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Contemplating Creativity at Meow Wolf

My Third Update For DAOpunks Cohort 4

I’ve been contemplating creativity these last few weeks, ever since I visited Meow Wolf in Denver. This place is accurately advertised as an “immersive experience”, and believe me, my photos don’t do justice to this wild and whimsical sensory feast. The story behind the name Meow Wolf epitomises these artists’ collaborative approach to creativity, as do their values (below), which remind me a little of the DAOpunks community and its Manifesto: “together we go further”.

Meow Wolf Values

Do you think of yourself as a creative person, or are you someone who crosses themself off that list? I believe everyone is able to be creative. This recent cast on Warpcast about creativity suggests it will come and go like rain, which strikes me as more accurate than the prevailing idea that some people are creative and others simply aren’t:

Source: JAKE on Warpcast

The assertion prompted me to think: if creativity comes and goes like rain, then how do we know we have the right conditions for it to pour when we need it? Ideas are often described as a ‘spark’, so how do we attract that lightning strike? I think that when we saturate ourselves with interesting ideas and experiences, we provide fertile ground for our own creativity to flourish — I don’t mean through a process of copying; anyone who knows me knows I am very against plagiarism! I mean through a process of synthesis.

There are many dictionary definitions of creativity, and the aspect they all share is the ability to come up with original ideas. But these ideas don’t usually arrive out of nowhere. We all bring our own set of filters and experiential inputs to the process of thinking. We sift, we muse, we ponder, we dream, and all the while our brains are working in the background (or in fact up front, in the frontal lobes).

“What makes human thinking so powerful is that we have this library of concepts that we can use to formulate an effectively infinite number of thoughts,” he [Professor Joshua Greene] continued. “Humans can engage in complicated behaviors that, for any other creature on Earth, would require an enormous amount of training. Humans can read or hear a string of concepts and immediately put those concepts together to form some new idea.” (New study reveals clues to how thoughts take shape)

As two-time Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling noted, “the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” This Forbes article, 12 Ways Leaders Generate Ideas, gives some tips on generating ideas in organisations, which could be useful for DAOs just as much as traditional companies.

There’s another step that must follow coming up with a creative idea though: expressing it. For many of us, that’s the stumbling block. How many times have you been in a ‘brainstorming session’ and realised you’re radically self censoring?

The same Forbes article says that one common organisational characteristic blocking creativity and ideas is the voice of judgement; and this is what resonated with me when visiting Meow Wolf. I kept looking at the amazing objects and surreal scenes around me and thinking how courageous the artists had to be to execute these ideas, despite the ‘WTF factor’ (my words) evident in a mere verbal or written description of their artwork. Seeing is believing, as the old saying goes, but with the support of the collective, they were each empowered to bring their concept to life and the results now bring joy to those who see the exhibit every day.

This doesn’t mean every idea is a great one; context is everything and part of the creative process is refinement (perhaps art is one of the few areas where context can remain subjective):

“... once these subconscious processes have generated a set of possible actions, they are submitted to systems of evaluation so that we can exercise our will in order to select one of them, based on how well we think they’ll turn out for us.” (The One Thing Our Brains Rely on to Generate New Ideas)

DAOs offer excellent opportunities for people to raise ideas — and to some extent, suspend judgement, thanks to the lack of other barriers which often reduce creativity in the workplace: hierarchical structures, resistance to change, or time pressures.

So let it rain. Believe in your unique creativity and cultivate your ability to express new ideas. Collaborate with others who might challenge or further your thinking. This is how we change the status quo. This is how we DAO.

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