Creativity -- A vehicle for the good and the not so good



As with all newly born things, the child born of creativity brings change into the world.  But, like the tree in the garden of Eden, there resides a snake within inviting us to eat of the fruit that brings hidden knowledge into play. What we do with this newly found knowledge depends upon the quality of our intellectual character.

The shady accountant who "juggles the books" is also considered "creative", as is the artist or inventor. Many a present day corporate CEO is viewing the world through the bars of a federal prison because he chose a "creative solution" for the problems that burdened his office. In an attempt to alter reality for the better, these misguided souls gambled away their freedom hoping that creativity would answer their immediate need.


In the case of the convicted CEO, creativity gave him exactly what he needed--an escape from the problems that confronted him. It may not have been the solution that he hoped for; but, it was a solution nonetheless.

This is typical of the creative response when we call upon creativity for an answer.  The moral of the story here is this.  Be careful what you ask for; you may get it (and live to lament the getting).

There are good reasons why creativity may surprise us when she answers our call.  Remember this; creativity resides in the subconscious "realm" of our psyche.  In this realm, only the truth of our experience is recorded.

While we may consciously deny what we experienced, our subconscious memory maintains an unvarnished record of events and our choices responding to those events.  When we invoke creativity at the subconscious level, she can only work with the data and information which resides in her  domain.  Thus, it is not surprising that her "solutions" may conflict with our view of reality.

When it comes to science and engineering, the news is generally favorable; old perceptions and habits often stand in the way of real progress. When creativity notes the time for change, it would do us well to remain open to her instruction.

We can see from these considerations that creativity is better served by our periodically challenging accepted practices relating to processes and methodologies. For example, the popular practice of automating traditional processes may not be the wisest move on our part.


For the purposes of discussion (and enlightenment), let us deal with creativity as if she were a lady. If we expect her to favor us with the means for our success, we must needs pose our questions in terms of things and events within her domain--our subconscious and its record of our prior experiences and choices.

As an example, assume we are part of the Joint Strike Fighter program looking at an overweight design.  We could ask the following question:  How can we reduce the weight of the F-35B?   Now this is a legitimate question; but, upon close inspection it is a rather constraining interrogation.  For one thing, any medical doctor will inform you that it is more difficult for an obese person to lose weight than it is for a normal person to maintain a healthy body weight.

A more "open" question would be the following"  How did the F-35B take on excess weight during its development? The answer to the second question may very well contain an answer to the first question. While JSF staff members may well want to avoid an appearance of being "judgmental", posing the first question may seem politically correct; but, it does little to shed light upon the underlying processes that put excess weight upon fighter aircraft during development.

Is the central problem (put to creativity) to be "How to take off weight"; or, should the problem be posed from the point of view suggested by the second question "How to keep weight under control"?  If creativity informs us as to where control was lost, that might be the best place to begin the task of reduction.

From this example, we can formulate an approach for fighter aircraft weight management, as was done in the development of the F-16. That approach was implemented by Lyman Josephs. The irony of this story is that, soon after the F-16 contract was awarded, Mr. Josephs was "kicked upstairs" to corporate General Dynamics headquarters before his processes were put into the general practices of engineering development.

Few aircraft historians will dispute the fact that the F-16 was an outstanding product of creativity.  The F-16 can be considered "the brain child" of creativity. How sad, that the mother of this child was so poorly treated after serving the needs of General Dynamics Fort Worth division.  She was brought into the palace when an heir to the F-111 was sorely needed; and, after she gave birth to the F-16, she was summarily ushered out the servants' door along with many YF-16 innovators.  How sad!  This is no way to treat a lady.

"Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.
Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted."     George Kneller