Creativity Requires Doubt, Blindness, and Mistakes
What’s the Latest Development?
While we often speak of falling into error and rising to the truth, German intellectual Albert Hirschman had a different idea. Through his many studies of economic development during the second half of the 20th century, he saw that a certain amount of blind ambition and bad luck were helpful in spurring the kinds of creative solutions that resulted in economic development. When Hirschman studied the enormous Karnaphuli Paper Mills, for example, in what was then East Pakistan, he observed how an unexpected bamboo die-off resulted in a region wide effort to build new supply routes in order to feed the mill.
What’s the Big Idea?
Hirschman thought that creativity may be just out of reach of our conscious minds, which is not a comfortable prospect for today’s creativity industry. “Creativity always comes as a surprise to us,” he said. “Therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”
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