Downside of creativity

Giovanni Schiuma

In the last decades there has been an increasing attention on how creativity can really support city regeneration, can really support business development. But it is also important to strengthen that a lots of this conversations around creativity in a city or a creativity in business or creativity in society are not producing the expected benefits in sense that most of this discourse are somehow monopolized or are somehow instrumentalized for specific reasons.
The point is that a lot of cities are using the notion of creativity as a way to branding themselves, a lot of companies are building a relationship with creativity but fundamentally they do not share the deep principles that move arts and move creativity. These principles are about the respect of people. These principles are about the role of ethics. So the point is that using the concept of creativity just for branding or communication purposes is very dangerous because apparently it provides nice pictures or nice ideas of context or organization or city.

Then when we go and we analyse behind the content. Then we realize that the reality is completely different. We realize that most of these contents are used by politicians just for branding their content or branding their actions but afterwards they do in a completely different way. They do not respect human being in the sense that they are not focusing their attention on how to create value for people. They do not behave ethically. And the art is about freedom, art is about expressing themselves, it is about celebrating life, celebrating humankind. And very often we discover that behind most of the initiatives there is only a way to instrumentalize and to achieve a different kind of objectives that tends to be economic objectives.

So the point is that we need to be very careful because the notion of creativity is an important driver for development but like any tool it can be used in a very bad way. It can be used as a tool to manipulate people, a tool to manipulate society. And this is probably the danger we need to acknowledge when we work with creativity in context of city or of organization.

So how to overcome this issue? I believe that to overcome this issue it is important that art and creativity has to be an initiative that starts from the bottom. It has to be something that starts with the people that starts with the passion of citizens and the passion of people working in the organization that they want to express themselves. And they have to find their way to develop their own initiative and they have to be very careful not to be at some point locked in the political system or in the mechanism that in the end of the day tends to instrumentalize their action and their freedom and their ideals and their values.

So when we think about creativity in the context of city, in the context of business there are a lot of potential that can be disclosed. But there are also a lot of dangers because again unfortunately very often this concept is used for manipulating context, for manipulating situation and as a way to hide the reality. And the reality is very often against the quality of life, against the benefits, against the interest of people. It tends to be oriented towards just the economic values. It is important to recognise this, that arts and creativity can have this double side and only if we are aware and very critical, we can really realize how arts can really drive a better society. It is a big challenge in many contexts and probably because the arts is a direct link with a culture of the context.
So I believe that arts and culture can really provide important asset for local development but only if it is animated by pure interest and really human oriented passion towards the creation of values, towards the celebration of life, towards the improvement the quality of life. And this is unfortunate not the case in many contexts where economic interest and other interests tend to prevail on the interest of the society and of people in general. So let’s be careful when we talk about the creative city or creative organization because very often behind this word there are hidden many other kinds of policies.

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Giovanni Schiuma

Giovanni Schiuma

Director of the Innovation Insights Hub at University of the Arts London

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