Creativity, innovation and isolation

When I was teaching our evening course on human evolution some years ago, the issue of creativity and innovation came up. How come that small and isolated communities still use their stone tools, bows and arrows, while large and connected populations managed an industrial and cyber revolution and developed advanced tools (good and bad ones)? It obviously needs a critical mass of minds to push things forward, to think innovative and to become creative.

Being in Southeast Asia, and especially here in Singapore, I am every day surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people, I see all the many students, and I get a strong feeling of dynamics and innovation. I could write a blog every other minute, because of all the new impressions I get, the many people I meet, the discussions I am having, and the thoughts that pop up in my mind. So yes, being surrounded by many does make me creative!

But – this renewed creativity partly resides in my different background as I see things from a different angle, judge with different eyes and look at things from the outside. So probably to being creative it is important to sit on the fence having one foot on one side and the other on the other side; see both sides, learn from both sides, meet different cultures, opinions, and ways of doing and merge this into something new. My creativity (and probably that of many others) clearly declines or turns into something very different when I draw myself back, isolate myself and become overly self-centered for a longer time period.

There is however also another angle to creativity and that is being able to think free, to grow up in an open-minded and equal society, where everyone has the possibility to develop and to learn, and where bottom-up is more important than top-down.

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