I was recently invited to give a talk about the relationship between creativity and science at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition. In particular, the organizer wanted me to structure my talk around some of my science-themed poems.
It seems some of the scientists there were rather intrigued by the whole idea.
I’m not sure why so many people find the connection between art and science to be unusual. Both scientists and artists tend to be naturally curious about the world around them and share a desire to communicate the wonder of what they’ve learned. Consider this quote from Albert Einstein: The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
Don’t be fooled by many scientists’ claims to be artistic ignoramuses though. Check out this picture from HubbleSite. They didn’t call it Big Blobby Nebula or Nebula #355. They took a cue from cloud watching and called it The Horsehead Nebula. Or think about the names of quarks: up, down, bottom, top, charm, and strange. And let’s not forget the incredibly creative choreography obtained in the Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments.
Just because you don’t own a glue gun or googly eyes doesn’t mean creativity has to end after elementary school. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why creative thinking should play a part in your life even if creative doing doesn’t.
Creativity is important in nearly every workplace to varying degrees. Insead, a leading European business school just outside Paris, France, has taken that idea to heart. As described in this article, “Insead has joined with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., to offer a joint program that teaches the role of creativity in business decisions, how innovation really works, and why design may be as important to corporate management today as Six Sigma was in the ’90s.”
The good news is that you don’t need someone to teach you how to be creative.
As we get older, we tend to squash our creative side and turn instead to analysis to solve our problems. But if you’ve ever been a child, you’ve experienced creativity before. To reverse the trend, all you need to do is provide a space where your creativity can be safely nurtured (much like your mother did when you brought home a mess of fingerpaints and told her it was a spider–I bet she never corrected you and told you it looked like a buffalo, did she?).
Maybe that means you “gather your totems” as suggested here and surround yourself with items to inspire you. Or maybe you use your iPhone to open your mind with music.
Without creative thinking, scientists would be in danger of sinking in the quicksand of yesterday’s results. And by and large, I think they know it. What about you?