Book extract: Section 5.3
5.3 – The importance of creativity
[by Cinzia Rizza]
Last year  was declared by the European Commission
and Parliament “European Year of Creativity and Innovation” (see EP 2008).
The choice to dedicate a year to the subject of creativity and innovation
was an important one; as declared by Ján Figel’, European Commissioner
for education, training and culture, creativity is without doubt the
essential quality to find solutions to the economic recession that
emerged at the end of 2008. But apart from the recession, creativity
brings lasting and constant benefits for the economy, for society,
for companies but especially for the individual (Figel’, in EC 2009m).
The importance of this event consists in its contribution to raising awareness
of the importance of non-technological innovation, unlike in the past
(Kern 2010), and therefore having brought to light other areas of human
knowledge that can make a fundamental contribution to increasing
the level of creativity and therefore have a positive influence on
innovation in general and on economic growth.
But what does it mean
to be creative? And is creativity the prerogative of a few talented people
or can we all be creative? And under what conditions can society,
schools and companies develop creativity and keep it constant
5.3.1 – Creativity and the creative person
For some time now, scholars have maintained that creativity is not the
prerogative of a chosen few but that creativity is a faculty that everyone
has (Peat 2000; Greene 2001; Runco 2004). Therefore, it does not belong to
particular individuals who make a name for themselves only in the area of
artistic and scientific production, but it is a shared heritage that everyone
can have and that is best expressed only if the environment creates the
right conditions. The myth of creative thought as a tool available for a
selected elite is scotched when creativity is seen
as a development tool in any area (from science to economics), and at any
level (both individual and collective) (Cocco 2002). It appears to be
essential today to be able to recognise, appreciate and stimulate
a creative attitude if we want to lead man to find his bearings in
the boundless sea of information and enable him to put into operation forms of research,
experimentation and active learning (Tuffanelli 1999, p. 50).
Creative activity manifests itself in the ability to find new solutions
to established problems, but also in providing elaborated ad hoc responses
200 to new problems; this highlights the fact that it is «a mental tool
that allows the adaptation of a complex, changing organism to an equally
complex, changing reality» (Cocco 2002, p. 29). Therefore, creativity
is a tool that helps our species to adapt: man has managed to evolve
and adapt to his surroundings thanks to the use of creative thought that
leaves the schemata of logical-rational thought to find original solutions
to problems and challenges. The creative person is he who offers others
a different perspective on the world. For example, in the artistic field
it is a different way to see reality; or in the case of scientific creativity,
a different way to interpret it. In other words, creativity is not limited
to the individual sphere but needs co-operation
and interaction with other people (Goleman, Ray & Kaufman 1999, p. 28).
The type of cognitive expression usually called creative or divergent has «typical characteristics classified as fluidity, flexibility and associative originality. Fluidity is the ability to produce lots of ideas in a short time; flexibility is the capacity to easily change the categorical register to which the ideas belong; and originality is the ability to produce rare ideas» (Rubini 1999, p. 88).
However, for creativity to reach its full potential, some basic elements are essential. First all, an individual should have some experience and the possession of an ability in a specific area; it is a fact that many of us have a particular talent, that is a natural inclination to produce great things in a particular field. Unlike what a romantic approach would have us believe, the work of genius is by no means the fruit of a spontaneous impulse of the soul, of a mind that is not “even tempered”. Actually, it is just the opposite: a solid specialist knowledge that derives from the application of forms of traditional learning is one of the fundamental elements of creativity (Cropley 1983, p. 33).
The other component that supports creativity is passion: it is the intrinsic motivation, the need to do something for the pure pleasure of doing it and not to get something from it. Intelligence alone is not enough to be creative. Clearly, it cannot be excluded from this multiform process because the need to get information from reality always brings moments of decomposition, re-composition, comparison, inference and rational decision; however, the production of new ideas is the effect of fluidity and mental flexibility that is different from mere mental exercise, according to the criteria of logic and inference that have been traditionally attributed to reason. One could maintain there is a “threshold” relationship between intellectual activities and creative activities: a certain level of intelligence is necessary for creativity to show itself; but 201 this threshold value is placed within the limits of normal intellect. It follows that a very intelligent person is not always very creative and a very creative person may not be very intelligent but may also have average ability.
Many scholars agree in defining creativity as the production of the new. But how does the new emerge? And what is its relationship with the old way of thinking?
Creative thought emerges essentially from the capacity to free oneself from the conceptual limits imposed by old ideas (De Bono 1970). In the creation of new ideas, an important part is the destruction of the object that belongs to our tradition: «[…] in order to build, nothing is more necessary than to destroy», recognised the philosopher Benedetto Croce, by no means a revolutionary (in Agazzi 1981, p. 284). We have to go back towards the known object and destroy it in order to make a step forward (Hutten 1976, p. 252). The great economist Joseph Schumpeter spoke of “creative destruction”, referring to the way of operating of capitalism for which no innovation is possible without destroying what existed previously (Schumpeter 1942, pp. 82-85). We can see this phenomenon even more clearly today: «creative destruction, with rapid avances in technology, was a fact of life in the United States in the late 20th century. And by the end of the 20th century, creativity had become the key factor driving the U.S. economy» (Sawyear 2006, p. 281).
However, for creativity to develop, it is essential for people to have many experiences since «the richer the experience of the subject, the more abundant the material that he or she can mentally elaborate and the greater the probability that this re-elaboration will lead to innovative products» (Antonietti 1994, p. 40). This implies that also cultural diversity, the meeting of cultures that brings people into contact with different worlds, stimulates creativity: differences of cultures and diverging viewpoints are a “real tonic” (Goleman, Ray & Kaufman 1999, p. 187).
Indeed, recent studies have confirmed that in regions with great
cultural differences, the level of creativity increases.
Open regions that are very tolerant towards other cultures tend
to attract more people who can manifest their creativity (Florida 2005).
Therefore, a careful governance of society should avoid forcing the
different cultures that live there together into an artificial synthesis
imposed from above; that is, it should not seek a forced “integration”
through administrative paths, but let the diverse sensibilities and
experiences cross, communicate, converse and possibly form new forms of
synthesis that would be able to lead to new 202 perspectives and new visions
of the world, thus encouraging creativity and innovation.
The search for identity, the obsessive pursuit of it and the struggle
against other cultures would inevitably lead to the loss of its richness
and would erode the very basis of creative thought. One of the most
important achievements of anthropology is the fact that it has highlighted
how progress and innovation in the various peoples has been linked to
cultural exchange and competitive relationships between people in
neighbouring countries (unfortunately, war has been one of the main drives
of invention); and vice versa, when a culture has found itself in isolation
– because of conscious choices or because of contingent but relevant
historical circumstances – a slow but inexorable process began towards
decadence and regression, in which the traditional ways of thinking
prevailed and innovations – the fruits of creativity – were systematically
Japan is a case in point: the country already possessed the technology
of fire arms, imported in 1500 by two Portuguese adventurers who ended up
there; this technology was later developed autonomously, but little by little
it was put aside in favour of the winning culture of the Samurai who saw
the sword as a status symbol and the most honourable way to fight (also,
it was an essential instrument for social power). Since the government
was controlled by the Samurai, they first monopolised the construction
of arms, then gradually reduced it until they stopped making them altogether.
Then, in 1853 cannons were fired in the bay of Tokyo by Commander Perry
and the Japanese woke up to the fact that in order to survive as an
independent nation, they had to equip themselves with technology and
so invest in research and innovation with the results we all know today.
This and other examples (China, Tasmania, Easter island etc.) are «well
known cases of technological regression in societies that are completed
or almost completely isolated» (Diamond 1997, pp. 257-8). Therefore,
there is no doubt that imitation, competition and competitiveness of cultures
are indispensible for innovation and arousing creativity.
However, it is important that an optimal climate is established, in which
competitiveness and cohabitation manage to find the right equilibrium
so that competitiveness does not degenerate into destructive hostility
and then into a war to annihilate the identity of the other, or that
cohabitation is seen in an indifferent, cynical way – a disenchanted
view of the world. In the first case, a destructive process is put into
operation in which at the end a culture, a faith or a religion wins,
that annihilates all others and considers uniformity and “orthodoxy”
to be the highest 203 value: this is the destiny towards which countries
of the Counter Reformation went, like Spain, which after the “Re-conquest”
expelled the Moors and sent away the Jews and cultivated the
“limpieza de sangre” – pure blood.
In the second case, instead, especially in the ruling classes,
there is spread of indifference to everything, distrust in collective destinies,
the idea that one thing is worth the same as another and therefore
every change, every innovation, and every measure of progress
is useless without a direction or objective:
this was the state
of the late Roman Empire which was a reason for the backlash of
Christianity, a new faith, in which people believed so strongly
that they were prepared to die for it; but it is also the danger
towards which the EU could go if it is not able to appreciate
the differences and peculiarities of the cultures that
it is made up of.
On the contrary, we are convinced that the wealth and strength of
Europe consists in the rich cultural tradition, in the diversity
of its people, in the existence of stable, prosperous state structures
in mutual competition, in the capacity, throughout its history,
of establishing antagonistic and often conflicting relationships
that, however, have never resulted in the annihilation of diversity
(even if sometimes this risk has been run) (Cosandey 2001).
This can be witnessed by the periods of great creativity it has known:
Renaissance Italy, fragmented in various competing states, but not yet
oppressed by the uniformity of the Counter Reformation;
Holland of the 1600s where tolerance and religious cohabitation were
widespread and diffuse.
When Germany was fragmented in a mosaic of small states, personalities
like Mozart, Beethoven, Goethe, Hegel and Schiller offered their genius
to the world; when Bismarck unified Germany towards the end of the
19th century, the golden age of the country came to an end. As Gladstone
said: «Bismarck made Germany big and the Germans small» (Goleman, Ray &
Kaufman 1999, p. 186).
For the same reasons, a “great Vienna” could only exist within a multicultural
and multinational empire like the Hapsburg one (Janik & Toulmin 1973).
We can claim that
the very foundations of the West (and other civilizations
throughout history) are multicultural products, resulting from the international
exchange of goods, services, and ideas. To varying degrees, Western cultures
draw their philosophical heritage from the Greeks, their religions from
the Middle East, their scientific base from the Chinese and Islamic worlds,
and their core populations and languages from Europe. (Cowen 2002, p. 6)
It follows that a climate of tolerance but not indifference is necessary 204
for cultures with different values to live together. To support the importance
of cultural diversity, Richard Florida has produced a series of data to show
how there is a positive correlation between high indices of economic development
and social fabric characterised by the presence of tolerance, ability to
break convention and mental opening (Florida 2005). In brief, the wealth
of poles of development constitutes the existence of great diversity (Cini 2006, p. 281).
As Florida says, the areas of development are characterised by a high standard
of living, reduced social inequality and the absence of racial discrimination
(Florida 2005, p. 7 and passim). Therefore, it would appear to be essential
to encourage immigration for a society that wants to develop creatively
(see Zachary 2000).
The European Union is well aware of the importance of
cultural diversity for the development of creativity; in fact, both in EP 2008
and in the 2009 Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation in Europe by the ambassadors of the year of creativity – including famous intellectuals like Levi-Montalcini, Lundvall, De Bono e Florida – it is stated that it is necessary to open to cultural diversity as a means to favour intercultural communication (see AA.VV. 2009, Action 4).
Another element that leads to creativity is the presence of diverse
and varied cultural interests. Florida (2005, p. 41) identified
the so-called “bohemian index”, «to measure the number of writers,
designers, musicians, actors, directors, painters, sculptors, photographers,
and dancers in a region». His theory is that many regions that possess
a high bohemian index manifest a concentration of high-tech industries,
and increase in the population and employment.
To support Florida’s theory, an important report came out in 2008 by the United Nations,
Creative economy, in which the creation of a new “paradigm of development”
that links the economy and culture, embracing economic, cultural, technological
and social aspects of development at both the macro and micro levels.
Central to the new paradigm is the fact that creativity, knowledge
and access to information are increasingly recognized as powerful engines
driving economic growth and promoting development in a globalizing world.
(UN 2008, p. 3)
The “creative economy” is a holistic concept that leads to a decrease
in the stress on conventional models and an increase in the focus
on a multi-disciplinary one (see also the epistemological support given
by us to this approach in ch. 4), that constitutes the interface between economy,
culture and technology and concentrates on the importance given 205 to
creative services and contents. At the heart of the creative economy
there are the creative industries that can be defined «as the cycles
of creation, production and distribution of goods and services that
use creativity and intellectual capital as primary inputs» (UN 2008, p. 4). In the economy of knowledge, these are the most dynamic industries: in the period 2000-2005, international commerce in goods and creative services recorded an unprecedented average rate of growth of 8.7% annually and the value of world exports represented 3.4% of worldwide trade and commerce.
Even more recent is the study of the importance of culture for creativity
carried out by KEA, a research group in Brussels directed by Philippe Kern.
In line with its declared mission (see http://www.keanet.eu/mission.html),
this study (see KEA 2009) underlines the importance of culture in general
– music, the visual arts, cinema, and poetry – as «a motor of economic and
social innovation». The importance of this line of thought, also presented
in a previous study (see KEA 2006), is that it revealed this absence of
consideration of the role of the creative sector not linked to R&S –
even if, as we have seen, in more recent times the EC has remedied this deficit
– that gave weight to the idea that many people have, that the arts and
culture are “ornaments” for human life, rather than essential factors for
growth and development; they are only activities providing different forms
of “entertainment” and therefore they are marginal in terms of economics or
even losing sectors which need state intervention in the same way as health does.
Moreover, the KEA stresses that
[…] culture promotes European integration and is a key tool to integrate
the components of European societies in all their diversity, to forge a sense
of belonging as well as to spread democratic and social values. Culture can
contribute to “seduce” European citizens to the idea of European integration.
(KEA 2006, p. 1)
We think it is particularly interesting how the KEA reports underline
the importance of the so-called humanist disciplines, to which we must add
– since it has not been sufficiently underlined by the KEA – also those sectors
of human sciences like literature, philosophy and the disciplines that come
under STS, like in all the other fields not immediately linked to technology
and scientific reasoning. To this regard another important fact is that the
ambassadors of the year of creativity believe that, together with art,
the union of philosophy and science is essential to creativity
(AA.VV. 2009, Action 4).
If scientific knowledge is to feed its 206 creative vein it should draw
on the correct forma mentis from those disciplines that stand out in
It is not possible to have an effective policy for innovation and
economic growth if this rich heritage that is the storehouse of
human culture, the fruit of its secular creativity is put aside:
Culture-based creativity is a powerful means of overturning norms
and conventions with a view to standing out amid intense economic
competition. Creative people and artists are key because they develop
ideas, metaphors and messages which help to drive social networking
and experiences. / Apple’s success is intrinsically linked to the founder’s
vision that technology, marketing and sales alone are not sufficient to
deliver corporate success. A key factor is to have people who believe very
strongly in the values of the company and who identify it with as creators
and innovators – the ad campaign “Think different” featuring Picasso,
Einstein, Gandhi was described by Steve Jobs as a way for the company
to remember who the heroes are and who Apple is. Apple has succeeded
to create empathy for technology that other technology companies have
failed to provide. The aesthetic of the product range, through innovative
design, also yielded success. (KEA 2009, p. 5)
It is not just coincidence that Finland – one of the countries
that in recent years has established itself for its greater innovative
capacity, scaling the world and European ranks (see § 5.1.2) –
has put into operation a progressive change «from technology-driven
innovation towards more human-centered innovation» (KEA 2009, p. 9).
Therefore, if it is true that industries of high intensity of knowledge
surely represent an important engine of development in the society of
knowledge, however, we must not think that economic creativity is only
their prerogative, that is, a question to be resolved within the
productive sector. It is essential to place stress also on the education
and training context in which the person is inserted, that forms
(together with technical competence and personal skills) one of the
fundamental elements for creativity to thrive.
5.3.2 – Family and school
The first institution that carries out the task of educating
for cultural diversity is the family: it is the first incubator
of creativity. The factors that favor the development of
creativity can be found in education leading to tolerance,
anti-dogmatism, respect for autonomy, freedom to regulate
one’s own behavior in play and in the development of personal
aspirations (Rubini 1999, p. 90). An education that takes
account of these aspects forms flexible individuals, who are enterprising, willing to learn, 207 to open themselves to many ways of life and experience, able to easily revise or abandon previous attitudes and opinions and especially have developed a strong sense of self-esteem. On the contrary, people who have been repressed in their creative impulses and have been used to being afraid of their neighbors, are usually insecure and do not have a welldeveloped sense of self-esteem; it follows that in situations in which their strongly consolidated value representations are questioned, they find it difficult to revise their opinions. For these people, measuring themselves with another orientation is a burden that is difficult to bear. This is why these people, repressed in their creativity, feel anguish in situations of contrast and in some cases suffer from neurotic conflicts (Cropley 1983, pp. 30-31). If the expression of self is cultivated from childhood, people can express it better later on in life in subsequent educational activities, especially at school. The task of the school is to educate students to both convergent and divergent thought; this can only take place if the teacher shows appreciation of his students, persuading them that they are “people of value”, able to realize something in a world that presents enormous difficulties. All too often, however, the inclination to divergence, autonomy and selfsufficiency are valued negatively in the school. Probably this attitude on the part of the teacher depends both on the fact that divergent thought on average takes longer than normal curricular learning, and also on the fact that with regard to these students, teachers feel less important and therefore less gratified (Tuffanelli 1999). But it is often the case that teachers do not have great ability in recognizing truly creative performance (Getzels & Jackson 1962); besides, teachers prefer students whose results are the fruit of convergent thought (bowing to authority, conformism, etc.), rather than students who obtain equally valid results using divergent thought, but who often display behavior that is less easily controlled and who in any case require greater didactic commitment on the part of the teachers, and greater attention to their needs. Besides, the school curriculum has in itself a “convergent” content, based on the “best” right answers to which one must arrive by processes of purely logical thought. Naturally, the right answers and logical thought are important, but what is more important in the present context is to develop that creative capacity, that flexibility and mental opening that allows individuals to face present and future challenges (Cropley 1978, p. 26). In a survey carried out by the EC in December 2009 on the role of creativity in schools of the 27 European countries, it is stated that the 208 teachers’ views on the importance of creativity on curricula objectives vary greatly and that the differences existing between the diverse countries of the EU have led to the need to open «a debate regarding the conceptualisation and implementation of creativity in the curriculum, so as to reach a more common understanding and a shared practice within each national context» (EC 2009l, p. 16). Another important piece of data that has emerged from this survey concerns the training that teachers have had for the development of their own creativity and consequently in their ability to develop creativity in students (EC 2009l, p. 18): it is surprising to discover that countries who have recently entered the EU have for some time developed innovative techniques of training teachers in creativity. We should, therefore, take an example from these “new” nations that have recently appeared in the new capitalist economy but have already recognized the value of creativity in the school. Instead, many EU schools lack courses that are aimed at improving the divergent abilities in both teachers and students. On the contrary, as we well know from recent Italian experience, in the search for a better monitoring and control in the school, there has been a proliferation of stringent schemes in which “programs, timetables, classes” are bureaucratically fixed, to which is associated the “ritual of lessons-oral tests-marks”, which tends to encourage a passive, formal kind of learning, rather than an active, autonomous one (Rubini 1999). As Sternberg remarks (1997), it can also happen that in many educational systems, creativity is encouraged in some moments of life but is placed on a secondary level later on. Thus, in the nursery school, creativity is supported but then, in later stages of education, it is the teacher who decides what the students should do. The risk of this attitude is that children may lose the style of thought that generates creative performance. We must protect children from the killers of creativity – competition, excessive control, limitation of choices, and lack of time. For example, one of the ways to destroy creativity in children is to ask questions with closed answers (true/false type), penalizing those that get them wrong; it would be fitting, on the contrary, to ask also open questions to give space to imagination (see Goleman, Ray & Kaufman 1999, pp. 64-68; Urban 2007). In line with what has already been said about the importance of a creative culture, artistic education should be considered as an essential element for the development of creativity. In the document produced in 2009 entitled Design, Creativity and Innovation, the authors highlighted 209 the value of art education, not only to stimulate creativity but to prevent students from dropping out of school (see Hollanders & van Cruysen 2009, p. 10). Also the already mentioned report (Wynne et al. 1997) drawn up in the light of STS goes in the same direction, often expressing the conviction that it is vital not to obstruct – through consolidated and rhetorical narratives, now superseded – «our institutional capacity or willingness to experiment with possible alternatives»; therefore it maintains «that striving to change conventional understandings, and developing more diversified imaginations, both moral and practical, may be the most important initiative to which policy actors and institutions can commit» (ib., p. 79). Finally, we should not forget that an important way to prevent creativity from being blocked is to halt excessive specialisation that can lead the individual to having a rigid mental attitude, to psycho-sclerosis, also limiting flexibility and opening to changes that today’s society is going through. This is particularly important in developing the scholastic and professional curricula in secondary schools and universities: unlike what has happened in many European countries and in particular in Italy, where courses have multiplied that produce rigid professional figures who are already completed, ready to be inserted in the job market, without further refining, it is necessary to aim at the formation of specific, yet flexible competences. We believe that this is one of the points to be insisted on to prevent the rich, multiform cultural education typical of the European school and university system from being lost in pursuit of a premature technical specialisation that would create only limited minds, lacking creative spirit. If it is true what we say – that creativity should be nourished by a rich humanistic culture (a claim also strong supported by the research and reports mentioned before) – then it is vital that the humanistic element of cultural education should not be lost, particularly that which should be given to scientists and technicians. Lorenzo Thione, creator of the search engine Bing which he sold to Microsoft for 100 million dollars, explained that its innovative character consisted in the fact that it was based on computational linguistics, which is a branch of artificial intelligence dedicated to the understanding of human language on the part of the computer. He adds: «At school, Americans do not do logical analysis which, on the contrary ends up going out of the ears of any Italian student from primary school. And it is logical analysis that is the most important element of computational 210 linguistics» (in Wired, nov. 09, p. 57). That logical analysis, which is at the basis of the study of languages like Latin, is gradually disappearing in Italian schools.
5.3.3 – Companies
After school education, work training begins, which represents a complex, delicate area. Bendin (1990) underlines that the society of the future will be less and less uniform and stationary and therefore should develop more inclinations and capacity for change. For this it is important to provide students with a new flexibility, educating them to increase their creative capacity so as to enable them to cover the different and changing roles that society may assign to them at the moment of their insertion in productive activity and then over the course of their working lives, more and more subject to work changes and real professional reconversions (Bruscaglioni 1998, p. 10). People looking for a job or those who want to change their line of work on the one hand have the opportunity to concentrate on “training”, taking care of their preparation, keeping up to date and paying attention to new demands; while on the other hand, they can aim at “flexibility”, showing that they are willing to change activity, sector or working context depending on the opportunities that are offered (De Carlo 2001). In fact, «companies need people with independent minds, willing to take the risk of speaking and who feel free to respond to change in an imaginative way» (Goleman, Ray & Kaufman 1999, p. 110). But if companies want to have creative people, they should create a company culture that encourages the expression of creativity in a serene climate and be open to innovative ideas and proposals. Mental opening and tolerance of diversity are among the elements that should characterize this company culture. The presence of these elements shows itself also in the acceptance of a sense of humor, in providing places to relax and let the mind wander, away from the work routine. Creativity should be a style of life that leads the creative person to continuously experiment and question the sense of things and possible interventions in them. On the other hand, creativity is a faculty with no age restrictions: even if the powers of our mind decrease after the age of sixty, nevertheless, an eighty-year-old has the same creative capacity as a thirty-year-old (Osborn 1953). In other words, despite the fact that over time, we lose certain cognitive faculties such as memory, imagination – the faculty that creates – is preserved. For Goleman, Ray & Kaufman (1999, p. 37), «far 211 from declining with age, the creative spirit probably acquires strength and vigor when an old man or woman – who become aware of their own mortality and approaching death – concentrate on what really matters in life». This leads us to the conclusion that company training in creativity should not be limited only to certain age groups or to claim that older workers are no longer able to produce in an original way. For a company, it is important to enable its employees to experiment freely with creativity. People able to express themselves are happier to carry out their work, in an autonomous, varied way, with levels of participation and responsibility in which they can express their ability; therefore, the presence of a strong intrinsic motivation raises levels of creativity in work (Argyle 1987; Jacques 1970). In fact, those who feel greater involvement in their jobs, and particularly to the task assigned to them, obtain greater creative performance. In order to realize a creative environment, it is necessary to aim at the development of self-esteem. It is not just important at a scholastic level, as we have seen, but is essential in every moment of life: individuals with a strong sense of inferiority and insecurity tend to be distrustful of everything that comes from the outside, but especially of everything that they themselves produce and therefore their personal intuitions. They prefer to do things which are not very complex, repetitive, not autonomous, excluding therefore every sort of activity in the commercial, handicraft and managerial fields; they do not tend to take their work very seriously, becoming rigid in a narrow mindset in order to protect themselves from the risk that intuition may lead to a distortion of their mental and behavioral schemata (Cavallin 2002). On the contrary, a clear, lucid attitude to every situation, even if it is problematic, leaves a lot of space to creative intuition; humor and intuitive thought have in common the fact that they manage to get out of the linear course of ordered and rational thought with unpredictable and illogical deviations (Ernst 1990). Creativity constitutes an important resource for an individual to be able to realize himself professionally and enrich his competences, getting job satisfaction at the same time. If individual creativity is the “bricks” with which innovation is built, another element of great importance is flexibility. Being flexible means having an open mentality, having the capacity to make quick decisions, being willing to accept changes and take risks. It consists in possessing the awareness of being able to change; curiosity towards innovation; the capacity for problem finding and problem solving; the desire to learn 212 and improve; and the capacity to assume responsibility and face risks, making the necessary decisions (De Carlo 2002). To conceive of work in a creative sense and open up to innovations requires “an active search for information”, “abilities to redefine problems” and “capacities to produce alternative ideas” to current solutions. Today especially, entrepreneurial ability and innovation are linked to creative capacity; the success of a company mainly depends on the initiative of entrepreneurs who know how to produce innovative ideas, are able to “identify resources” and to “seize the opportunities” of the area in which they operate, assuming the responsibility of risk by investing in their own project. Entrepreneurs, today more than ever before, demand that training activities should have a preparation aimed at creative and innovative development; it is to be hoped that training will become an opportunity for people to know themselves and their own resources better (Dal Corso 2002). In fact, in recent years, training commitment in companies has increased considerably, following the need for everyone who works in a modern productive organization to be highly qualified and to be able to put their creativity to work (Lombardi 1993). A particular task of training then is to promote the development of flexibility understood as capacity to activate more articulated organizational behaviors, able to give an answer to modalities that are completely different from situation to situation, to know how to work with style, professionalism, organizational cultures and values that are completely different from their own, to know how to interpret several roles at the same time or in different times. (Civelli & Manara 1997, p. 143) As De Carlo maintains (2001), in the society of knowledge, services, and non-material goods, people constitute “the most important added value” of modern companies. Individual responsibility, autonomy, the capacity to interpret creatively one’s professional role are therefore factors of fundamental importance and success both for the individual worker (employee or freelance) and for the company. In order to progress and stimulate innovation, financial resources are not sufficient on their own, but the appropriate use of divergent thought that is able to reach solutions and contributions that are difficult to foresee are also required (Cocco 2002). But what does this often quoted difference between convergent and divergent thought consist of? Convergent thought grasps a single correct solution, which must be found by systematically applying certain logical processes to a set of in- 213 formation. The correct solution can be established with a sufficient knowledge of the facts and the ability to recognize immanent regularities; when it performs best it is a logical-deductive way of reasoning. Divergent thought is characterized by the fact that lines of reasoning, though starting from what is known, move in several directions and thus generate new and independent ideas. It is not a question of finding a single solution, the right one, but rather arriving at a greater number of diverse inventions (Guilford 1950; Cropley 1983, p. 56). The use of divergent thought brings many risks, especially when creating a new venture: there is the fear of taking a path that has not been trodden and the fear of not being able to support it economically (Farinelli 1993). However, job creation is not a synonym of improvisation but the result of a good preparation linked to a broadness of vision and interest able to stimulate new enterprise (Carraro 1993). This, therefore, is the importance of investments that can give young entrepreneurs incentives to launch themselves into new activities, especially entrepreneurs on a small scale who have more possibilities of manifesting their creativity. For instance, in Silicon Valley small companies and small divisions of large firms have managed to undertake something new alone without being suffocated by a lot of bureaucracy. An infinite number of secondary products have been produced, all conceived by a group of audacious creative people (Goleman, Ray & Kaufman 1999, p. 129). In a company, the creative spirit can find many ways to express itself in the workplace. The creation of new products is naturally the most obvious, but there are others – for example devising a system to provide clients with the best services, or operating innovations in management, bringing improvements in the methods of distribution or introducing new ideas to obtain funds. Creative ideas can also be used to strengthen the organization itself, for example increasing the initiative of the workers or their involvement in the company. For instance, one idea (successfully used by a Swedish factory and also by other companies in the USA and in Brazil) is to share all financial information – for example, the flow of money coming in every week – with all employees. The elimination of traditional company secrets helps the employees to understand the bigger reality of the company, thus encouraging them to generate ideas to reduce costs and increase profits (ib., p. 114). This is an example of how the changes that improve the work environment come from the combined efforts of managers and employees. This takes place since both managers and employees adopt a creative 214 perspective that leads to important changes: workers begin to give value no longer only to the product but also to the process; companies appreciate the fact that that workers learn new things, grow from a personal point of view and express their own intuitions. The organization is conceived no longer as a sort of enormous impersonal machine, but as a complex living organism guided by lively intelligence, needing continual stimulation (ibidem). Some companies have highlighted how the elimination of rigid distinctions between the duties of the workers, in order to create an environment in which the individuals are given greater responsibility, leads to greater interest in the company and one’s own work and makes each worker both encouraged and motivated to find creative solutions for any problem that arises in the company (ib., p. 126). An example of creative company approach was that of an important Italian entrepreneur, Adriano Olivetti, who in the 1950s managed to create a new model of a company in which capital and workers could be united in perfect harmony: the construction of large light-filled buildings of metal and glass – help for the families of employees with the setting up of nurseries near the companies, the creation of work islands in which the employee belonged to a group with whom he could interact and so feel an active part of his work (Ochetto 2009). Another particularly significant example is the “flat” or horizontal type of organization, opposed to the traditional, more rigid model of a vertical type, used by the RAND Corporation (Research AND Development), a research body set up by the government of the United States in the period of the cold war, when the launch of the first soviet Sputnik made them fear that communists would overtake them technologically: RAND included a network of several dozen experts from quite different fields and granted them considerable freedom to come up with creative ideas, with only a couple of administrative layers to contend with. Although RAND was projector goal-oriented, its experts were free to consult each other in fruitful ways. For example, it was at RAND that Herbert Simon and his former student Allen Newell got the idea of designing a computing machine that could prove the theorems of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica—and hence one that could probably perform any intelligent operation whatsoever. Thus was born the idea of artificial intelligence. Over the years, many leading technologists worked for RAND and at least implicitly imbibed this innovationstimulating form of organization. A flat, open organizational structure would come to characterize the firms of the future Silicon Valley […]. (Nickles 1999b, p. 118) 215 Silicon Valley is characterized for refusing the hierarchical model of company organization of the “top-down” type of the age of managerial revolution, that prevailed on the eastern coast of the United States and led to the end of the DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation), because of its slowness in reacting to market change. Despite its size, and the importance of the companies in it, Silicon Valley tends to minimize hierarchical organization and privileges a way of open communication. Managers are still necessary, of course, but they are more accessible to those below them in the company. In terms of creativity, the organizational structure is “flatter” and more flexible than the traditional model and hence more democratic. Superficial symbols of this more democratic arrangement are that everyone, from the top executives down, usually dress casually and have the same access to parking spaces, cafeterias, and rest rooms. Silicon Valley fits well into the larger California culture, which is “laid back” and informal (“live and let live”) but certainly not lazy: the key people are not only incredibly smart but also intense, hardworking problem solvers. The more imaginative people often grew up as science fiction addicts. They boldly imagine alternative futures but also have a pragmatic sense of what is achievable at a given time. (Nickles 2009b, p. 121) Besides the structure of an organisation, also the attitudes that pervade all its activities can encourage or obstruct creativity. One of the keys to creativity consists in building a climate of trust and respect, so that people feel quite secure that they can express new ideas without fear of being censured. Moreover, there is an increasing gap between what many companies consider to be their objective and what an increasing number of people would like to find in their work. The greater that abyss, the more alienated the workers feel. And the more alienated they feel, the less easily they can draw on their creative energy. The unhappy consequence of this state of things is that, in order to encourage their employees, too many companies fall back on a combination of financial incentives (the carrot) and fear (the stick). However, this particular combination has a deadly effect on creativity, compared to when work is done mainly for the pure, simple pleasure that it brings. Besides, we should take note that today more and more people do not go in search of a job that represents simply a source of wealth, status and power, but instead they want a job that – besides ensuring a decent life – offers a meaning and a basis for satisfaction and fulfilment which is suitable to their personality. If a company does not recognise this truth, it will have difficulty finding the best people and also keeping them. 216 A way to prevent the creation of a rising gap between company conditions and individual needs, that would be beneficial both to companies and to the people who work there, is to promote investment in the development of the interior resources of workers, putting into motion an approach that is in compliance with the “humanistic scenario” (to which we shall return – see § 5.6), especially in highly technological industries. In fact, this solution has been embraced by some far-seeing entrepreneurs who have redefined the objectives of their companies, pushing them beyond mere profit, to making the workplace an opportunity for personal growth. Naturally, this does not mean that a company should not aim at profit, but only that it should broaden its attention and not stay focused on balance sheets to the detriment of the quality of the work itself (Goleman, Ray & Kaufman 1992, p. 156). Humanising work, opening up to diversity supported by tolerance, and developing flexibility seem to be the essential elements to enable creativity to manifest itself in companies. However, we must not forget that there is also another typology of creativity which companies must take into account: that which develops outside them but manages to interact positively with them.
5.3.4 – Widespread creativity
Apart from stimulating creativity in a horizontal way, as we have already seen, companies should let the creativity of the final consumer enter their innovation strategies. In fact, Eric von Hippel (2005) claims that most of the innovation in the realisation of products, especially high technology ones in the ICT and computing sector, derives from the creativity of those who use them, rather than from the company designers. The idea at the basis of von Hippel’s analysis is that the approach to the consumer as passive subject is being abandoned. As has happened for some time in the field of art, in which an author or a composer loses the control of his product once it is published, in this way, computer products and also pre-packaged consumer goods undergo the same fate once they are put on the market: consumers are free to modify the product and this may lead to important innovations. Financial analysts, aware of how much creativity is present among the users, have pointed out the need to construct new models of business able to use these creative resources (Nickles 2009b, p. 128). The vertical model of “command and control”, in which it was the company designers who created the products to be put on the market as 217 finished objects and sold through marketing strategies, imposing them on the passive consumer (according to the “linear model”, that we have criticised – see § 5.1.1), has been put aside by the most innovative companies (those of the American West Coast of Silicon Valley, that have replaced those of the East Coast). In its place, a new form of economics, in which innovation is democratised and shared with the consumer is being implemented: the consumers also become creative producers of the product that they use. The most typical example of this phenomenon is linked to the open source and free software or to the phenomenon of Wikipedia that enables the users/consumers themselves to change the product in order to adapt it to the use they want to make of it. In this way, the consumer of a product becomes also its creative producer – the prosumer. In general terms this means the triumph of a democratic theory of innovation over a traditional, “fascist” theory in which an intellectually and culturally superior creative class paternalistically (if that word is not too generous) determines which innovations are good for the masses. The new movements manifest a centrifugal tendency as regards innovative change – a flight from the old centers of power. (Nickles 2009b, p. 105) In fact, companies that are more attentive and innovative in this field have begun to monitor the innovations produced by the users in order to incorporate them in new production lines. Von Hippel clearly underlines this shift of tendency towards sharing the product: Users that innovate can develop exactly what they want, rather than relying on manufacturers to act as their (often very imperfect) agents. Moreover, individual users do not have to develop everything they need on their own: they can benefit from innovations developed and freely shared by others(von Hippel 2005, p. 1) In brief, starting from a finished product, it is possible to generate another, in a system of co-production that never finishes but is continually renewed. At the basis of the need to modify a product, claims von Hippel, there is not only the need to adapt it to one’s own needs, but also the desire to share one’s own innovation with others and consequently contribute to social well-being. But what need is there for further innovation on the part of prosumers in a global market in which a great quantity of products have invaded the market to satisfy the most varied demands? In effect, the producers tend to follow a strategy of development that aims at satisfying the needs of the widest segment of the market, aiming at maximising sales for re- 218 stricted types of goods. However, this strategy does not satisfy all those consumers who do not identify with the masses and consequently, they need to adapt and innovate the products (von Hippel 2005, p. 5). Subsequently, this innovation is taken over by the producer who in this way manages to respond better and better to the demands of the user. In fact, through approval surveys, companies always keep open a channel of communication with the consumer, so they can be informed about the destiny of their products. Obviously, this change in the productive market is difficult for firms with a vertical “command and control” structure to accept. It is difficult to keep count of the infinite varied requests on the part of the consumers, but if companies want to continue to increase their trade, they have no option but to listen to what the customers want and see how they make innovations. Therefore, the proposal put forward by von Hippel consists in abandoning the idea that creativity is found only in companies and in their S&D departments, and that only a few people are in possession of creative capacity, and instead to support the democratization of innovation and widespread creativity, a reservoir that is always full and available, and from which producers and consumers can draw. These indications have shown us that there is quite a close connection between democracy and innovation: the former is the condition of the latter as it enables a Darwinian process of selection of creative ideas to take place, based on a mechanism of «blind variation and selective retention» (Nickles 2003). Without democracy there can be no selection (creative ideas cannot compete among themselves), and without selection between creative ideas, there can be no innovation. But creativity sees democracy not only in a wide sense (tolerance, measuring oneself with others, hybridisation of cultures etc. and therefore attraction of talent and comparison of ideas), but also in a more typically company sense, with the superseding of the command & control model: «democratising creativity as far as possible is a good way, perhaps the best, to promote innovation» (Nickles 2009b p. 138). And vice versa, innovation and creativity are themselves democratising factors of society, as they make new ideas circulate, make people accustomed to tolerance, push for the abolition of all the positions that cannot rationally justify their authority and so end up contributing to the realisation of that spirit of enlightenment that is at the basis of our civilisation and which we wanted to take up again in this report. 219
5.4 – The role of the university in the society of knowledge
The development of a human and democratic knowledge society –
the main goal of the Lisbon strategy – can only be the fruit of a
carefully planned process of investments in sectors like education,
in particular university education and research. The EU has often
been reminded of the shortcomings in its education system (...)
COSANDEY, D. 2001 “Les causes du succès scientifique de l’Occident”, Sciences, 1, pp. 16-20.
The Mirrors of Science