Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention
This is a fascinating book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi one of the less well known but probably one of the most serious management scholars of recent times. He brings out the importance of creativity, outlines its building blocks and explains how we can all become more creative.
Withoutcreativity, it would be difficult to distinguish humans from other animals. Creativity leads to a fuller, more satisfying life. Without creativity, mankind would not progress.
Csikszentmihalyi points out that creativity cannot be understood by looking only at the people who appear to make it happen. Creative ideas need a receptive audience to record and implement them. And without the assessmentof competent outsiders, we cannot decide whether the claims of a self-styled creative person are valid.
Creativity results from the interaction of a system consisting of three elements: a culture that contains symbolic rules, a person who brings novelty into the symbolic domain, and a field of experts who recognize and validate the innovation.
Creativity is the process by which a symbolicdomain in the culture is changed. So we must learn the domain well. To master a domain, we must pay attention to the information to be assimilated. Bulk of our attention is committed to the tasks of surviving from one day to the next. And we do not do much with the small amount of attention left over because of the lack of focus. Diffused thinking leads to lack of concentration. Creativity ispossible only when we are able to focus attention on the problem at hand.
Each of us is born with two contradictory sets of instructions: a conservative tendency, made up of instincts for self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, and saving energy, and an expansive tendency made up of instincts for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk. We need both. But whereas the first tendency requireslittle encouragement, the second can wilt if it is not cultivated. If too few opportunities for curiosity are available, if too many obstacles are placed in the way of risk and exploration, the motivation to engage in creative behaviour is easily extinguished. Sustaining high levels of curiosity is the starting point of creativity.
When we use the term creativity,different images come to our mind. There are bright persons who express unusual thoughts, who are interesting and stimulating. Unless they also contribute something of permanent significance, these people must be called brilliant rather than creative.
Then there are people who experience the world in novel and original ways. These are individuals whose perceptions are fresh, whose judgments areinsightful, who may make important discoveries. The author calls such people personally creative.
Finally, there are individuals who, change our culture in some important respect. They are the creative ones without qualifications.
Creativity, as mentioned before, consists of three main parts. The first of these is the domain, which consists of a set of symbolic rules and procedures.
The secondcomponent of creativity is the field, which includes all the individuals who act as gatekeepers to the domain. They decide whether a new idea or product can be accepted. For example, in the visual arts, the field consists of art teachers, curators of museums, collectors of art, critics, and administrators of foundations and government agencies that deal with culture. These people decide what newworks of art must be recognised, preserved, and remembered.
The third component is the individual, who using symbols of a given domain, comes up with a new idea or sees a new pattern. His or her thoughts or actions change a domain, or establish a new domain.
The level of creativity in a given place at a given time does not depend only on the amount of individual creativity. It depends just...