Strange stuff creativity. It’s a uniquely human itch to seek new ways to see things, express things, change things and invent things.
At my own humble level, I’m still pathetically excited when we give birth to a new idea. Our latest ad for new client AF International (makers of a range of specialist office cleaning products) ‘STOP LOOKING AT FILTH ON YOUR COMPUTER’ still gives a warm glow.
But the creative act, ‘the defeat of habit by originality’ has much better examples and serves much higher causes, whether in the fields of marketing, progress or culture.
On a recent trip to Texas and the local shopping mall my host explained that, due to the oppressive summer heat, the centre opened early in the morning – before the stores themselves opened – for joggers to run round in air conditioned comfort – simple creative genius because everybody wins – joggers keep fit, the centre serves the community and stores get window shoppers albeit at a bit of a blur.
If you caught the amazing Human Planet series recently on BBC1 you may have seen the tribe from Meghalaya, India – officially the wettest place on earth.
In order to cross flooding rivers the tribe train the roots of strangler figs to form incredible living bridges. It’s a skill passed on from parent to child but the thing that really got me was that the person who created the idea would never have seen the result as they take more than a lifetime to grow and build.
But for the flexing or real creative muscle I’m turning finally to those power-houses of invention, the Victorians.
In 1850, in Hyde Park, Crystal Palace arose – at its time the biggest building on earth, covering 19 acres with room inside for 4 St. Paul’s cathedrals.
Yet it was built in just 5 months from an idea hatched less than a year earlier.
If you’re interested in the full story you can read it in the opening chapter of Bill Bryson’s latest book – At Home.
The truly incredible thing is that the Great Exhibition Hall wasn’t created by an architect but by a gardener, Joseph Paxton.
An amazing polymath he was appointed head gardener at Chatsworth at the tender age of 22 where he created, amongst much else, the Emperor Fountain, a feat of hydraulic engineering that has still only been exceeded once in Europe.
If you feel tired after a tough day at the office, bear in mind he also launched and ran two gardening magazines, a daily paper, wrote several books and created the first municipal park in the world which became a template for Central Park in New York.
He doodled a design to enter into the competition to build the Exhibition Hall while chairing another meeting and promptly won.
No building had looked like it or been built like it before. It required a million square feet of glass (a third of all the glass then produced in the UK) and workmen installed 18,000 panes a week.
It required twenty miles of guttering which Paxton designed a special machine to install and yet the whole build was completed in just under 35 weeks for £80,000.
How’s that for creativity, ingenuity and sheer bloody genius.
If you have your own favourite example of the power of creativity and original thought let’s hear it.