TED Talks + Creativity

TED Conferences are known for bringing together dynamic individuals from a variety of backgrounds to share novel ideas. This week we watched talks on creativity from three of such authors – Amy Tan, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Sir Ken Robinson – all of whom offered their personal insights into the topic.

In her presentation, Amy Tan defined creativity as “a sense or inability to repress looking at associations in practically anything in life.” This definition of creativity resonates with me because it suggests that very individual possess an inherent creative spirit and we are each responsible for tapping into this potential. Tan also raised the question, “How do we create?” and points to questioning everything as the answer.

While Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t give a concrete definition of creativity, she offered some insight into managing the risks of creativity and stressed the need to have a “psychological construct to protect from the results of [creativity/artistry].” In particular, Gilbert’s talk reveals one of the challenges creative people face: being consistent. However, she also offered valuable advice, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job.”

Sir Ken Robinson’s talk was more of a charge for us to treat creativity with equal importance as literacy, but he also provided a simple yet profound definition of creativity: “the process of having original ideas that have value.”

Interestingly, despite the fact that each of their talks had a different focus, I was able to find some parallels. For example, they all referenced this notion of creativity being tied to mental instability. Tan proposes that creativity may be “a function of a neurological quirk” and mentions psychosis and depression as two examples. Gilbert also asserted that “creative people across all genres have this reputation for being enormously mentally unstable,” and Sir Robinson also alluded to this in his anecdote about British ballerina and choreographer, Gillian Lynne.

In addition, Sir Robinson appears to agree with Tan’s idea that creative people are multi-dimensional. He suggests that creativity “comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.” These two similar perspectives also fall in line with the basis of the 4P framework, which refers to the holistic multi-dimensional approach to assessing creativity.

As these three TED talks prove, the concept of creativity is quite fascinating and I hope to be able to discover my own insights in the topic as we go through the semester.


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