The Creative Misunderstanding

September 2011, by Ken Yuktasevi, Director at Experience Design and Ong & Ong

Awaken Group features Ken Yuktasevi, Director at Experience Design and Ong & Ong in Singapore and one of our Creative Collaborative partners, about his take on creativity and what makes a person truly creative. Hint: it’s not about what you do—it’s about who you choose to be.

When I used to think about what makes a person creative, I used to link it to certain disciplines or practices, such as:

• artist
• filmmaker
• someone who came up with something totally new that blew everyone away
• someone who came up with ideas that make a lot of money (e.g., advertiser, product designer)

This was my idea of what creativity or a creative person was. But there was an incident that challenged my view of what creativity actually was.

When the tsunami happened in Aceh, Indonesia in 2004, I flew down and was part of a team there. I met a man there, who had lost his entire family, yet he had so much happiness and joy; he was fixing cars, driving children around, and teaching kids at an orphanage English and how to draw—I realized then that “this is creativity.” There was something so amazing about it; I realized that creativity means to bring something out of nothing, to bring joy and happiness, and a renewed energy out of things that can cause sadness and destruction. This challenged me to think about what true creativity is.

This compelled me to start interviewing as many people as I could on what creativity actually meant to them. I spoke to people known as “creative” people (based on their positions) and those who are usually not thought of as creative: furniture designers, artists, musicians, nurses, chiropractors, property agents, software developers, gamers, single mothers, architects, accountants, and restaurant owners.

As people spoke about creativity, they could not really center it or describe it, but they started to describe certain personality traits of a creative person. Key indicators in terms of values began to surface:

Sacrifice – Willingness to give of yourself and time. Ability to let go of your own ideas and pride that may be holding you back.

Collaboration – Ability to realize working silo and alone is a long-dead art form. Right now, it’s about how quickly you can get ideas out; it takes a spirit of collaboration to create something new together with others.

Innovation – Ability to solve problems and come up with beautiful ideas that work and help improve a person’s life. It is about a spirit of renewal, restoration, and problem solving.

Courage – Equates to boldness, an ability to step out of the ‘box’ and your current situation, even though it may be uncomfortable. It means taking risks which may leave you with nothing and the will to have a different voice from the rest.

Curiosity – Exploration and interest in new things. There is nothing and no one that you’ve already “worked out” and able to draw insight and inspiration from.

Humility – Enables you to learn and grow. If a person reaches a point where they think they have “seen it all and know how to do everything,” then that’s when they stopbeing creative.

What I started to realize is that being creative cannot actually be equated to a certain discipline (e.g., artist or filmmaker), but you can be creative regardless of your position, as long as you are doing things in a spirit of sacrifice, collaboration, courage, curiosity, and humility. Every person has the ability to be creative, but it’s really about whether they want to take on these values for themselves.

Learn not to imitate, but rather, learn to recognize and partake in more human qualities, and you can then start to live a more creative life and be a more creative leader (e.g., in your business or family).