Productivity versus Creativity

Industrial society runs on productivity.

Human beings are measured by how much they produce, by numbers. How much money do you have? How expensive is your house and car? How many years did you spend in school? How many hours do you work in a week? How many friends do you have on Facebook?

These metrics let us measure and quantify people so that we can place them among the other 8 billion people in the world. They are useful shortcuts for making decisions in mass quantities.

The problem is that the metrics bleed over. We are measured when writing resumes, timecards, the tax returns. But we are also measured when discussing our day, when whispering about our dreams, when drawing up plans for the future.

A society obsessed with productivity soon becomes a society that is blind to creativity.

Creativity is antimatter to metrics and numbers. In the heat of creation, the composer cannot fill out a time card, the painter cannot tell you what she’s painting, and the singer cannot tell you what she plans to charge for her song. They probably can’t even remember their names. All self-consciousness dissolves into the task at hand.

Creativity comes from space, openness, and partnership with the mysteries of universe. One cannot schedule a brilliant idea to occur next Thursday at 2 PM. Painting inside predrawn lines isn’t very creative.

Creativity requires discovery and bravely facing the unknown. It lets us create something new or arrange the old in new ways. But the outcome is uncertain, and the path there has never been traveled before.

Creativity is a risk. There’s always the possibility that the creation won’t make sense or will fail to connect.

Productivity, on the other hand, reduces risk – it makes us predictable. A productive worker always produces the same amount, in the same way, in the same timeframe.

While productivity needs measures to push people into action, creativity needs inspiration. While productivity requires external rewards, creativity is its own reward. While productivity runs on fear and adrenaline, creativity flows from love and peace. While productivity is safe and respectable, creativity is dangerous and strange.

Creativity is also the source of everything wonderful about humanity. It’s just that the depths of the human soul is a weird place. It doesn’t fit well into a factory mold, a schedule, or a tax return.

Productivity has a place, but certainly not everywhere all the time.

Perhaps it’s time to be a little less productive, and a little more creative.

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