Cast Iron Creativity?

I try not to get political here, but this week’s government shutdown makes me wonder if there’s a creativity connection. Well: since one divergent thinking tool is to connect two things together and see what pops out, let’s try it.

Comfort with ambiguity. There seems to be some consensus in the media that the far-right Republican members of the House of Representatives (dubbed by the Washington Post as “cast iron conservatives”) do not have a vision or plan for how this standoff comes out. Creativity requires comfort with ambiguity, but not knowing how things turn out is not the same as not having a clear vision of what you wish to achieve. Here’s a question that might be asked: what’s the future vision and how might we actually get there?

How might we. Creativity is an affirmative process which seeks solutions. It could be said that the cast irons are seeking a solution, but it appears that they have already decided what the solution is (that is, the full appeal of the Affordable Care Act). They are, perhaps, engaging in the creative act of asking “how might we achieve that,” but it’s also clear that they are attempting to do this with a very limited “we.”

Tolerance for risk. It is common to say that entrepreneurs (one type of creative person) has a high tolerance for risk. All creatives accept risk: risk that they will fail, risk that their creative product will not be accepted, and so forth. The cast irons must have enormous capacity for risk: risk of losing, risk of being blamed, risk of losing their seats. I’ve long said that smart entrepreneurs are risk minimizers: they take actions to reduce their exposure, such as studying the market they are entering, having cash reserves, having Plans B and C and D, being flexible, knowing the total sunk cost, etc. Perhaps the cast irons have found ways to reduce their risk, say, by coming from a safe, pro-Republican election district. Perhaps they have done a kind of calculus that measures the cost of losing. And, certainly they must be willing to fail.

Falling in love with something. The late creativity legend E. Paul Torrance said “don’t be afraid to fall in love with something.” It may be that the cast irons are in love with their vision of smaller government, fewer entitlements, and so forth. The flip side, however, is the danger of being so in love with an idea that one can’t see the reality of the situation. It may be a beautiful image that the President and the Senate will capitulate, that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, that America will be “saved,” that the cast irons will be heroes. It may also be a dream that has no future, regardless of the creativity skills applied to it.

 

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