As I said last time, more and more unlikely people seem to be talking about the power of the creative process, while failing to grasp its essential essence.

Here are three instances, randomly chosen from recent media viewing. A UK, household-name businessman spoke in a magazine interview of how his ‘quality products… invite people to take part in a dream’ with ‘lifestyle advertisements that tell a story that encourages customers to participate’.

A US university professor, whose speciality is ‘innovation as applied creativity’, spoke on radio about the need for businesses to ‘take creativity seriously’ if they want to build better teams and take their organization to new levels of performance, and also of the need for us all to ‘complexify’ (?) our thinking about creative intelligence.

A success guru, when asked by an NBC presenter how families can handle the economic challenges bequeathed to them by a failing economic system, threw out a lot of cliches about the need to ‘get creative’ by seeing ‘the opportunities in adversity’. When pressed by the interviewer for some practical advice, his suggestion was to invest in emerging economies (he favoured Vietnam) instead of at home in the US.

These people all used the term ‘creative intelligence’ with no apparent awareness that their suggestions were a travesty of the term. To clarify, here are the most salient differences between conventional, rational, analytical intelligence (the kind fostered by our education system and workplaces) and creative intelligence:

  • Conventional intelligence communicates through thoughts, concepts, opinions and ideas. Creative intelligence communicates through feelings, emotions, imaginings and intuitions.
  • Conventional intelligence aims to control; creative intelligence aims to allow.
  • Conventional intelligence analyses and critiques; creative intelligence plays and explores.
  • Conventional intelligence categorises; creative intelligence disrupts.
  • Conventional intelligence looks out, seeing human reality as material and fixed. Creative intelligence looks in, seeing human reality as imagined and co-created .
  • Conventional intelligence persuades through intellectual opinion and argument. Creative intelligence persuades through story, symbol and song.
  • Conventional intelligence consumes art, writing and music as entertainment. Creative intelligence creates art, writing and music as expression.
  • Conventtional intelligence likes answers; creative intelligence likes questions.
  • Conventional intelligence sees failure as avoidable and a defeat. Creative intelligence sees failure as necessary and a learning opportunity.
  • Conventional intelligence deploys. Creative intelligence devises.

Being creative means paying less attention to the surfaces, to our doings and achievements, our ambitions and desires in favour of focussing on the depths, the hidden forces and faculties that lie within.

Engaging creative intelligence inevitably brings us into direct observation of our ego.  That part of us that insists on burnishing our worries, wants and wishes, until they blind us to what’s here, now. That loves to hear our voice resounding opinions or issues, until we’ve drowned out the whispers of our hearts.

That allows the wellings from the eternal, internal font to flow back, more often than not, from whence they came, past our skin instead of through our blood.

It chooses to take, rather than give; to opt for safety over risk, to prefer predictability to certainty.

It prefers us to succeed rather than to learn. Fair enough. That’s how we’ve been taught  to live; it’s how most of us survive and a few of us thrive.

But let’s not pretend that changing our vocabulary or introducing the odd brainstorm means we’re now taking the creative way — when what we’re actually talking about is business as usual.