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Creativity...the economic edition

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Nenad Stevanovic
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Creative Commons license
How can the basic building blocks of ideas and creativity result in a functioning adaptive economy?

What is creativity?

Well, according to one definition: it’s imagining new ideas by learning how to envision that which cannot be immediately seen.

So that implies that creativity can be taught. 

If that wasn’t true (or perceived to be true) this degree program at Buffalo State College would not exist. It’s the International Center for Studies in Creativity. They say, “Professional success is linked to the ability to master creativity, to operate as a creative problem solver, to innovate and to lead change.”

Since we’re talking about innovation and change in the Western New York economy, we can assume creative thinking is happening here, right? And the results of such thinking should be apparent in our economy, correct? Especially with the thousands of people here who would likely claim to be thinking creatively about the economy and the future of this place (think chambers of commerce, any politician who says jobs more than once a paragraph).

But are the results of thinking creatively about our economy clear? How would 100 Buffalonians answer that question?

Is “creativity” really the answer for the WNY economy?  There seem to be an obvious yes answer. This area is looking for an edge over others and a creative approach can create or exploit an edge. Then we get ahead. And we’re prosperous. And then…?

Creativity is hard to quantify. By definition it’s so. Creativity is a talking point and one that's easily malleable. Creative thinking is what we “want” and “need” for our economy, right? That’s according to the people who speak authoritatively on these topics.  But what’s that mean in 100 words or less (is that the average attention span these days? Wait, 140 characters.)  How can we possibly make sense of what’s creative, pedestrian, tired, productive or stupid... on a micro and macro level?

To make a determination, there’s plenty of evidence to draw on. There have been hundreds of successes and failures in WNY’s economy in the last century. But I doubt (and this is an assumption) the majority of Western New Yorkers would credit the Big Thinkers in the area for indulging in creativity or having it leak out of their pores. Expectations, as I’ve encountered in my reporting, are low. Some say quite frankly they hope things just don’t get worse.

Perhaps there is creativity here and we just don’t know it because it doesn’t always lead a newscast. Stokes of genius are celebrated when they actually pay off. How many manifestations-of-a-brilliant-idea stories do you hear on the nightly news?

On the other hand, what is given too much credit? What ideas were given too much validity by virtue of a bandwagon? By threads in the media or public relations efforts?

I ask these questions because they point toward a dilemma we have at the Innovation Trail. How can we report on the economy in a way that’s somewhat akin to reality? How can stories be more than grasping at some strands? Can a collective picture possibly be drawn up?

Cultivating “creativity” in our reporting would be one approach. But how does that just…happen?

What do you think?