To me, creativist society is a society which create something out of nothing or they do something that have never been done before. Creativity is here there everywhere all we need is to find it in our hearts. It is not something that is gifted to specific people. it is for everyone.
Although we are quite aware of the many changes, which are happening, we still are putting them into the framework of the old dream, the old paradigm.
The old (and current) dream is and was to live a life like the American middle-class. This means to own a house in a suburb, to drive a car, to have children, to eat meat, to have a holiday and to have consuming as a hobby and lifestyle in itself. Many people, especially in emerging and developing countries are still aspiring to this dream.
However, the reality is that this is simply not possible anymore. The resources that would be necessary to sustain that dream like oil, water, food, land, and jobs are not sufficiently available. Most of these resources are close to depletion. Already in the West we are consuming 3 to 5 earths to maintain our lifestyle.
It is therefor an illusion to focus on this goal. The reality demands that we focus on a new dream and a new paradigm. This is not easy as most businesses and institutions are still inspiring us to chase after that old dream. That is because that old dream is their bread and butter and they are only focusing on short-term gains and not on the long-term impact of their behavior. This emphasizes the need to create a new dream for ourselves.
In order to help you with that process of creating a new, sustainable dream, I am looking at these 12 life areas and what the key changes are.
As there is no special order, I will just start with the first one.
The old dream focuses on your looks, on your clothes, on externalities. If you look good, you will feel good and be happy.
The new dream focuses on who you really are, your internal beauty, your values and virtues.
The old dream wants you to be an employee at a large organization, where you work until you can retire. Compliance, specialization and fitting into the culture are key.
The new dream knows that lifetime employment is no longer possible and helps you to be an entrepreneur. Differentiation, being a generalist and uniqueness are key.
The old dream is about being married and having two children.
The new dream is about running a single person household, same-sex marriage and all other possibilities.
In your old dream your friends were physically in your neighborhood.
In the new dream you can connect with anyone, globally.
The old dream let you being entertained by the big media, it was a passive, consuming role.
In the new dream you are active and are producing your own content.
The old dream lets you believe that there is strict difference between your body and your mind. The doctor is there to fix your body.
The new dream is about ownership and has a holistic and preventive focus.
The old dream is about owning a single house in a suburb.
The new dream is about green apartments in city centers.
The old dream is about making a lot of money so you can consume more and retire wealthy.
The new dream is about being happy and healthy and sharing your resources with others.
The old dream is about having a fixed mindset. It is also about giving your responsibility away to educators.
The new dream is about having a growth mindset. It is about understanding who I am an about using my potential for the greater good.
The old dream is about having one wife/husband until you die. The current divorce rates indicate that the new dream is about being flexible and not being limited.
The old dream is doing service, especially when you are retired, or doing service to benefit your own family.
The new dream is about integrating a meaningful purpose into your daily activities.
The old dream is going to church and be loyal to that community.
The new dream is about finding your own voice and following your own journey.
In order to survive in these challenging times, it is crucial to take ownership for your own life. We are used to giving our ownership and responsibilities away to others (parents, teachers, bosses, partners etc.).
Now it is time to take full responsibility and define and create our own, new dream.
What is your new dream?
In the Creativist Manifesto you can read about the difference between a consumer and a creativist. I do believe that understanding this distinction is critical for the transformation of our society. Intentionally I am using the word’ transformation’ as this change will not happen overnight and it requires ongoing effort. Also a lot has to be done to increase the awareness about this distinction.
So how does it look like when we compare the specifics in the various life areas? In general: a consumer is passive and dependent, a creativist is active and responsible.
Area Consumer Creativist
Food Ready meals Cooking
Health Corrective Preventive
Education Standard Tailored
Technology Burden Tool
Entertainment Reactive Producer
Work Employee Entrepreneur
This switch has already manifested with people who have experienced obstacles and setbacks in these respective areas. If you are fired at your work, it forces you to think differently about your career. If you have suffered from a serious disease, you will have integrated a different lifestyle.
The challenges in the world (economy, financial, environment etc.) are now forcing us to rethink the old models and to transform into creativists.
Which steps are you taking?
Occupy Love - http://occupylove.org/support-the-film/
New forthcoming film from Velcrow Ripper.
"Joint consumption doesn’t create intimacy; only joint creativity and gifts create intimacy and connection. You have such gifts that are important…. Everyone has a unique calling… and that is what the future is going to be".
This is the text of a talk that I gave at LBi in 2010 - or it is what I planned to say, I can’t promise it is exactly what I said!
Thank you all for coming today and the opportunity to speak with you.
Are you a consumer – or a creativist? That is the question before us here today. I believe that the choice between being a consumer or a creativist is the most significant choice that we can make in society today. I am going to discuss what it means to be a consumer, and what it means to be a creativist, and the choices that I believe that we make in everyday life - not only between create and consume, but other choices which impact on who we are and what we do. And how being a creativist rather than a consumer requires us to create a different space, and to participate in the journey of our lives in a different way. And, perhaps most importantly, why being a creativist is about being who we really are – which is a lot more fun, and more of an adventure, than pretending to be someone you’re not.
So. A little bit of audience participation to begin with. How many of you have you seen the title, and thought – I’m a creativist (although I don’t know exactly what that means). And how many of you have thought – I’m a consumer? And how many of you don’t know?
OK, you know what a consumer is. I don’t need to go into that definition. Consumer is the default word for person in over ten languages around the world. Start listening out for it and you will hear it everywhere. Being a consumer is the identity that we have been given, the role that we have been told that we have to play in order to keep our society going. What did Bush tell people to do after the 9/11 attacks – ‘Go shopping’. It is a national duty. But being a consumer means that our identity is created on the outside, we are defined by what we have, what we buy. And we are consuming and destroying the earth that supports us in this process. And I believe that being a consumer shapes us beyond what we buy – it shapes our attidude to work, to play, to government, even our relationships with other people. We look to what our work, our society, other people can give to us – rather than what we can create in that space, with other people, using our gifts.
So what is a creativist? There is no dictionary definition – yet. I first came across the word on a friend of a friend’s blog posting. He is a composer and DJ, who works a job to pay the bills. This was his his first posting on his new site. He was talking about how before he was consumed with the idea of being successful, of making money from his recordings – and this was actually getting in the way of his creativity. And he quoted Eddie Izzard – ‘I’m not a capitalist, I am a creativist. I want to make money so I can create things. Suddenly all these people have come along who want to create things so they can make money’. And Alex, the blogger, wrote that from now on he was going to try and put his love of music making first, just enjoy it and not worry about the money side of things.
This struck a chord with me. And it was probably more his sentiment of putting creativity first, rather than Eddie Izzard’s definition of being a creativist that resonated with me. But the word creativist seemed to me to be a useful word for bringing together the ideas that I had been working on.
A creativist is, for me, a person who creates their world from the inside out, who is driven by their values, and in turn connects and collaborates with with their communities. Where consumers are individuals, creativists are connectors.
And once I had started thinking about the world in terms of creativist vs consumer, a growing amount of evidence seemed to present itself to me to suggest that this was a movement that was already happening, from government to society to business, as well as with individuals.
President Obama, in a speech of in April 2009, called for a national movement to inspire and enable young people to be ‘makers of things, not just consumers of things’.
There has been a rapid growth recently in community led movements such as Transition Towns. Transition Towns are a community-led creative response to peak oil and climate change, realising that if we leave action to governments it will be too late, and if it will leave it to individuals, it will not be enough. And they have grown from the original Transition Town in Totnes in Devon to over 300 initiatives worldwide, from Brixton, to California to Australia.
In the design world, Tim Brown, the Chief Executive of IDEO, said that ‘we have to get over the idea of being consumers, and into the idea of participants’. He says that we need to leave behind the idea that a great service is one where the consumer sits back and doesn’t need to do anything, and realise that is one where the person is drawn and participates’. And he talks about communications technology is enabling this.
And here’s where you, working in a digital agency, are ahead of the game. You already know that collaboration is where it is all happening. You know all about open source, and why people want to work on developing software, just for the pleasure of the creative challenge, of being part of a community, and the recognition of being valued for their skills, rather than necessarily for any monetary gain. You know how the boundaries of organisations of changing, so that they are more fluid, that there is less of a distinction between inside and outside. You know the importance of creating experiences online, and allowing people to share their creativity.
And so these changes are happening, and people are starting to act in a different way, and to value different things.
And my frustration was that there was all the evidence out there, of a shift that was happening, but there was no movement that was bringing all of these diverse strands of thinking together. People are talking about how we need a new future, a new way of doing things, but for me it starts with a new way being – being a creativist rather than a consumer. Otherwise we are just tinkering round the edges.
So I started to write my creativist manifesto. A manifesto is essentially asking you to make a choice between one thing or other – vote Labour or Conservative or Lib Dem or Green. And I started to think about the choices that we make in everyday life, which ultimately determine whether we are creativist or consumers.
And these are the choices that we make everyday, at our work, in our leisure time, in our relationships. And I have found that by surfacing these choices that we all make unconsciously, that it has enabled me to be more creative, and connected, both with what is important to me, and with the communities that I am part of.
In my manifesto, I outlined nine choices. In this talk I am going to focus on two of them – be vs have and certainty vs uncertainty.
BE vs HAVE
About two and half years ago, I had four sessions with a life coach. One of the first things that she asked me to do was to list out ten things that I either wanted to be, to do or to have.
I considered the question carefully, and then wrote my list of ten on a scrap piece of paper in pencil on the tube on the way home. I still have the list. All of the items on the list were something to be. Top of the list was ‘Be creative’. Others included ‘Be peace’, ‘Be adventure’ and ‘Be wide-eyed’.
At the next session, I explained my list to Cheryl, my coach. I said to her that I thought if I was “being” all of the things on the list, then all of the things that I wanted to do and have would flow from there. I couldn’t see of any other way to approach it.
I think that this was an instinctive reaction that what was important was my values, how I lived my life. If I wasn’t true to my values, then I wouldn’t be successful. And this is true in organisations as well. John Kay, the economist, in his book, Obliquity, which is about why our goals are best achieved indirectly, gives the example that the companies that are the most successful are not those who have as their goal – ‘achieving maximum shareholder value’. The companies that are most successful are those that are passionate about what they do. He gives the example of Boeing. Bill Allen was Chief Executive from 1945 to 1968 and he explained that the spirit of himself and his colleagues was ‘to eat, breathe and sleep the world of aeronautics’. During this time the 747 was developed. But in the 1990s, there was a new CEO, Phil Condit, who said ‘We are going into a value based environment, where unit cost, return on investment, shareholder return, are the measures by which you will judged’. The headquarters were moved from the main production facilities in Seattle, to Chicago. And Boeing was overtaken by Airbus – until Boeing returned to its roots in civil aviation.
Certainty vs uncertainty
In our consumer society, we are accustomed to everything being set out in a linear fashion for us. Goods are produced in a linear fashion, on a production line, and we consume goods in a linear way, throw them away, and start again. This then also shapes our mentality in how we approach projects. We have been taught to set a goal, and then to work out the steps that lead to the goal, to follow a set process. Whereas what artists do is set an objective, and then create the space in which the work can emerge.
The importance of creating this space struck me when I was watching a video in which Keith Tyson, the Turner prize winner artist, was interviewed. He said:
“It’s a process for me in having great faith in how these things will evolve, and after a few years experience of doing it, you learn that instead of trying to control the work, you just try and find the correct circumstances for the work to come into being’.
He mentions the faith word. And the idea that instead of trying to control the work, you just try and find the correct circumstances for the work to come being. This is the antithesis of the consumer, production line mentality. So, for example, he has a large studio, in which he can work on a number of projects simultaneously. He has a very gestational practice, he often doesn’t know about the precise direction something is going in – so having things out in open, and by surrounding himself with his early thoughts, creates the circumstances in which thoughts can develop and connections can occur.
And for me, my instinctive answer, to say ‘go skiing’, at a time when I was listening myself, was my recognition of the space that I needed, in order to create the circumstances for my work to emerge. I didn’t know what it would lead. And when I was writing, I didn’t know what that would lead to, but I was just enjoying the process. When Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, was asked at South by Southwest recently, about Twitter’s business model, he responded by talking about organising for experimentation. In 2009, Twitter set out the objective – ‘if we have a billion users, we will be the pulse of the planet’. A big, hairy, audacious goal – and the creative space for Twitter employees to make this happen.
Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Carpets, a leader in sustainability, having set his company Mission Zero, to have zero negative impact on the planet, said of Mission Zero – ‘An aspiration so audacious that it takes the breath away, that is how to unleash creativity in an organisation’.
As creativists, we set ourselves an audacious aspiration.
We create the space for our work to emerge.
We embrace being, faith and uncertainty.
The Creativist Journey
Being a creativist is ultimately for me about being a journey towards an audacious aspiration, thinking big, being full of possibility, whilst at the same time being content in the moment.
And maybe that is the biggest distinction of all between a consumer and a creativist – a consumer is always in pursuit of the next thing which is going to make them happy. A creativist is on a journey too. But it is not a journey which is motivated by the lure from the outside. It is a journey which the creativist themselves chooses, and is driven from the inside out. And it is about enjoying the richness of each moment of that journey, rather than saying, ‘I will be happy when….’
I showed an earlier version of this talk to a friend of mine, who suggested, why don’t you give more suggestions about what your audience can do or be, for example step 1 awareness… And I think that the most useful thing that I can do is share with you the structure of my own journey so far. Since 2007, I have had a theme for each year. 2007 was my year of saying yes. This was my year of opening myself up to the world, trying different things out, having fun, generally saying yes. 2008 was my year of radical change. I clearly knew at the beginning of the year that I was up for a radical change, but at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t listening to myself, so was still asking myself the question, ‘change into what?’ But I think that because I opened myself up to the possibility of change then I was ready to respond to the opportunities that came my way. 2009 was my year of dancing and flying – of spreading my wings, of finding my feeling of freedom.
That year, I read Jospeh Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, in which he outlines the structure of myths and stories which is common across the world and across the ages, from Star Wars to ancient Greek myths. Stage one is departure, including the call to adventure. Stage two is initiation, including the trials that are necessary to go through in order to bring about transformation. And stage three is the return – when the hero brings back the wisdom that he or she has learnt. I remember reading this, and thinking that over the last three years I had unconsciously created my own version of the hero’s journey – stage 1, saying yes, or the departure; stage 2, iniation or the year of radical change, stage 3 – the return, or the year of dancing and flying. And then realising that the timescale was actually unimportant – I could rewrite the story a different way, and have stage 1 starting years earlier, or sometimes it seems like I am at the first stage of stage 1 – and sometimes it seems that all three stages happen in a day. The key thing is about taking responsibility for being the hero of your own story, and the richness that can bring to your life, and to the life of others. Initially I thought – being the hero of your own story sounds rather self-centred – but if you think about heros in stories, they are people whose exploits benefits others. 2010 is, for me, the year of Olivia’s Kitchen – a return to earth after my year of dancing and flying, recognition that I need to create a space for my work to emerge, space to be creative, to be experiment – but a kitchen is also a space that you share with others, it is the heart of the home, it is where the cook prepares food, sharing their gifts with others, feeding them.
So my final thought on being a creativist - being a creativist is about being the hero of your own story, rather than as a consumer being content to be a supporting player in someone else’s story. It is about taking responsibility for using the gifts that you have and sharing them with others. And my vision is a world in which we can all be connected with our gifts, living our potential to the maximum and creating a world which is richer for all of us. I like to think that this is what Obama meant when he called on young people to be makers, not just consumers.
And what happened to Alex, my musician friend after his first creativist blog posting? This last year has been a good year. After years of trying, in the last year, he has written the score for a short ballet which has been performed at a London theatre. And he is working with a choreographer on a piece which they are taking to the major dance companies.
I am still at the beginning of my journey. I published my Creativist Manifesto on the website changethis.com and received comments and emails from people around the world. One of them, in the Netherlands, asked me what I was going to do next. I said that I wasn’t sure, had a vague idea for a book, did he have any suggestions. He suggested a Skype call, and as a result of that, one Sunday afternoon, we are now creating a site, where we are going to ask people to share their vision of a creativist society, and share what they are taking personal responsibility for. So please do get in touch if you would like to find out more or would like to contribute your ideas in any shape or form – I am on Twitter at @sustainable_
I began by asking – are you a consumer or a creativist? Next time, you are in a position where you need to make a decision, I would invite you to take a step back, and think, how would I approach this as a consumer? And how would I approach it as a creativist? We can each make that choice, in each moment – and you might find the results are surprising.
So are you a creativist – or a consumer? The choice is yours.
In a recent interview, Annie Leonard, maker of The Story of Stuff, discusses what we share. She mentions the cultural commons (music, recipes, murals), physical commons (libraries, bike lanes, parks) and social commons (the people who work to make society better for us all – teachers, social workers). She adds a fourth category, which I hadn’t considered before in this context:
“The aspirational commons: hope, passion, commitment, the future. These belong to all of us, and it is up to all of us to protect and nourish them – because a society without hope and passion, and without possibility-rich future, is a dreary society indeed. And, of course our democracy: it belongs to all of us and only works when we engage”.
How can we encourage people to see our hopes, our dreams, our passion, our future as something that is shared? All of these are so often viewed in just an individual context, but not as something shared by us all when in fact, of course, our future depends on the actions that we all take now, not just the actions that we ourselves take. Hence the vital importance of encouraging people to consider what their hopes and dreams are, and then place them in the context of our collective future. I like this idea of ‘nourishing the future’. What can we do today that will nourish the future. And it is only together that we will be able to realise our individual aspirations. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, ‘There is no such thing as the individual”.
Is this what politicians really think of us? Here is Peter Mandelson, business secretary in the last Labour government, speaking about youth unemployment:
People recognise that it is a massive waste of resource, a ticking timebomb, a loss of consumer demand. It is one of the most important issues this year.
Wow. Nothing about the human factor, the impact on people’s lives, the sheer waste of talent, skills, energy. We are just seen as a resource, a timebomb, and missing cash in tills.
I was speaking to a recent graduate today who wanted to get into environmental work. She is thinking of moving to West Africa as it will be easier for her to get a job there than in the UK.
Do politicians not recognise that there needs to be a more fundamental overhaul of the system, that throwing money at the problem might help, but it is not going to make it go away? And that the problem might be around longer than just this year? How about if some of these young people were given the opportunity to solve some of these problems? Then we might get some fresh, real solutions.