Greetings Quirky community, it is once again May, the time of the year where we celebrate, well, ourselves. That’s right, it’s National Inventors Month! Whoop! Whoop!
While it’s true the over-abundance of faux holidays for seemingly every cause – from Sibling Day to Squirrel Appreciation Day – has somewhat dampened the exclusivity of cause-based holidays, it has done nothing to dampen our enthusiasm.
Without inventors to propel humanity forward we’d all still be sharing the same sponge-tipped rod to wipe our fannies, like the Romans. So, despite the recent popular backlash against science and facts in the media, the lack of pedestrian grimacing as they trudge along the streets stands as a testament to the ingenuity and benefit of innovation.
Last year, we wrote a great blog post on the history of National Inventor’s Month, including why the month changed from August to May in 2011 and some great ways to celebrate the holiday.
But this year, we thought we’d do something a little different. While the role of the inventor in today’s society is more important than ever, creativity, that mysterious concept behind so much innovation (another mysterious word), is in extreme danger of losing its meaning.
So brew yourself a cup of tea, curl up in a chair, and let’s reflect on creativity.
So before creative-types the world over raise up their arms in uproar, let me elucidate: creative acts are not in danger, they never will be. But the concept of creativity is in danger of becoming another fluffy buzzword like “synergy” or “streamline.”
According to ThinkFuture, ““Creative” has become a “buzzword”… It’s a shame that a word that represents the most significant gift of human intelligence has been trivialized by overuse… “Creative” was the #1 ”buzzword” in LinkedIn profiles in 2011 and 2012, #3 in 2013, and #2 in 2014.””
Along with “creative” joining the ranks of other neutered resume-words like “hardworking,” “team-player,” and “detail-orientated,” creativity has also been spotlighted in numerous books and op eds – typically featuring neurological scans of a creative person’s brain lit up or the daily habits of geniuses. (Did you know Wittgenstein didn’t care what he ate, as long as it was the same thing everyday?)
As to why content based around on the topic of creativity has become so popular, we can only conjecture. But from an economic standpoint, as many manufacturing and manual labor jobs become automated, jobs in the creative-services seem to be impervious (so far). Thus the business world has taken an interest in how to generate creative products. But unlike the beautiful souls here at Quirky, who seek to foster creativity and support inventors, much of the business world seems to be on a quest to reduce creativity to an algorithm and automate the process.
This type of shallow creative-focused content does little to shed any light on the true nature of creativity and frankly does a disservice to the great men and women that National Inventors Month is intended to spotlight. Nearly everything is made meaningless through repetition, and creativity is no different.
National Inventors Month should highlight the real work done by real people and not reduce their strivings down to a genetic trait or breakfast preference.
But enough dystopian melodrama! It’s National Inventors Month!
Aside from a buzzword to put on your resume that lets your employer know you value work-life balance and prefer to eat lunch alone, creativity is a leap.
In the world of philosophy, there is the concept of creation ex-nihilo, which means to create something from nothing – like origins of the Universe under The Big Bang Theory. This isn’t what we talk about when referring to human creativity. What we really mean by a creative act includes two facets.
A solution to a difficult problem
A unique combination of pre-existing parts
Number one is easy to understand. When Einstein discovered the connection between spacetime and gravity in his Theory of General Relativity, everybody went, “Dang, that’s a creative dude.”
Likewise, when Dr. Edward Jenner took the pre-existing smallpox virus and scrapped a little on a boy’s skin, immunizing him from the virus, everybody was like, “Hey, this guy’s super-creative.”
In both cases, creativity wasn’t a magical force whereby one lone person in an armchair or garage conjured up a genius solution. Both men worked their butts off for many years and failed 99% of the time, before stumbling across their creative discovery!
Creativity is a fortunate consequence of three constituent parts:
No one in his or her right mind would spend time inventing something that holds no benefit. All invention begins with dissatisfaction.
Curiosity is often entwined with dissatisfaction. Invention propelled by curiosity can equally be viewed as one’s dissatisfaction with the available knowledge.
This dissatisfaction then motivates one to find a solution to their woes. This can take years! Some people spend their entire lives striving for a solution to a problem they never find.
Einstein is a perfect example. He spent the greater part of his elder years searching for the Grand Unified Theory of Physics, only to come up short and disheartened. That’s the name of the game. It also brings us to our last point. Luck.
While there are those who made discoveries through pure deduction, luck cannot be overlooked. If dissatisfaction and hard work was all it took to make a breakthrough, we’d be sucking carbon out of the air by the ton, but we aren’t.
Luck is the crucial ingredient.
This is why we celebrate National Inventors Month. Inventors choose to focus their dissatisfaction towards a solution, one they may spend their lives in search of and never find.
Inventors are true believers. They believe in moving humanity forward and making the world a better place. This is why we at Quirky love and support you in your dreams.
Happy National Inventors Day.
Stay dissatisfied. Keep working. Good luck.
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