Creativity Without Frontiers

Updated: Nov 14

Unleash Creative Power To Make The Invisible Visible

Roy Sharples delivers talk to the students and faculty of the Royal College of Art on "Creativity Without Frontiers" What makes the creative mind tick and the manifesto for creativity to unleash the creative power we all have inside. Facilitated by the College's Head of Service Design, Clive Grinyer.

Listen to the recording from the YouTube Live session produced by the Service Design programme at the Royal College of Art,

Talk track summary:

1. 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. 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.

Many innovators are classic outsiders who disrupted, invented, and changed the faces of their industries forever. Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, and the Wright Brothers rose from obscurity to radically transform industry and how people lived. But it this mantra is the same in other fields such as what Elvis the Beatles did to revolutionizing how people listened to and made music, Banksy did in art, Muhammad Ali and George Best did in sport. None of these were created in the manufactured karaoke culture Pop Idol or American Idol.

Creative leaders break the mold by making their own path to achieve mastery. They 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,.

They are people of action who are always future-oriented, who start things, move the world forward, and inspire others to do it by driving transformation in society, business, and the arts.

Often, by accident, disruption can have a domino effect outside the intentional target and area of expertise. For example, Apple’s iTunes became a multimedia content and hardware synchronization management system and e-commerce platform; it was originally envisioned as a music player. It ended up disrupting the music industry by providing consumers with the ability to legally buy only the songs they wanted to hear at a significantly lower cost than on other platforms. Another example is Coca-Cola, which was first invented by pharmacist John Stith Pemberton to cure headaches before becoming a household name.

Sometimes, the farther you are from a problem, the more likely you will find a solution because you can see the situation from a fresh perspective and often apply novel solutions to a disparate field.

This transformation infuses imagination, taste, style, and inherent messiness with an inner desperation and persistence, along with a desire to succeed those results in having the skill and practical know-how. To be creative, you must swim courageously against the tide in search of the authentic and new, while staving off false promises of easy gratification and immediate success in a world saturated with consumer-led celebrity culture, where everyone looks the same, and everything is for sale. This is the reality in which we live, and it is counter-intuitive to nurturing creativity.

However, curiously, it is hardship, melancholy, and adversity that often inspire creativity. People who survive alienation, oppression, poverty, and other life challenges realize that it fuels their genius when they are able to focus it. This primal desire to survive the odds with extraordinary intellectual ability, mental toughness, grit, and creative productivity is what fuels an insatiable drive for self-actualization. This, in turn, inspires creativity.

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. Few movements survive 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.

Apple experimented with the music application iTunes. It realized there was no quality MP3 player on the market, so it created its own, the iPod. Eventually, it dematerialized its own technology by pivoting into another adjacent market, smartphones, with the iPhone! This led to Apple revolutionizing both the music and telecommunications industries, ultimately leading to reinventing itself from being a personal computing company to an all-encompassing consumer electronics, computer software, and online services global leader.

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.

Companies like Disney and Coca-Cola have mastered the art and science of relevance and customer retention by incrementally innovating extensions to their product offerings through product enhancements, acquisition, and experiential branding. This has enabled them to stay relevant, tap into emerging trends, and continually bring something new to customers while remaining the market leaders.

4. We all exist in time, a progression from the past into the future, moving in one direction -> forward!

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.

Take the 1970s as an example: A decade that saw rapid pace of societal change, egalitarian society, diversity, broad-ranging styles, and tastes. Political and economic freedom for women, and gay rights. The rise of environmental movements, women's rights, and gay rights. Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister for the UK, as did Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo for Portugal. Diverse and stylized music genres were also the norm: disco, funk, glam rock, heavy metal, krautrock, new wave, progressive rock, punk rock, soul, and synth-pop. Numerous subcultures emerged, such as Punk. Which emerged in New York and London in the 1970s with antiestablishment and left-wing political views, promoting individual freedom and do-it-yourself ethics, centered on loud, aggressive rock music. Who fashioned bondage trousers, chains, leather, metal spikes and studs, military-style boots, and torn clothing. Haircuts included spiked hair, native American-inspired Mohican and Mohawk styles.

5 Creativity is a way of living and setting the right conditions, atmosphere, and environment encourages creativity, art, and beauty that people adapt and react to and reflect in their life and work.

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 come 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.

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.

7. Time. Place. Occasion.

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.

8. Cultures are defined by the people who live and function within them.

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 those shapes and defines your work's input and output.