I know a story about a community of people who fully appreciate the wonderful gift they’ve been given: They are all natural born creative geniuses, every one of them. They are all born with
— a tireless curiosity that discovers every angle
— unlimited imaginations that consider every option
— the ability to take something they learned in one place and relate it to something they learned someplace else in order to create new ideas or new solutions or new things
— and they are all born with a bias for action so when they take on a new challenge their natural disposition is to get started right away with lots of little experiments so they can quickly learn what works and what doesn’t as they try again and again.
It’s important to this story that you keep in mind that this community’s appreciation for the gift they were given is intentional and whole-hearted.
They have never been tempted to take it for granted because they understand the more they appreciate their gift, the more it appreciates in value.
This communities’ parents appreciate this gift in their children by making sure they get to be kids who enjoy big hunks of unstructured time every day, allowing their children to play games with their creative capacities and toy with their entrepreneurial instincts.
They play the games as they are creating them, developing stories to explain the new worlds, recruiting friends to join them, and then collaboratively recreating their games to include the narrative their friends brought with them as they rapid prototype a stick as a sword one moment then a telescope the next while hopping on one foot then the other.
And their parents appreciate their common creative genius by hiring the best school teachers
— who help students produce their educations, not consume them
— who build the ancient wisdom that play invites deep learning into the design of their classes
And this community of creative geniuses behave as servant leaders as they build businesses and other institutions that respect and appreciate that they have a bunch of creative geniuses working there, and the owners and the leaders and the managers appreciate that when they are generous with the folks who work with them those folks will be generous in response, and they are continually improving and developing new flexible and collaborative models for getting work done.
One of the results of this communities’ appreciation for their gift is a spectacular one: These creative geniuses create the very best futures that they can imagine, for themselves and their families, for their whole community, or more accurately they continually image and continually create and re-create their very best futures together.
This story about this community and their appreciation of their creative genius is an aspirational story. An aspirational story is planted in today’s truth and offers a view to a better place as it shows us how to start our journey.
This particular aspirational story is rooted in the most important truth of all, that we are all born creative geniuses, at the core of our human condition is extraordinary creative capacity and adaptive and resilient entrepreneurial instincts.
Those of us who get to spend time watching 3 and 4 year boys and girls in self-regulated open-ended play don’t need further evidence of this truth; they exhaust us with their generative disposition, applying their curiosity and imagination and action-oriented inventive thinking so that everything is a creative exercise.
And there is major research that affirms our belief.
Back in the 1960’s when NASA had to transform itself from the organization that couldn’t even launch a dumb satellite into orbit into one that could send humankind on our first trip to the moon and bring us back home safely, NASA decided they needed to hire the most creative and entrepreneurial scientists and engineers they could find. So they asked the accomplished researcher and systems scientist George Land to develop an assessment tool to measure those qualities. When NASA’s early use of the tool strongly validated it, Land wondered what he’d find if he used the same tool NASA used to assess the creative abilities of 1,600 5 year olds, and so he did.
And using NASA’s internal grading scale, 98% of the kids scored as creative geniuses.
A tool developed and tested and proven effective at identifying the most creative scientists and engineers revealed a wonderful fact, I can’t think of another more delightful, that our creative genius defines us.
And so Land continued to measure this group of kids, and watched as the scores steadily declined, and by the time these natural born creative geniuses were adults, only 2% performed as creative geniuses.
Land concluded that non-creative behavior is taught to us in school where we are told repeatedly that there is just one right answer to a problem, where teachers are quick to penalize and perhaps even punish if you don’t do it the way they teach you.
Land was right about schools but it doesn’t stop there; we have undervalued our creativity systemically, and for generations.
But now is the time and this is the place for us to become as creative and entrepreneurial and adaptive and resilient and generative as we can be. With such an array of first of a kind world-changing challenges facing us, and soon, why not become the community of creative geniuses capable of imagining a better future as we set about building it?
This story ends with the urgent request that each of us find our part to play in this aspirational story of the renewal of our creative genius right now. The urgency is clear: this is the sort of story that becomes more complete as soon as you take on your role. So so to all us parents and teachers and business leaders and community leaders, let’s each find new ways to intentionally and wholeheartedly appreciate our own creative and entrepreneurial qualities so we can then serve our communities by helping others intentionally and whole-heartedly appreciate theirs creative gift.
And then we do it again.