Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘The Element’

Primary and Elemental

In Author: Amy Frazier, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on July 23, 2009 at 5:03 am

Two books in my current stack, having a conversation with each other:

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by educator par excellence, Sir Ken Robinson, PhD; and poet David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.

Robinson advocates for finding your Element: that place where your natural talent and passion lie. Whyte’s sea is the metaphorical setting for the voyage we take through our working lives.

I have been reading Robinson cover to cover, as research for a creativity and innovation program I’ve helped to develop. For Whyte’s poetic meditation, I tend to page through here and there, dipping my toes in the water as it were.

I love it when books begin to have a conversation with each other. Here’s how it went yesterday:

Robinson: “When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being.”

Whyte: “We need, at every stage in our journey through work, to be in conversation with our desire for something suited to us and our individual natures.”

Robinson: these issues “are of fundamental importance in our lives and in the lives of our children, our students, and the people we work with.”

Whyte: “The human soul thrives on and finds courage from the difficult intimacies of belonging.”

Robinson: “Being in your element often means being connected with other people who share the same passions and have a common sense of commitment.”

Community, commitment, passion, our true natures. Sure makes sense. Sounds good. But now listen to Whyte:

“…but it is almost as if, afraid of those primary intimacies, we have unconsciously created a work world so secondary, so complex, and so busy and bullied by surface forces that, embroiled in those surface difficulties, we have the perfect busy excuse not to wrestle with the more essential difficulties of existence, the difficulties of finding a work and a life suited to our individual natures…”

Woa. If finding the Element is so elemental to our well being, and if the soul thrives in the intimacies of belonging, but that primacy is covered over with secondary busyiness in the working worlds we’ve created…how are we going to pull it off?

Let me bring in a third voice here, someone I ran across in my coursework. Good old A.H. Maslow:

“…out of this deeper self, out of this portion of ourselves of which we generally are afraid and therefore try to keep under control, out of this comes the ability to play—to enjoy, to fantasy, to laugh, to loaf, to be spontaneous—and, what’s most important for us here, creativity, a kind of intellectual play, which is a kind of permission to be ourselves.”

I’m going to build the next link here and say that I don’t think we can really attain the sort of Element-supporting intimacy with others that Whyte asks of us (and Robinson implies), if we’re not being ourselves. If that’s the case, let’s suppose in the service of the primary and the elemental, that it is play (especially play at work) which is our missing ingredient.

Or, to spin the words primary and elementary just a bit, maybe it’s time for recess.

Are Schools Killing Our Creativity?

In Emotional Intelligence on January 22, 2009 at 7:37 am

Check out this video presentation below given by creativiity expert, Sir Ken Robinson. It is 20 minutes long and WELL WORTH listening to.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999. He was the central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, working with the ministers for training, education enterprise and culture. The resulting blueprint for change, Unlocking Creativity, was adopted by politicians of all parties and by business, education and cultural leaders across the Province. He was one of four international advisors to the Singapore Government for its strategy to become the creative hub of South East Asia.

Adam Shames on his new blog wrote about a conversation he had with Ken at a recent presentation he gave here in Chicago at Columbia College. The remainder of this post is from Adam Shames blog Innovation on my Mind.

As part of the Columbia College Chicago “Conversations in the Arts” in December, I talked to Sir Ken Robinson about the need for building creativity competencies in education and organizations. He shared with the audience two main points:

1. That we live in unprecedented times, revolutionary even, which have no historical precedent and that need creative approaches to address our challenges
2. That we have to think differently about our natural capacities—that we have a crisis of human resources and now is the time to tap our own resources more effectively.

According to Sir Ken “the great adventure of America” has thrived on its “multiplicity of talents” and that “like natural resources, human talents our buried deep” and must be uncovered. Too many of us are disconnected from what we are good at doing and love to do, and education’s challenge is to help each person access their great talents.

To do that, Sir Ken said we need more than reform: we need to transform education. U.S. education, like many systems around the world, is still stuck in an “industrial mindset,” sending students through a linear progression of subjects and skills, hoping they pop out at the end of the assembly line to be properly employed. But the world doesn’t work that way anymore. Even a college education is no assurance of a job, so the “economic ideology” behind education is no longer relevant.

Teachers should be hired to teach students, he says, not subjects, and our main goal should be to uncover and unleash the natural talents each of us has. I’m looking forward to reading his new book about talent, The Element, coming out this month.