It's easy to follow the leader and do as they do, it makes sure we remain blameless in the general scheme of progress. Perhaps wise for those who feel unable to cope with the emotional consequences of being a leader, it's the creative innovators with the courage to be themselves that find their way to the front. But then, even still, it's not necessarily as simple as that. Being able to imagine things in new ways is only the edge of the forest. If we peer through the fir branches we will find a much wider and more complex system of being. How is it possible to be fresh, inventive, and in a solid place of leadership? It takes a person with particular qualities which we can all work towards attaining.
Studies have shown that Icelanders are one of the most creative people in the world. Their culture produces more than average innovations and modern ideas for the numbers involved. They may only be few in number but their cultural footprint is huge. We can look at the way their country is run to see why this may be the case.
Their education system involves a lot more freedom than many other developed nations. With adaptive and innovative curricula, students can be given tailor made educations that benefit their personal skill sets and challenges. Complimenting pupils with teacher led paths to future success helps them to firstly trust in their peers but also expect a certain degree of freedom in their life path. Alongside free play as part of schooling, and with communities made of extended families, a sense of confidence and natural self-assurance is something of a given.
Although Icelanders don't perceive their culture as creative, almost every family has a member who is in a creative industry. This maybe suggests that although it's not a tradition or a national pride, it's not a taboo either. There is an element of personal pride in their work for the creative industry, and it's normalised for them. For many other nations it's not so common. We can perhaps ask ourselves if we treat creatives as normal or as quirky oddballs. We must expect to be treated as normal people like anyone else and not be afraid to put our foot down when given the disrespect deserved of a fraud or hysterical nonsense.
Having well connected communities allows individuals to draw on a large wealth of knowledge and imagination. Because it's not a tricky subject in Iceland, it's quite appropriate for someone to ask their family and friends for help in their creative endeavour. The community get together and work on solutions together. Finding solutions is what creativity is all about. Either by helping people understand a point of view, a feeling, or by helping people get more cars over the bridge in an hour, a problem is solved.
Another factor in creativity is what are we exposing our minds to. If we focus on mainstream culture we will lack the innovative and novel aspects to our work and fall stale. If on the other hand we only go for the most odd and quirky stuff out there, what we produce will only benefit a small group of people. That's okay for a hobby but if it's your job then you need to think bigger. A range of sources is the only appropriate diet for any creative person or group. Know what the masses are expecting to see and know what the different ways of pushing the limits are too.
We can also delve into the past to find things that really worked or seeded something that went on to become huge. Exploring historical media and art really does enrich our understanding of what we are meant to do, because what is consistent within media and art from a long time span is surely something we need to pay attention to. Perhaps if we can make something totally unique and completely unseen before then wonderful, however it's no problem to take inspiration from things that have shown their worth already. We do it subconsciously all the time.
What does this all mean though? It seems that we either can or can't think creatively. It takes practice and a degree of inner strength. We are naturally attached to our ideas and project, our desire to succeed produces a real wanting and need for results. It's a true life situation and if we can't handle it then we have to hang up our pencil case and sign up at the local factory. People will challenge our ideas and they will play games of 'ego leap frog' with you that if you're not careful will drive you into the ground like a tent peg. They don't see a nervous, hard working, reliant on good results person, they see a leader, strong and capable. We have to be that person on the inside.
We're not all Icelandic, and we're not all brought up to be confident in our own ability to lead. Many of us are likely to have been given the opposite impression from their peers. Just do as you're told and you'll be fine. Sound familiar? Perhaps a short course in creative leadership is exactly what you need to hammer the nail in that coffin.
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Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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