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Creativity: The Curse of This Beautiful Blessing

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The creativity game is a high-risk high-return game. This means that you lose more than you win but when you win, you win big. Click To Tweet

Creativity is a fancied trait in life. In most job descriptions you will find some employers listing it as a requirement. But what exactly is creativity?

Creativity is understood to be the capability to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. From the definition, you can agree that this is a very useful trait to have. Although the scale of creativity, environment, and applicability vary, there are certainly people who pride themselves on their creativity. They seek to exploit this strength to make a living.

The creativity theory

In this article, we shall be focusing on the creative who wants to use their creativity to provide value for the world and get paid for it. This value can range from problem-solving to entertainment.

According to creativity theory, the critical assumption is that the creativity of an idea is defined by its novelty and usefulness. This understanding is a good place to start analysing the capability of actually monetizing one’s creativity. The novelty of the idea is what makes it creative. That notwithstanding, the idea has to provide value, which is found in the usefulness of an idea. For instance, you can be creative enough to write a song but if the song does not provide value to a given person, then the song is not useful.

Also, you can have a creative design, say of a kitchen utensil, but if the particular utensil does not alleviate a pain point in the kitchen then the design, as well as the utensil, are useless no matter how creative they are.

Having said that, novel ideas are hard to come by. But if you do come across one, the potential for reward is astounding. The creativity game is a high-risk high-return game. This means that you stand to lose more than win but when you win, you win big. This also means that more people lose than those who win.

Mapping creativity onto the Pareto principle

Since creativity is a social transaction it can be mapped onto the Pareto distribution, which is a theory that is used to explain social phenomenon among other phenomena. It maps wealth distribution and its inequalities very efficiently.

The Pareto distribution theory states that 80 per cent of something is usually occupied, owned, or done by 20 per cent of the population. This information applied roughly states, 80 per cent of the world wealth is owned by 20 per cent of the population. This phenomenon is true also across creative platforms and industries. For instance, there are 31 million YouTube channels in the world but only 24,000 of them have over 1 million subscribers. This represents only 0.08 per cent.

Why is this the case? Why is it that only a few people seem to do well? Like earlier discussed, the idea has to tick a few boxes. Novelty and usefulness are the initial two. But something else that plays a huge part in the success of ideas is timing, i.e. finding the right people at the right time.

The diffusion of innovation theory

Understanding the diffusion of innovation theory will enable us to understand the concept of finding the right people at the right time. This theory seeks to explain how new ideas and technology spread. Diffusion is defined as the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system. For an idea to be successful, it has to hit a critical mass. According to this theory, critical mass is just about 18 percent. This is also known as the tipping point.

Let’s consider these groups of people…

Innovators – People who want to be the first to try an innovation. They are obsessed with new ideas and innovations. They take huge risks and develop new ideas. They are sold at the idea level.

Early adopters – These are the opinion leaders. They are open to new ideas and are willing to experiment. These are sold at the testing and first prototype level.

Early Majority – After the prototype has proved to work, the early majority take up the innovation pretty easily. They need to hear success stories and some evidence of the function of the innovation.

Late majority – These are the skeptics and only adopt ideas that have been tested by the majority.

Laggards – These people only take up ideas only because the world has since moved on and their initial ones no longer serve them.

This theory outlines that for any idea to be successful; first, it must appeal to the innovators. For instance, for one to make a hit song, the song has to sell first among the music community, the producers, and fellow music creators. Next, the song has to appeal to the early adopters; these are the promoters and media personalities. The early majority are the fans of the specific artist, the late majority are music lovers in general, and the laggards are the ones who listen to the music because it is what is on air. This is how creative ideas diffuse socially.

It is particularly difficult to find fellow innovators who buy into your idea. This is why it is difficult to get a producer who is willing to work with an upcoming artist. The same applies to any industry. It is difficult to convince people to believe in you without a track record, while you are in the starting stages of creating the portfolio, people seldom care. But once this barrier has been overcome, the probability of there being a compounding effect on your success is increased.

Also read: How Cap 222 Muzzles Creativity in the Kenya Film Industry

The curse of being creative

Being able to come up with a novel idea, which is useful and is ripe for time, is not a guarantee to success. That is only five per cent of the work. Ninety-five per cent is yet to be done. For instance, when a writer finds a novel idea to write about, the idea has value and the time is right. He writes the book. And earns less than 10 per cent of the sales. The publisher keeps the remaining 90 per cent. This is because the book needed to be produced, marketed, and distributed. These processes are beyond the creative’s capabilities. Therefore, even after hitting the jackpot, you never get to reap everything from your ideas as a creative.

This is the curse of being creative. It is fun being one but detrimental if you want to monetize your creativity. The odds are pinned against you and the only thing that can help you is catching a break; such breaks are hard to come by. The only way to cushion yourself is by doing the typical: find a job that pays your bills and keeps your life moving. Should this be the case, do not give up on your creative endeavours, pursue them on the side, see if one of your ideas will attain critical mass. Even it never works out, at least you will have given the creative in you a chance.

This is a pragmatic approach to the curse of creativity, but if you are a creative person reading this, I know you are not a pragmatic person. But it had to be said…just in case.


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