Creativity and Caledonia

Updated: Nov 14

lecture at The Glasgow School of Art



The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is one of the most prestigious and highest-ranking Art and Design schools on the planet offering undergraduate degrees, post-graduate awards, and PhDs in architecture, fine art, and design.


Product Design Engineering (PDE) brings together the studio and creative environment to design innovative products. Led by the Department Head, Craig Whittet, it is a collaborative program taught at the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow to apply technology to improve the quality of life through design, engineering, and commerce to make products that relate to human usage, behavior, and appeal.


As part of its inaugural event, "PDE Presents," Roy Sharples provides perspective about what creativity is, how to blend the art and science of the creative process by unleashing creative power that creates innovative businesses, products, services, and experiences. Why creative leaders are always outsiders, misfits, and mavericks who have extraordinary confidence, drive, and resilience to bring their ideas to life by seeing around the corners to fearlessly navigate the future.


Captured within the recorded lecture, and summary below.




1. Creativity is the ability to make the invisible Visible

Creativity is the ability to make the invisible visible by taking what is not to create what is. It manifests what is inside you and around you by transcending the obvious, ordinary, and routine. It connects the past to the present by putting things together in new ways. Creativity is the belief in yourself and your ideas, always moving forward and never giving up.



2. The Modernists, Misfits & Mavericks Who Make Innovation Happen

True creatives are the outsiders looking in, the rebels with a cause. To be one, you must be comfortable taking a stand against oppressive forces and articulating your opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation. Creativity entails providing something new to the world, overturning the status quo by positively impacting people's lives, and helping society advance by making life more purposeful, engaging, and fulfilling. It also means embracing originality and making unique connections between disparate universes past and present to light the way into the future.


When you know how to channel your passion and energy into creativity and create meaningful outcomes, your outputs will be the next generation's inputs by lighting the way to the future and passing on the baton, leaving the world a better place. If you aspire to be as influential as the things that influence you—not to imitate them but to influence others in your own creative way— you can recreate the world.



3. Nothing survives long-term without embracing both radical and incremental innovation

Every successful artist, entrepreneur, and business needs to innovate continuously or risk being surpassed by competition in the longer term.


Radical innovation introduces a new business model and way of doing, where its invention dismantles and surpasses an existing business model and the status quo that surrounds it. In the business continuum, it typically equates to higher risks, but can offer higher returns. It requires the ability to envision and treat failure as a step forward, not a step backward or a reason to disengage. Startups are typically biased toward radical innovation by having significantly fewer constraints than larger organizations. They can afford to take greater risks, focus on the bigger picture, have more inspirational objectives, and be willing to experiment, reimagine, and design for the new with fewer inhibitors.


Incremental innovation is small improvements made to an existing business model, product, service, or experience to achieve the desired business goal and differentiate from the competition by building on current value propositions and offerings to an existing and known market. Mature businesses tend to be biased toward innovating incrementally to maintain their existing customers' needs and grow their customer base in a risk-mitigated and tangible way. Typically characterized by narrower objectives and quantitative goals, they also take advantage of market research, focus groups, and prototyping. These large organizations focus on continuous improvement. They work toward defined milestones and rely upon internal sources of information to fill knowledge gaps.



4. Popular Culture Reflects Time

We all exist in time, a progression from the past into the future, moving in one direction. Design influences society by communicating through visual, word, and sonic, changing opinions, instilling values, and translating experiences to people across space and time. It is an expression of the soul that experiences ideas and provides us with purpose and meaning. Design is a vehicle for time and social change that interconnects society, entertainment, politics, fashion, and technology, which translates into popular culture—practices, beliefs, and rituals prevalent in society at any given point in time.



5. Setting the right conditions for the urban revolution is essential for a better life and society

Metropolises inspire creativity as a space for social integration, dreaming, making, and doing, where citizens can realize their full potential to live more enriched, fulfilled, and happy lives. Combined with the chemistry of individual human ingenuity, creative breakthroughs are a human process that happens when a diverse community of like-minded, purpose-led, and mission-driven creative people comes together.


Societies are a catalyst for creating influential art and sociocultural movements. This can be seen from the Ancient Egyptian Memphis, Classical Athens and Renaissance Florence to the French Revolution and Romanticism in Paris, to postwar New York and London. Historically, industrial cities like Detroit, Glasgow, and Manchester have an engrained maker and doer ethos, and port towns such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, and Liverpool have a constant exchange, diversity of people, and international trade. The modern-day digital revolution was born in Silicon Valley within the San Francisco Bay Area of California, with its burgeoning start-up and global technology innovation scene and its culture of openness and free exchange of ideas.


Creativity is a way of living. Creative hubs and the experiences gleaned through entrepreneurship and innovation improve people's lives, making societies more productive and improving the places where we live, work, and play.



6. Architecture and design influence how people feel and connect them emotionally that triggers the imagination

They speak a global language that everyone can understand regardless of their native language and cultural identity. They can affect how art is made and experienced, and they act as a catalyst for social integration and collaboration, empowering people with a sense of escapism, freedom, and hope to become self-actualized and live a fulfilled life.


Music venues like the Cavern Club in Liverpool became an epicenter for Merseybeat in the 1960s. The Troubadour in Los Angeles for folk music in the 1960s and 1970s. CBGB in New York City and the 100 Club in London for punk in the 1970s. The Wigan Casino for northern soul in the 1970s. In Manchester, the Haçienda nightclub for acid house, rave music, and the “Madchester” scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These venues became synonymous with the music they hosted. A sanctuary where music, fashion, and culture came together where like-minded people could self-identify and feel liberated.



7. Culture is the engine that drives our momentum

Cultures are defined by the people who live and function within them. In the same demographic, two cultures created simultaneously, pursuing the same ideals, will still become two very different entities. Why? Because people are different. When people come together in the service of something greater, they retain their own unique personalities, passions, hopes, and dreams. The shared experiences and constant interactions between people make up a culture. Culture is the engine that drives our momentum. It is the sum of what you feel, believe, and do that shapes and defines your work's input and output.



8. Magic Takes Planning

The creative process is about making new connections between past and present ideas, and infusing economic, political, sociocultural, and technological perspectives in parallel to produce new business models, products, services, or experiences.


The steps in the process involve discovering and developing insights, applying divergent thinking to analyze a problem, generating and evaluating ideas that can become concepts, experimenting, prototyping, constructing, and making a plan of action, then bringing it to form, to life!


How do we find creativity? Do we simply dream up ideas from within ourselves, what we manifest from what we observe and the world we live in, or do ideas fall from the sky, and gravitate toward us?


My approach blends the art and science of the creative process: Dream, Make, and Do. The process is iterative and constant, and customizable per craft, situation, and opportunity.


DREAM Apply divergent thinking to dream without frontiers to find the breakthrough ideas by envisioning the desired outcome


MAKE Adopt a do-it-yourself sensibility using convergent thinking to review and select the best ideas and then rapidly prototype and construct the plan to bring it to life


DO Review the solution to identify improvements, make eliminations, fine-tune, remove obstacles, mitigate risks, and bring it to life with the audience and markets, whether the solution is a new business, brand campaign, a physical product, an industrial design, song, film, story or painting



9. Lead Without Frontiers by seeing around the corners fearlessly navigating the future

Creative leaders have confidence in their ideas, and never give up on bringing them to fruition. It means leading without frontiers by seeing around the corners and fearlessly navigating into the future!


I established a Creative Excellence Model that details the collection of skills and competencies. These comprise five principles that define what creative leaders must know and practice, and that holistically address leadership at the individual, team, and organizational levels.


There are five learning stages of creative leadership: Fledgling, Journeyman, Expert, Innovator, and Artist; there are also four distinct behaviors, knowledge, and skill clusters: leadership, aesthetics and identity, industry and cultural insights, and craftsmanship. These make use of three proficiencies: discovery, invention, and innovation.