Monday, June 29, 2009
The past several days have been pretty rough on 50-year-old guys. First Michael Jackson, then Billy Mays came to a sudden stop. Maybe I would not have thought much about it had I not been a 50-year-old guy myself. But I am and I did.
What I have been thinking about is how fine a line exists between creative genius and insanity. The very thing that causes creatives to think differently from everyone else causes them to think differently than everyone else. Those who are comfortable thinking the same as everyone else generally labels that type of thinking as “weird.”
Would Michael or Billy have made the same kind of impact in their lines of work if they thought and behaved like everyone else? I doubt it.
The same-thinking crowd recognizes that creativity is valuable. That’s why they make reference to it frequently in conferences, staff meetings and on job descriptions. The truth is, if they were to experience the full force of a truly creative person, it would scare them to death. Real “thinking outside the box” changes the box forever, and very few people are comfortable with that prospect.
Instead, most organizations practice a sort of “safe creativity” – push the envelope, but not too far, the result of which is still homogenized with everything else that organization ever did; a unique shade of beige perhaps, but beige nonetheless.
I’ve never been happy with beige. I like bold strokes of color. Extreme contrasts. Paths that take unusual turns. Stuff that 90 percent of everyone else would never have thought of doing, or if they had thought of doing it, not doing it for fear of being labeled “weird.” I guess that makes me weird.
OK, I’ll take it.
Photograph © 2008 James Jordan; licensed by Getty Images.