“Who killed our creativity?” asked founder and CEO of I am Jack Frost, Paul Steenkamp, during Finance Indaba Africa 2017, held last week at the Sandton Convention Centre.
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Paul hosted a session called 'The Curious Incident of Creativity in the Night Time', which aimed to dispel the notion that creativity is reserved for writers, musicians and artists, r that one has to be broken, on drugs, broke or a hippie to be considered a creative. Paul's argument is that everyone is creative and that people need to spend more time nurturing that personal creativity. Yes, even that auditor or accountant, or anyone who the world considers to be less creative in their profession.
Paul asked a room crowded with finance professionals what is stopping them from being creative. He was answered by a lot of murmuring and nervous laughter. After pausing for a moment, he answered his own question, saying that our education system suppresses and kills our creativity. "We are all born creative and then school beats it out of us and teaches us to conform," he said excitedly.
Society tends to celebrate one type of intelligence - academic excellence. As a result, human potential is wasted because we teach children from an early age that being creative doesn't make them smart and won't make them money in the long run.
Discouraging creativity is done in various ways and at different stages in our lives, from childhood to adulthood, Paul said. One example is what he terms the Uncle "distraction junkie" technique where we have convinced ourselves that we're time poor and therefore do not have time to be creative. He said:
"We're not as time poor as we think, if you re-evaluate your life, you may find that there's something you can do without. So, find out what your distractions are and how you can repurpose that time towards your creativity."
Another obstacle to realising our full potential as creative beings is what he calls Tannie "blocked by bullies", which refers to people who hurt you and make you think twice about being creative. "Make a list of people who shut down your ideas and remove them from your life because sometimes they're stuck creatively themselves and they take it out on you," Paul said.
There's also the idea that if you haven't made it young, you're never going to make it. People always feel that the bus has already left and it's too late to be creative but that's not true. Paul gave an example about how, in some creative professions, you aren't taken seriously if you haven't failed a couple of times, and urged people not to be bogged down by failure - or getting old.
"Failure is essential to learning," he said. "Look at mountain bikers, for example. They can't wait to tell you if they have crashed or broken something because in the world of biking you become a member only after falling and making mistakes. If we embrace failure we can learn from it and become more creative."