Want to Open Up The Creative Possibilities? Begin By Reexamining Openness Itself



Openness, while often noted as important to creativity, turns
out to be vital and far more powerful than we think

“Openness” and “creativity” share a common encumbrance – they
are both words so familiar that we take little time to
understand their meaning. We need to change that, and this
article is intended to give you reason to begin right now and
continue to do so. Why? Because given a closer look, the
evidence is overwhelming that, rather than some new age cliché,
openness is elemental to creativity, to who we are,
and to what and how we create.

While some of us have never questioned the relevance of
openness to creativity, few have looked at proving it as
carefully as George F. Kneller did in
The Art and Science of Creativity
. Kneller was a
consummate researcher and writer in the academic sense of both
words. He was the kind of scholar that those who need to “see
to believe” trusted. In that style, Kneller scoured human
knowledge and undertakings to understand creativity. Rather
than rely on one or a few fields, he drew extensively form
education, psychology, anthropology, mathematics, medicine,
sociology, the arts, and the humanities. What we might call an
“open” approach he regarded as “thorough”.

His matter-of-fact approach was scientific, precise, and dry.
He laid out all the facts and accumulated the data to support
them, only after which he drew his evidence-supported
conclusions. More than any other pattern he saw, Kneller found
openness to be regarded as vital to creativity.

But it was clear his appreciation ran far deeper. At times his
comments come across less as findings, and more as an awaking.
He concluded that creativity, because it relied so heavily on
openness, represented “one of those rare meeting grounds of
science and art that give practitioners heady glimpses of each
other’s business.” He came to conclude not only that creativity
relied on openness, but that creativity itself represented
openness come to life. “Creativity,” Kneller wrote, “is the
ability to remain open to the world.”

Today, most are aware, even if in small ways or small parts of
their life, of the value of being open. But we tend to regard
it as a choice. Many believe that it goes deeper in our
make-up, however, regarding it not simply as a choice, but as a
core function and need. Way back in time, between 60,000 and
30,000 years ago, a growing number of researchers believe
humans began to consider openness (something our bigger, more
evolved brains allowed for) as something important for reasons
beyond day-to-day survival. In this period referred to by some
as the Big Bang of Human Creativity, the “option” our bigger
brains afforded became the default “function” for how we
operated. We came to rely on that open capacity, and became not
just more consciously creative, but indeed more dependent on
creativity and the openness on which it is based. In this
regard, humans aren’t just open by choice, we are open by
nature. Whether or not we practice using that capacity is
another thing and far closer to a choice.

There’s far more, that is if you’re open enough to consider it.
Some, like psychologist E. G. Schachtel, have argued that
openness isn’t simply important to human adaptability and
ingenuity, it’s fundamental to being human. He believed that
“man needs to be creative… because he needs to related to the
world.” We want not only to survive and continue existing in a
changing world, but to be a part of that change. This,
Schachtel and others conclude, isn’t just a general truth about
humans, it is precisely why we want and need to create. As
psychologist Carl R. Rogers put it, “Creativity is
self-realization, and the motive for it is to fulfill oneself.
In this sense, a person is creative to the extent that he
fulfills his potentialities as a human being.” Being open and
creative was, to Rogers, how we come to understand what it
means to be human.

Heady? Yes. Important? Arguably, more than anything else. Yet
none of this is meant to say you ought to run out the door
right now and be recklessly open as never before. It’s a
message of balance – not being so orderly and formula-driven
that you miss the next opportunity or fail to see the signs
that your formulaic ways need adjusting, but not being so open
that you never make what you see tangible and valuable. Simply
consider that as you seek to be more creative, innovative, and
adaptable, you might just want to add some openness to the


Note: This article was derived from Chapter Six, titled
“Openness is Where Breakthroughs Come From”, from Robertson’s
Language of Man. Learning to Speak Creativity.

The Language of Man: Learning to Speak Creativity
by Larry Robertson.

Impressionism, the iPhone, democracy, Uber–when we think
about creativity, we most often think of things. We also narrow
in on the few, those rare creators who seem to have something
we lack. These tendencies quickly take us off track,
perpetuating a myth and unknowingly pushing us further away
from the possible. Here’s the truth: Creativity is about the
possible. It’s the seed of any human advancement ever made or
yet to be imagined. Most important and powerful of all,
creativity is a uniquely human capacity that each of us
possesses–including you. The story of creativity is the story
of who we are, a story still unfolding. It’s time we come to
understand it and learn how each of us can contribute our
verse. It’s time we understand this language of man and learn
speak creativity. The
Language of Man
provides more than needed understanding; it
offers a powerful framework for creating. If you want to create
or innovate, this book is indispensable.

Tags: creative
, creativity, future, larry
, openness, openness to experience,

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