Creativity’s Fuel: Motivation

By Shlomo Maital

    A friend and neighbor cleaned out her bookshelves and offered me a book first published in 1953 —  69 years ago.  Except for the classics, not many non-fiction books remain relevant for 7 decades.  This one is, in spades.

    It is Applied Imagination, by Alex F. Osborne.  Osborne was co-founder of what became the leading advertising agency,  BBDO,  or Batten Barton Durstine and Osborn.  His focus is effective creativity – creative ideas that have impact. 

    What truly drives creativity?  Motivation.  Or “mental energy”.  The desire to makes things better.  This is Osborne’s insight.  “The fact is,” Osborne wrote, “is that nearly all of us have far more mental capacity than we ever use.”  

    Osborn explains why New Englanders are so creative.  From early days, the settlers had to deal with famine, drought, winter freezes, rocky soil.  The tough environment, and human evolution, selected the most creative people good at solving problems. Because, creativity, in the end, is solving problems.  Entrepreneurship begins not with technology but with a problem that technology may solve. 

      This is why I am optimistic. The world today is in great trouble.  We have polluted our planet, used up our air and water, engaged in pointless wars, ruined so many species of birds and animals, driven a huge gap between rich and poor, tolerated racism and hatred, and pitted one religion against another.  In the past, when things got really tough, human creativity rose markedly – driven by extra super-duper motivation,  a sparkplug of creativity. 

     After the onset of the Great Depression, there was a huge outburst of creativity.  I think it may happen again.  We will find ways to sequester carbon, desalinate water, and maybe, just maybe,  live together, all of us, in peace, on this beautiful planet, the only one we have.