The Beauty of Creativity – the Force We Miss and Minimize

The Beauty of Creativity – the Force We Miss and Minimize

Create December 15, 2021 / By Larry Robertson
The Beauty of Creativity – the Force We Miss and Minimize

Busy as we often are looking for a breakthrough, we often miss the true key to finding one

“There’s no synonym for God, more perfect than beauty,” John Muir wrote. He was referring to the beauty of the natural landscape and the importance of protecting that resource. Rightfully so, but beauty itself – in a larger sense, and one much greater than any single form – is worth protecting, and more, acknowledging the vital role it plays in creativity.

In my book The Language of Man, I highlighted a series of simple truths that together form the backbone of how creativity works and where and why it has lasting impact. The fact that we are all creative, even if many of us are wrongly told we are not is one. Openness being the source of true breakthroughs is another. Yet, the simple truth that creativity seeks beauty is perhaps the most important, most often undervalued, and in some ways least understood factor in creativity.

Among the near 70 MacArthur Fellows I interviewed for The Language of Man, beauty never failed to come up. It didn’t matter whether that person’s creativity was tapped in the arts, mathematics, neuroscience, civil rights, arms control, education reform, or, in the case of Sue Kieffer, geology. Kieffer even published a paper on the role of creativity in earth sciences – an 11-page work … that took her 15 years to write.

As others who use their creative capacity do, Kieffer knew how vital beauty was. She also knew that talk of beauty, anywhere, but especially in the sciences was likely to be seen as somehow less than professional. Unserious, was the way she put it. Yet, there was more to why she needed a decade and a half to muse on her mission.

As Kieffer knows, beauty isn’t something easily pinned down. It’s meaning varies for each person, and all too often is driven by the outputs its associated with, rather than the role beauty plays that begins long before the creative output arrives. She knew scientists habitually deferred to the boundaries of their knowledge, their methods, and their field as it existed in the present or past. Theirs were borders unlikely to be crossed, let alone erased. “The trick,” Kieffer told me, “wasn’t to suggest the elimination of one way of thinking for the other but instead to get them to see the necessity and interplay of both. You need to,’” as she put it, “’build a foundation and add guiding walls, but you also need to have holes in those walls.” What she was describing was a fusion to inducive and deductive thinking, and an acknowledgement of the whole of the human brain at work, not just one or the other part.

It’s beauty that carves out those holes, letting us see something more. It’s beauty that guides us through them and into what’s possible – the possible being something that may feel a moon leap away, but in truth lies most often lies adjacent to where we are, if we are only willing to create and explore those holes that give our creative minds oxygen.

It’s more. Beauty shapes what and how we see, not just on the other side of our borders, but when we return back through the holes and look at our foundation, even our guiding walls, in new and gradually magnificent ways.

In his book The Art and Science of Creativity, George F. Kneller described creativity as that incredible aspect of life “recorded in the intellect but felt in the pulse.” “What we’ve come to perceive on the outside as beauty,” I wrote in The Language of Man, “isn’t beauty in and of itself. Rather, it’s a beautiful outcome. Our tendency is to truncate the robustness of beauty by coming to equate it with its expressions.” When we do the opposite, we begin to see beauty for the bigger force it is – as a sense of possibility – not merely practical, but a striving ongoing. And also … as a measure of value … as goal bigger than the output … and, as Kieffer describes it, as a common causeway that links people and ideas, and allows us to understand one another.

Beauty is a force, as Fellow and freelance journalist Lynsey Addario put it. “Beauty is about making people pause,” not just the audience, but the creator too. “To come to a fully conscious stop in their thinking and the meaning of what they do. And to begin to ask questions.”

That is when creativity becomes something truly beautiful.

You can learn more in Larry Robertson's newest book Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times.

Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times

We are two decades into this new century, and now live in a world more uncertain than certain. In this new “abnormal,” our ability to sustain far into the future, to realize our dreams and our potentialities, and to progress, depends on seeing leadership in a whole new way. Rebel leadership is that new way.

There’s a growing pattern of not just individual leaders, but entire cultures rebelling against old and ineffectual ways that have long defined what it means to lead. At the heart of rebel leadership is the emergence of five patterns seen in leading organizations across sectors. Together, these patterns outline a framework for how to successfully meet this turbulent new century and thrive. Rebel Leadership will not only reveal these patterns, but will teach the reader how to tap into the power of this framework and make it their own.

More precisely, Rebel Leadership will teach readers:
• What lies at the heart of success, no matter how much the environmental conditions might change
• How leadership is counterintuitively at its most powerful when it moves across individuals and cultures
• That, inevitably, there is only one truly sustainable competitive advantage in uncertain times
• Where leaders can find the best source for lowering risk in a changing world
• Why a long-term view has less to do with the long-term and far more to do with this moment than you’d ever imagine

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