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Progress report on Presentation Zen (the book)

The creativity imperative: nurturing what is our nature

Creative "You are a naturally and supremely creative being — why do you think you are not?" This is something I tell people — especially my college students — all the time. A lot of people misunderstand what is meant by creativity and dismiss it as some sort of cognitive ornamentation that guys with black turtlenecks pick up while at art school and then use to amuse themselves while standing in the unemployment lines. There is a real feeling among many, and apparently ingrained in education systems across the globe, that exercising our (innate) creativity beyond elementary school and learning how to think creatively must necessarily come at the expense of our well-established fundamental curricula. (The fundamentals and the basics are absolutely necessary, but it is not an either/or game).

So we let creativity slip and we become less and less creative (or at least we marginalize it) as we become adults, that is, as we become "serious people." But creativity is not just for the art and literature majors of the world. All professions increasingly require more and more infusions of creative talent. And the real irony is that our true nature is to be creative — it is who we are — yet we are often quite successful at educating ourselves and others out of it (a point that Sir Ken Robinson made at his famous TED talk).

I think creativity is so important for professionals today that I included an entire short chapter on the subject of creativity as it relates to presentation and presentation design in the book. Somewhere a long the line over these past 20 years we were sold a bill of goods that the only way — indeed the best and "normal way" — to make a "serious presentation" is to do so by the typical and formulaic, linear, template-inspired, slide-driven, humorless, sleep-inducing, death-by-PowerPoint approach that everyone hates, but few are brave enough — or creative enough — to do something about. What passes for "normal" today is indeed not natural.

Tony Buzan on creativity and learning how to learn
The reason I bring this up is because of this video (below) by Tony Buzan, who you may recall is the father of Mindmapping as we know it today (or at least the first to market it by that name). Buzan's presentation is perhaps not the most exciting, but hang with it, it's good. I think you will find the content very interesting.

And just in case you have never seen it, watch this 20-minute presentation by Sir Ken Robinson at TED on creativity, a video I have pointed to a few times before. Robinson's talk is more effective to my mind because he uses a bit of humor from time to time and is more engaging. But Buzan's presentation is worth watching.

Related Links
You are creative (who the %$#@! says you're not?)
You are creative (part 2)

H/T ihodet.no



While I agree that Ken Robinson is a little more entertaining, I felt that Buzan's delivery was more powerful. His direct style makes it unambiguously clear how much we as a society need to do something about this. Ultimately, both are very inspiring.

Thank you for this post.

Michael Sporer

I've watched Ken Robinson's TED talk 4 times! Buzan's is a bit dry, but hits the point directly. I agree, everyone has a creative spark. And Dan Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" opened my eyes a bit.

Caroline Schneider

Well, Garr,
if you wanted to do me a personal favour I would be EXTREMELY interested in the pictures/slides you use when presenting your "be creative"-appeal in audiences.
And, of course, I already spread the creativity-gospel as often as I can.

Luis Iturriaga

Dear Garr:

I really agree with you, creativity is well misunderstood. I usually teach courses on management skills and creativity is a "must". I usually tell people that we are all creative, as an example I ask everybody to take a white paper and to draw a "Pritukume". At first everybody looks at me in amazement and then I encourage them to draw. At the end of the excercise we get some pretty creative work, though not very artistic. And that is where I make my point. An artist expresses his/her creativity through his/her artistic skills (painting, music, dance, etc.) But anyone can express their creativity as a worksheet for an accountant, a mesauring system for an engineer and so on. Once a CFO told me at the end of a course that the most amazing thing that happen to him was to discover that he was indeed creative!

Ido Schacham

This post, Buzan's talk, also Robinson's talk really hit deep. They are so correct in what they say. What I find very sad though is how society drowns creativity, and I don't think this is a coincidence.

I recently talked about it with a friend of mine who's an artist how there are powers in society that want to be sheep herders. But to have a herd of sheep, you can't have black sheep thinking for themselves going astray all the time. No, you need regular white sheep who follow the herd and can be confined to wherever you please them to go.

I think this is at least part of the reason why creativity is being killed, a very unfortunate reason that I despise. I'm still relatively young, but as I grow older and try to hang on to being creative, I see how people around me are drowned and start thinking in linear ways, trying to pull me in into the herd.

So changing the education system is important, but I believe we should first be aware of the powers that wish to drown creativity so that we could extinguish them. We also have to make sure new "creative" education systems don't supply just one kind of creativity, one way of thinking (as I believe was slightly implied towards the end of Buzan's talk). Even when learning how to learn there are many different ways and methods. Maybe a teacher should adopt Socrates' idea, of him being a midwife to thought, helping to give birth, but allowing the process to happen naturally.

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