Killing Creativity

Part of the problem with creativity, and what’s killing creativity, is the flattening of the distinction between creativity and innovation. Earlier this month, Newsweek, a magazine in its financial death throes, made a tiny stir in the business innovation community over “The Creativity Crisis.” Yet, fundamentally, the article itself betrayed an absolute misunderstanding of what it means to create. Creativity is not a “product,” not just the raw material used to stoke a commercialization engine. It’s not a natural resource like coal or fresh water. The typical rhetoric around creativity assumes an output always already reduced to nothing but instrumentality. Destroyed in this flattening is any distinction between the recombination of elements, and incremental improvement, and creativity as the true bringing into being.

Throughout the Newsweek article, it’s creativity as consumption, the “creativity” of buying a cake mix and adding an extra egg. This sense pervades wide swaths of the creativity porn one finds among consultants and bloggers looking to give you “Ten Ways To Be More Creative Now” and the like. All of that babble of people selling ways to be more creative (like being more popular, more attractive, a better housewife, a better employee) just pulls us further away from what it means to make, to make things out of the texture of being, to go into being and bring something back.¬†Perhaps the “crisis” merely comes from the fact that such false creativity is running out of things to cut and paste, with only so many remakes to make, and only so many iterations of derivative to sell.

In short, these so-called creativities are merely creativizations of mediatized components. If only they actually were in “crisis!” The notion behind them takes utterly unthoughtfully at face value what Heidegger calls the “enframing” (Ge-stell) of the technological, reducing all beings to nothing other than their availability and manipulability. Such a view¬†drags creativity into the realm where “everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately on hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for future ordering.” And further, again, via Heidegger, “radically endangers the relation to the essence of truth.”

There is, as always, room in the market for innovation; raw materials and prior works all equally veins to tap for economic growth. But to muddy the issue of fading innovation with a sloppy view of creativity—that serves no end at all.