Thursday, March 29, 2007


A time-honoured question, if ever there was one. 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri checks out the industry perspective...

Ever since one can remember, the term creativity has always been kinda loaded, generating a maniacal buzz, evoking indefinable levels of awe & wonder. Abused, misused & overused to death, anyone sporting long spiked coloured hair, ear studs, bandana and bermuda, doing drugs, babbling poetry of obscure un-pronounceable East European poets, adequately spaced-out & absent-minded or capable of unleashing glib, pretentiously profound one-liners (Cinema is truth at 24 seconds a frame; Death is life with lights out; Live fast. Die young. Be a cool looking corpse; Advertising is the art of caressing the mind while raping the wallet), is instantly labelled creative, hymned, celebrated and considered really & truly special.

Point is: Is this creative person really special & deserving of all this open-mouthed reverence? To extend the thought – is creativity all that special? Is it a “mystical gift”, the magical preserve of God’s chosen few... or is it a skill that can be taught, learnt and acquired?

The big daddy of lateral thinking, Edward De Bono, believes that creativity is over-rated & too much mystique has been suffused into this term. He believes the “C” word is as much a product of training & perspiration as of divine, sublime inspiration. The champions of creativity are horrified. They emphasise that while it is possible to train people to assimilate & process knowledge created by others, the truly creative soul creates knowledge for themselves. A Piccasso, Ray, Ravi Shanker, Ghalib or Da Vinci epitomises the spirit of unfettered creativity with all cylinders firing, right?

Whaddya think, guys?

Pops Sridhar of Leo Burnett believes that creativity – of any real worth – is instinctive, instructive & in-born. “You either have it, or you don’t. Every child paints, plays or spins yarns. The one’s who keep at it, adding layers of magic along the way, become a Hussain, Tendulkar or Piyush Pandey.”

lyque Padamsee disagrees. “It’s not a God-given gift at all. It’s more about ‘nurture’ than ‘nature’. It’s the environment that you’ve been brought up in as also the interests that you connect with.” He speaks of himself as a creative animal from the world of theatre & Prasoon Joshi as an individual rooted in areas way beyond the hard-core ad world. “These are invaluable resources that act as magical stimuli to the creative person.”

O&M’s Piyush Pandey, as always, has a very interesting viewpoint. He believes that everybody is born creative but societal & parental pressures (dos & don’ts) curb, repress & suppress this faculty to near oblivion. “The truly creative person is the one who fearlessly, audaciously & boldly continues to do his own thing and doesn’t give a damn about who will say, think, feel or react in what fashion. He is a mast guy, apni dhun mein...” Sushil Pandit, the head honcho of The Hive, presents his case in a persuasive manner. He believes that “Creativity can be learnt, unlearnt & learnt again! I think it’s largely an attitude; a special way of looking at the world, at life, events, people and things. The lucky few are born with it – a sense of humour; that special ability to connect with people; that special insight that allows you to see things others can’t/don’t; the ability to brilliantly leverage experiences of one domain meaningfully in another, to offer an amazing cross – fertilization of ideas.” Can this be taught, learnt or acquired? Pandit believes (in some fashion), it can be. The process can be complex, difficult and a huge struggle, “but if one is truly fascinated with creativity of a given person, it can trigger one’s creative juices & create something original.”

“While it is not the eureka factor, it’s often made out to be; creativity is definitely a very special, innate gift possessed by very special people.” Priti Nair Chakravarti of Lowe steps in to make her point. A different mindset, worldview, way of looking at everyday’s life happenings is demanded for this vision and it’s only the creative animal who is blessed with it. “However, since ours is applied art, creativity in advertising is a process-driven activity; a lot of hard work is involved. Hence, the popular/romantic perception of creativity (waiting for inspiration to strike) does not apply. That’s what makes it more challenging.”

Media baron Pritish Nandy believes that a God-given gift is the special ability to see, observe, respond, record & transcend. Creativity is merely a by-product of this process. It is a savvy utilisation of these abilities & is a skill that can be taught.” Interestingly, it demands both humility and arrogance to believe that the world must listen, watch and react to what you say or do. That’s what makes it impossibly special and rare.”

Theatre actor Lushin Dubey believes that it is undoubtedly an in-born trait, but one that can also be developed through environment, people & training. “Life throws up lots of examples of people from diverse & disparate backgrounds with unconnected interest-areas shining in fields that are theoretically not meant to be on their radar. How come? However, sometimes a passionate interest & relentless commitment towards pursuing it can also allow you to gatecrash into this rarified arena... so there you are!”

At the end of the day, what gives? Can magical moments of inspiration really be replaced by a formula that can be measured in algorithms? Is there no difference between art & science, craft & technology? Is creating a Ming Vase or fashioning a theory of relativity, the same as learning the disciplines that can make you a skilled potter or competent engineer? Is creative thinking just a skill that can be learnt, taught or acquired to empower people to add strength to their natural abilities... or is it something unique special & sacrosanct? It’s over to you guys. Your time starts now!


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