Growing creative humans
How long is our gestation?
Today we are going to talk about “growing” humans. Creativity in humans can be nurtured. In fact, if you look at the learning process, we are engineered beings. We are engineered by the environment we are exposed to (and our genes. But some genes are activated by default and some others are activated by our exposure to specific environmental stimuli). If we are really engineered beings, then it takes us back into the topic of “free will” and that is for another day.
It begs the question what is our growth gestation period?
I don’t mean the concept of gestation from conception to birth, but of its second meaning - “how does one develop over a period of time” - in that sense we have a lifetime of gestation. We can be re-engineered any number of times, if and that is a big if, one is allowed to “grow” - based on both internal and external factors.
In the early part of life, as we grow up as babies and toddlers and in early childhood (up to 6 years of age) we have unfiltered learning. Though we are “fed” several dogmas, rights, and wrongs, we mostly learn by our senses, observing, learn from trying and failing. When our “filtration” process kicks in, we learn or taught to filter things into right and wrong, evolved to be biased, and fit into a variety of norms/expectations.
However, if one looks at modern organizations there is an expectation of doing more, having a “growth” mindset or “beginners” mindset, or so forth. However, environmental consideration prevents people from exhibiting these as they are limited from actually being that.
Can one go back to unfiltered thinking, learning, and doing? I believe one can. Individuals can certainly re-engineer themselves if they want to do so and put their minds to it. And, yes, it is an idealist idea and this will not work in most cases, but will certainly work for some.
In an organizational context enabling human creativity requires rethinking how “humans” are engaged and most organizations cannot and will not get this right (by right I mean something that works to their advantage). Individuals can do it too - by themselves if they wanted to re-engineer themselves.
If we use the metaphor of the “the oyster evolving the pearl” - the pearl is the “human” and the “oyster” is the environmental nurturing to creating the human. Most humans end up being like artificial pearls, poorly engineered mass-market clones. But each human could also be a naturally created pearl instead of such artificial engineering exhibiting a variety of valuable creative characteristics and uniqueness.
So, how does one evolve a “pearl” - put it back into a new “oyster” with some irritants and rebuild the pearl again. And repeat again… and again… and yet again.
My reductionist approaches to modeling have identified two key factors in enabling the growth of human creativity and the balance between the two of them. They are:
There are a variety of adult developmental models (see resources) and it is possible to enable humans to achieve higher levels of creativity. Unlike many of these models, I prefer to think that humans live in multitudes of identities - we might exhibit creative behaviors in one identity whilst we may not when we switch to other identities and contextual situations. In fact, it is even worse as we can exhibit multiple identities at the same time. I prefer not to therefore think or believe in linear models.
Robert Kegan (as a starting point to compare to other models) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kegan
Adult Development and Leadership https://canvas.harvard.edu/courses/53255/files/6719347/download?wrap=1
Principles of Cognitive Creative Flow metamodel:
Section 1: Humans
All Humans are creative, period. No exceptions.
Humans are their best and thrive when -
When are “seen”, “heard” and “acknowledged” as we are
when we are allowed to be “creative” whatever one defines as “creative”
allowed to display our wares (such creativity) socially giving us the satisfaction of being “heard” and “seen” by our peers
These are interesting thoughts. I suggest to look from the perspective of evolutionary biology and psychology. We come wired with all sorts of "programs" that were primed for survival and procreation. We are sense-making beings in that the first bacteria had two programs: If safe explore the world, if unsafe, withdraw. These initial two basic emotions are still at work in us. The work of Stephen Porges with Polyvagal theory capture much this and one major key is to study our autonomic nervous systems that bypasses our thinking brain - the neo cortex. This is called neuroception. Porges concludes that one major thing we can do for each other to bring out the very best in us - e.g. promote creativity - is to offer safety, a safe environment. Many executives lead their organizations with HR systems that are inherently unsafe. For example, performance management systems that use linear deficit oriented evaluation - you can only score lower. So an additional element to Humans are their best and thrive is when they are safe and find themselves in an environment that is conducive to being their best and thriving.