How to foster creativity in any workplace.
Leonardo da Vinci is one among many artists, scientists, business entrepreneurs, athletes, and writers whom Whitaker (Museum Legs: Fatigue and Hope in the Face of Art, 2009, etc.) investigates in her cheerful, encouraging, and practical guide to creativity. “This book,” she writes, “is a meditation and a manual, a manifesto and a love story, for how art—creativity writ large—and business go together. It is about how to construct a life of originality and meaning within the real constraints of the market economy.” Having earned both a master’s of business and a master’s of fine art, Whitaker aims to merge “the mindsets of art” with “the tools of business.” She advises setting aside space “for open-ended, failure-is-possible exploration” without being afraid of uncertainty; finding a guide, a colleague, and other allies to become part of one’s creative team; and broadening one’s definition of creative activity to include the “practice of friendship and the invention of play,” civic involvement, spiritual enhancement, “exploration of the body, in sports or dance or movement,” music, storytelling, and visual design. Taking a “portfolio approach,” writes Whitaker, balances “steady and low-risk” parts of one’s life with more risky forays into art. For the author, the process matters more than the end product, and she warns against “excessive monitoring and reporting.” As she notes, many successfully creative people began as failures: Elvis Presley failed music class; Michael Jordan was cut from his high school’s basketball team; Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected 27 times. Just as failure is no excuse for giving up, easy success can stunt “the muscle memory of resilience.” Creativity, the author claims, is primarily an expression of one’s unique selfhood: “You are an amalgamation at any point in time that is snowflake-like in its irreproducibility.”
Whitaker proves herself a genial, informed companion for a journey toward “creative flexibility.”