shouldn’t label creative people as ‘mad’.

I’ve been introduced on stage as being “totally bonkers, off the wall and crazy mad” which wasn’t really very helpful when all I was really doing was being interesting and entertaining in a unique way, with a guitar. It just shows how totally boring the other speakers on the bill must have been.

The media also often gets cause and effect confused. It may be that a ‘mental illness’ such as bipolar disorder helps an individual in a creative role to be more productive and creative OR it could mean that someone with bipolar disorder seeks out a role in a creative industry. Either way, we may find a higher proportion of people with bipolar disorder in a creative role. It says nothing about a disorder being necessary for that role. However, the research showed that someone working in a creative role is no more likely to have a mental disorder than anyone else, thus nullifying the commonly held inference and making this paragraph, like most journalism on the topic, void.

Here’s another article that makes me a bit cross:

Creative minds ‘mimic schizophrenia’

Which of course is not true. It’s not true because creativity is such a vast human endeavour and schizophrenia is an invented term to label certain types of mental illness conditions. We might as well say “Oranges mimic Tuesdays”. Except that would be totally mad.

It’s not the research that I’m questioning here, but the inferences that are being made.

I think we need to be more careful about the definition of what ‘mental illness’ is. If someone’s condition serves them, supports their work, is part of who they are and causes no long-term internal distress, then I don’t see why the medical profession, the media or anyone else has the right to call a person as having a ‘disorder’ when all they really are, is different.

If someone is suffering and in pain and can’t function in a way that serves them, then that’s a problem, obviously, and treatment may be needed. But if they’re suffering solely because of the way society has labeled them, treats them and doesn’t accommodate them, then that’s wrong.

In an age of political correctness, has society’s prejudice not been eradicated at all but instead changed its style? Has it moved from it being acceptable to discriminate out of malice or fun to discriminating by labelling anything different from a normal standard as being a ‘disorder’ and looking down elitist normal noses with pity at the poor disordered sick people.

It would make more sense if we found someone who was totally boring, who had created nothing, contributed nothing, who had lived a dull life – to be labelled as ‘mentally ill’. I’d say that person was really sick and in need of treatment.

It’s the creative people who innovate, who invent, who drive the human race forward with their discoveries, that save lives, that enrich souls. And for what? So that dull people, who never look up from looking at their shuffling feet can moan that jumping safely from the edge of space is a waste of a Sunday evening when they could have been watching the X-Factor results.

John Lennon once said that “everything is the opposite of what it is” which sounds like a nonsense statement until you think about how often it appears to be true…

If to be creative, I had to drink from the cup of madness and risk insanity, rather than become a norm, a drone, whose life’s purpose was only to remain within the accepted parameters of ordinariness – I’d drink deeply, and accept the highs and the lows as a price worth paying for a life worth living.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

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Do you employ drones or a creative strategists?


Dalek new paradigm blue strategist

Dalek Strategist

There are two types of people: creative people and non-creative people. They are not born that way, they decide to be that way. Sometimes they behave in one way in a certain situation, say being a monotonous drone at work and yet a creative genius at the weekend on the sports field or with the children.

The problem in most businesses is that they may say they want creativity and creative people working for them but what they manifest is mindless monotonous drones.

Creative people in business do not sit there doodling or daydreaming (but if they do you can bet they’re onto some big idea). Creative people innovate better ways of doing things. They naturally follow the path of progress. They can’t help making things more interesting. When channeled, these attributes always lead to increased profits.

Dalek new paradigm red drone

Dalek Drone

 

If you have sales people: they need to be creative sales people because they need to create new relationships and create new sales opportunities.

Sales Drones do not create new sales opportunities. neither do they know how to up-sell new offerings to existing customers.

If you have administration people: they need to be creative administration people. They’re job is to make things work smoothly and there are always problems they need to resolve and there are always processes that can be made better.

Admin Drones just do filing.

If you have managers they need to be creative managers: handling people and their relationships is a complex task with many factors constantly changing. Motivating people to do their best is a skill that is bespoke for each individual. Problem solving skills and emotional intelligence are needed more than ever in such a role.

Manager Drones annoy good people who then leave and join your competitors.

If you have staff that deal with customers they need to be creative staff who deal with customers. Creating great customer service is the most underdeveloped method of increasing sales and profits. Knowing how to handle problems or how to create value added extras that turn customers into advocates is a creative skill that’s worth its weight in gold.

Service Drones annoy customers who then post on Twitter how bad your service is.

Don’t employ drones, and even more importantly, don’t turn your employees into drones. Good people who get fed up and leave their jobs usually do it because they weren’t appreciated. A great way of getting good people to stay and excel is to allow them to use more of their skills and talents in their role, to have more responsibility for their role.

Research has been done that the amount of perceived self determination within an organisation is directly proportional to increased profits and success of that organisation. Using or converting people into drones is like running your business with everyone having one arm tied behind their back, or chaining employees to a desk (which is exactly what so many companies actually do if you think about it).

I can show you how to turn your drones into productive, inspired creative strategists who not only do a better job with their current role, but are capable of innovating areas around them. Some businesses (and of course most employees) would be offended to have people described as ‘drones’. That may be the case but when the economic climate is more challenging, the risk of drone conversion is even greater. I can show you how to avoid the dangerous slide into drone manufacture, to help you get even more from the good people you have.

Come and see me on www.aydinstone.com

What Makes a Genius?


When I’m doing my creativity workshops the biggest hurdle to overcome is people’s belief that only certain people can be creative and only certain people can become genii. In fact people believe that certain babies are born genii. Unfortunately for this belief there is no evidence to back it up. There is no evidence that ‘genius’ is genetic. Certain tendencies are genetic but that’s a very different thing. A tendency does not make a genius.

Look at children. They are rubbish at everything. They are no good at maths, they can’t draw properly, they can’t play cricket or football very well and they certainly can’t sing. I’ve even come across people who are shocked at that statement. But it’s obvious! Children are rubbish at everything…. compared to adult standards.

I was the best artist in my primary school. I could draw better than the whole school. But that didn’t make me a creative genius. If you were to look at my drawings from then they look rubbish. Good for an eight year old but appalling by adult standards. For some reason, when I first picked up a pencil I had a ‘tendency’ to be a tiny bit better at it than the other kids. Other kids had a tendency to be a tiny bit better at football than me. I am useless at football today but I’m a better player than the best kid in the school back then.

By having this tendency of being good at drawing and bad at football meant that I focused my attention on improving the thing I got praise for and avoiding the thing I got laughed at for. I knew I was good at art and I knew I was rubbish at football. That type of strong belief is powerful. Whether you think you’re good at something or think you’re bad at something you’re always right.

We all agree Mozart was a genius. His father Leopold was one of Europe’s leading musical teachers and a prolific and successful composer of instrumental music. When Wolfgang was about three years old Leopold gave him intensive musical training, including instruction in clavier, violin, and organ. Wolfgang had learned several pieces at the age of four and started composing at age five. Mozart clearly had a tendency, but not necessarily a ‘talent’ for music. He had a talent for concentration and learning. The environment was right and Mozart got better and better. So was Mozart born a music genius? We’ve no way of knowing. Had another baby been substituted without Leopold knowing would that baby have become a musical genius because of that training? Perhaps.

In the early 1970s in an underground bunker near San Diego, Robert Klark Graham set up a genius sperm bank. He collected samples from donor genii of the day and the women of America could pay up and then conceive a baby with half its DNA coming from a recognised genius. 217 children were conceived in this way. Now how many of those children, now in their 30s, are recognised as genii? The answer is the same amount that you’d find in any random sample of 217 people. Just having DNA isn’t good enough. It may help you to be tall but it won’t make you a basketball player.

Dedication and training is what makes a genius. Einstein said so. Leonardo Da Vinci said so. Since they are the people our society holds up to be genii in the first place we have no option but to believe them. We can all be genii. It’s only our belief that we can’t that prevents us.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
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