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Why diversity of thought and of experience leads to greater creativity

Idealog's Creativity Issue is out now (get your copy here). Editor Elly Strang explains the thinking behind the issue's theme, 'With greater diversity comes greater creativity' – and why companies with staff who have a unique range of thoughts and experiences creates an environment that is more conducive to creativity. 

At the start of 2019, the Idealog team took a long, hard look at ourselves and what we represent as a brand. Time and time again, the word we circled back to was creativity – hence our new issue and online theme. However, we also wanted to dig a little deeper and figure out what is most conducive to creativity.

After putting together our latest magazine, which features stories on chunky issues we’re facing such as ethical UX design, mental health in the creative industries and how to make the design sector more inclusive, the conclusion we’ve come to is this: that diversity of thought and diversity of experience leads to greater creativity.

It’s something the world’s biggest companies have already clued onto. Airbnb user design experience manager Jenny Arden told me last year that Airbnb often invites astronauts and horticulturalists into their offices to get an unexpected perspective on a problem. Meanwhile, Google Empathy Lab founder Danielle Krettek said she’d sometimes bring in entomologists (studiers of insects), dancers, choreographers and more to work alongside Google’s design team and introduce more diverse viewpoints to the mix.

“It’s not just the designer and the art director, the table is so much bigger if you think with a genuinely human, inclusive lens,” Krettek said.

Colenso’s Beth O’Brien has a similar view in Diversity in Design: “The most effective creativity happens when contrasting thoughts collide. The best ideas are born out of diversity of thought.”

Perhaps this is one reason why the creative community’s reaction to the Christchurch terror attacks was so visceral. It was a direct affront to New Zealand being an inclusive place where different ways of thinking can collide together to spark something new, and something beautiful.

The design community responded by creating illustrations, objects and more. Many were shared widely on social media, as they helped people communicate their feelings when such a horrific act rendered them speechless. They also helped comfort the Muslim community and showed them warmth, inclusion and love. The Kotahitanga pin created by McCarthy Studio, which is featured on the cover and discussed further in Creativity < fear, is onto its third release, with around $80,000 raised for victim support so far.

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This pin is social design in action, and it speaks to what we value as creatives, and as a country. It's a beautiful yet subtle statement about diversity, togetherness and solidarity. This is why we decided that there was no better symbol of creativity to feature on the front cover.

Another demonstration of diversity was the results of our Wool Challenge. The range of designs that came back was incredible, from interactive wallpapers, to a woollen substitute for plastic wrapping, to wearable comfort felt for people and around the home. It was especially impressive considering all we provided people with was a box of extremely raw material, but hey, it’s not called a ‘challenge’ for nothing.

Within our latest issue, you’ll find some discussions that capture the general feeling of both the country and the creative industries right now: a little bit raw, and a little bit vulnerable. There’s a lot of work to be done yet. But as researcher Brené Brown says, vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. If this is the case, then we're poised in a perfect position to move New Zealand forward.

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Find a copy of the Creativity Issue here, or sign up for an annual subscription to Idealog here.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).