Impossible question time: 11 Kiwi creatives attempt to define the essence of creativity

Creativity. It’s the fount of all productive endeavour as well as every artist’s nemesis.

Of all the talents one can possess, creativity is surely the most ephemeral, elusive and difficult to define.

Not ones to let that stop us, Idealog went looking for just such a definition, asking several of our favourite high-flyers, up-and-comers and generally talented types, just what creativity means to them.

So what is the "essence" of creativity?

Dave Moskovitz, professional director and start-up investor

"Creativity is the spark that occurs when you combine seemingly unrelated things, shove an uncooperative idea into an unexpected context, or look at something familiar in a radically unfamiliar light. That spark of creativity is fun and essential, but much more difficult and rewarding is turning that spark into a steady flame or bushfire of enterprise through experimentation, empathy with your audience, and dogged determination. This is the task most start-up founders face."

Wendy Rayner, GM of strategy and brand at Coca-Cola Amatil NZ

"From the perspective of advertising, the essence of creativity is to use a base consumer insight to tell an attention-grabbing, compelling short story that provokes an emotional response. By short, it could be a two second glance. That in itself is a challenge. Layer on top the need to make the insight true to a product or brand, and the story clearly linked to that product or brand, and that explains why good advertising is rare!"

Guy Pigden, writer/director

"It’s really just a thought or idea, a concept, a story, a spark that sets alight my mind and provokes it to go down a completely new path. This spark is equal parts inspiring, exciting and challenging. I think the challenge has to be great enough to scare me, to make me question whether it’s beyond my ability just to hold my attention. And it will always immediately trigger a wealth of other ideas from that first initial thought. So I suppose the essence of creativity for me is a special thought, a thought that comes with a key that unlocks a new place in my mind to explore."  

Ed Lodge, CEO of CSx

"Creativity is about solving a problem that’s a real problem, rather than a perceived problem."

Jan Hellriegel, musician and MD of Aeroplane Music


Photo: Michelle Cutelli-Male

"The essence of creativity is to recognise and catch an idea, run with it, then see it through to its completion – irrespective of the outcome being perceived as success or a failure. Sometimes the biggest flops are an amazing launchpad to one’s greatest work. Once you have released your creation to the world and you believe in it, then stand by it, mark it with an A+ for effort and never, ever apologise."

Michael Smythe, designer

"If necessity is the mother of invention dissatisfaction is its father. Together they can conceive positive evolution."

"Practising what I preach, I am constructively dissatisfied with my first sentence because it seems to perpetuate the tired old ‘creative problem solving’ definition of design. Problems and solutions reek of scientific thinking. They raise expectations of finding the measurable, provable, repeatable answer. Creativity is most likely to navigate new territory when it recognises possibilities and opportunities way before they become ‘problems’."

"Creative dissatisfaction is the antithesis of complacency and stagnation. It is the essential ingredient for continuous improvement."

Melissa McDougall, artist

"Creativity is the use of imagination, inspiration and practical skills to create an object, theory, project or business. It can be used in all forms of human endeavour and for the greater good."

Damien Venuto, editor at StopPress and NZ Marketing Magazine

"The word ‘creativity’ was not invented until 1870. That is to say that the exploits of Sophocles, Michelangelo and Shakespeare were never labelled as such. And I guess this is where the essence of creativity lies for me. Not in a word recently invented to describe an inconceivably broad concept, but rather in the long canon of tangible pieces of work – be it a Greek play, an Italian painting or an English sonnet – that have tinkered with the way I see the world."

Theo de Monchy, innovation planner at Previously Unavailable

"I was once told that we have two ears and one mouth and that they should be used proportionally.  You can produce amazing creative work, grand ideas and innovative solutions, but if you don’t take the time to understand the pain-point it won’t count for anything; you’ll be solving the wrong problem."

Toothfish, street artist, enigma

"Why bother being creative when we know we’re all going to die? We can’t take anything with us on the trip and we all must know that anything we made while we were alive (even massive physical structures such as the Pyramid of Cheops or the Great Wall of China) will soon be blown away by the sands and winds of deep time."

"I think there are perhaps three main reasons driving our own creative endeavours. Firstly we create for our own private pleasure. No one needs to see the results of these processes. We make marks on paper. We move things around and it gives us joy. Secondly we try and create things to give pleasure to others. These offerings acknowledge our connection to our offspring and the universe as a whole. We speak to our herd. We share our love and give thanks for our life. Finally I guess we just can’t silence the biological imperative of our sex drive – that primal drive to endlessly reproduce!"