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Embracing uncertainty through creativity

What do you think when you read the word ‘creativity’?

Perhaps you are thinking of beautiful paintings hanging on museum walls, skilled artists with brilliant ideas, architects or entrepreneurs with great business ideas. But are you considering yourself as a creative person? Or is this something you never really thought about? What even is creativity?

During our VC journey we found that most people associate only art with the word creativity and that creativity is a highly underestimated skill for many. These findings are only the top of the iceberg regarding the stigmas surrounding the topic of creativity.

In fact, all humans are inherently creative. It is in the way we think, connect information to each other and come up with new ideas. Nevertheless, many of us unlearn how to express ourselves creatively. The modern education and working systems are not created to give space for new ideas. But facing the complex challenges of the current time we need to reframe our association to creativity and accept that we need to foster an environment which encourages people to come up with new ideas. Creativity can be seen as a tool, a mindset, a way of thinking and working which you can actually train. But why exactly is creativity such an important skill?

Our world is more uncertain and unpredictable than ever. Globalization and the world’s increased interconnectedness, demographic shifts, pressing environmental challenges, shifting geopolitical dynamics and the bizarre pace of technological advancement are all signs showing that we are living in a fast-changing world. A world which is becoming more and more uncertain and unpredictable. To deal with that both on a personal level as well as on a societal level, giving space to our creativity is very important.

In attempt to destigmatise creativity, we looked into the benefits of creativity and how these can contribute to tackle global, complex challenges. First of all, creative expressions serve as a language itself. Some things, ideas or feelings are hard or even impossible to capture in words. In that case creative expression in whatever shape of form can be a better mean to express oneself or to convey a complex message to other people.

Secondly, creativity brings together your head, heart and hands. In our modern workingand school routines these are often separated, whereas research has shown that humans feel better, both mentally and physically, when they work with themselves ‘as a whole’. After 45 minutes of any creative activity – no matter how skilled you are – your cortisol level (the stress hormone) will have dropped significantly. Neuroscientific certain brain parts functioning better together, the release of positive hormones increases and this only by making art. Therefore, creative practices lead to more innovative ideas, as you are literally creating new brain connections by practicing your creativity.

Finally, creating something together increases the sense of belonging and the amount of empathy people feel towards each other. Following creative practices under the right circumstances can be a safe way of dealing with uncertainty. For example, an assignment with a lot of freedom but just enough structure, an element of play and no pressure to create something great together with others creates an environment of safe uncertainty, which is a great starting point to come up with new ideas and connect to your creative potential.

These findings are based on many interviews, readings and conversations with many different people inside and outside the creative industry. Many of the people we interviewed whether they gave creative workshops to refugees, were using creativity in school during classes, giving art therapy or embodiment workshops expressed what we found. Uncertainty can be a scary topic, but a good creative practice can help to deal with it and feel more comfortable with the uncertainty itself and the process of finding ways to deal with it.

To make the access to creative practices easier, we created a game with the goal of destigmatizing creativity and to increase people’s understanding about it by experiencing the power of creativity. We had the opportunity to host an open, walk-in session where we tested out this game with a variety of participants in the Academiehuis. Most people expressed the experience made them excited and curious about creativity itself. At the beginning some people found it scary, as they did not consider themselves creative people and barely consciously create something. But we often got the reaction that the game gave them just enough structure to not feel completely overwhelmed. In the end many people told us they felt more relaxed, enjoyed the activity and bonded with the people they worked with. Additionally, to this game we created an overview of knowledge to hand out to each participant and a report of our journey for our professional network, to give back knowledge to those who provided knowledge to us.

After this VC journey we – Amber, Denise and Femke – are even more convinced of the power of creativity and its power to deal with uncertainty. We will continue to spread this word and we hope creativity can play a bigger role in your life too.

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