Five Trends of the Creativity Age

In the mid-1980s, John Naisbitt named 10 trends that identified the transition from the Industrial Age—to the Information Age. This dramatic shift beginning in the 1950s brought with it what Naisbitt identified as the “collapse of the information float,” making data instantaneously available around the world, and the impact of a global economy, among others. (Megatrends, 1982.)

Now, decades into the Information Age, we are transitioning even more rapidly than before into the Creativity Age—the period in which ordinary people from every economic strata are waking up to their creative potential.

Through awareness and experimentation, we are beginning a transformational process in our own lives and reaching out to the larger community to effect change.

The human mind, though, and its potential for ideas and insight can remain a largely untapped resource in the workplace. Unrecognized in the midst of “right answers,” expert advice, well-used linear thinking, and lock-step employee performance, is the Creativity Quotient or “CQ.”

In contrast to IQ—a number used to express the apparent relative intelligence of a person—the CQ represents each individual’s capacity for creativity and inventiveness.

Adding the dimension of creativity to our thoughts and actions allows us to cross a threshold into a world of unlimited learning and thinking potential.

And so, in the midst of great change, a massive upheaval of all systems— economic, political, cultural, demographic, and social, these five trends—or attitude strengths—indicate a shift toward this Creativity Age as we have moved into the 3rd decade of the 21st century:

A Visible Attitude of Optimism and Thriving

Perceptibly improved attitudes during times of change are evident as more individuals experiment and adapt, moving consciously into uncertainty and new pathways. Regardless of dire predictions from the media, many of us are thinking outside the box.

Authors of The Cultural Creatives, Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson coined this name for those creative individuals and suggest that they are 50 million strong within the United States. This group is neither nostalgic or cynical.

In addition, they have a capacity for self-reflection, and “carry forward a positive vision of the future. They are comfortable with not knowing as they venture onto new life paths.

Their life stance is ‘leaning forward’ to embrace new values and worldviews, rather than ‘leaning back’ to the past or ‘standing pat’ in the present. Leaning forward means stepping outside the old story and discovering a new one.”

And with each imaginative thought, each consideration of possibility, comes an additional source of energy—even if that energy is only a fresh perspective.

A Shift Toward Internal Accountability

This larger group is beginning to transition from external to internal accountability. This requires an awareness of our thinking. This mindfulness fosters a willingness to assume total responsibility for our choices and for the consequences of our decisions.

Such people recognize that accountability is a catalyst to empowerment and resiliency. Becoming more internally accountable, they can step into potentially upsetting circumstances with an attitude of curiosity, identifying what can be done rather than fearing the unknown.

As a result, these individuals are able to ride out the bumps of life and deal more constructively with ambiguity and transition. Their lives become an expression of initiative and contribution.

One of the observable benchmarks of this directional shift is that we become compassionate and less judgmental of ourselves and others.

Acceptance of Diversity and Partnership

Embracing diversity and partnership,  is not only acceptable, it is fundamental to our success in the 21st Century. We have a global awareness of the effects of war, hunger, poverty, and illiteracy, or condone violence.

Jennifer James, author of Thinking in the Future Tense, suggests: “We need to make ourselves global citizens: able to move easily among countries, currencies, languages, and customs. When we use terms that indicate respect for people rather than dehumanizing them, it alters our perception of how to treat them.

Companies especially are paying attention to this fact. They cannot hope to manage a diverse workforce or develop a diverse clientele in a global market if they fail to speak of people with respect.”

Shedding the Myths Surrounding Creative Abilities

Next, we are becoming clearer about our creative abilities. Nudged by John Briggs and David Peat, authors of The Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, among others, we now question our limited views of creative abilities and are expanding our definition of creativity to include what we bring to an assignment, problem, or relationship that is uniquely ours—what comes when we tap into our original thoughts, rather than blindly accessing the known or controllable.

Instead of assuming that creativity is the gift of a few, we are realizing that creativity is available to everyone.

“Creativity is not just about what takes place in traditionally recognized fields. It’s what happens in our small and large moments of empathy and transformation.

“The key to creative activity lies in the self-organization of available materials. For humans this means we must literally create with our lives.”

An Expanded View of Thinking, Potential, and Creativity

Finally, our expanding awareness of thinking, potential and creativity is changing how we view others. We are beginning to assume that people have intellectual and creative potential.

We realize that using only linear and dualistic (either/or) thinking restricts us from imagining additional possibilities. The world is too complex for linear analytic thinking alone.

And Jennifer James declares: “The old blueprint for intelligence—storing information that could be called up on demand now limits our thinking and suffocates fresh perceptions and treats new information as just more data to be fed into well-established formulas of thought.

“Our brain has almost infinite capacity, yet too often we close down the system rather than learning to use our minds in new ways. The widely used Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), does measure literacy, memory, vocabulary, general comprehension, pattern identification, spatial ability, reasoning, and math.

But it does not measure many other forms of intelligence— perceptive ability, verbal communication skills, teamwork or relationship abilities, ingenuity, intuition, creativity, flexibility, mental health, multicultural awareness, varieties of experience, sensitivity toward ethical codes, or what is now being called emotional intelligence.

In addition, Adam Grant, author of Think Again, suggests that there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter even more:

The ability to rethink and unlearn.

He invites us to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.


What’s the “so what” about identifying these trends? For one thing, naming allows us to measure how we are progressing individually, and in our communities, our families, and our businesses.

For another, it illuminates our capacity to create our lives and our work in a way that sustains us and heals all that is harmful in our society, environment, and world—and not just for a select few.

These attitudes increase resiliency to stress, especially in times of transition. They help companies retain intellectual talent, reduce turnover and revitalize employees who feel they have been thrown into the thrashing machine of change and ejected, unsure of the rules and expectations in a tumultuous world.

Our ability to thrive in times of rapid change and to be resilient—adaptable and able to handle the multiple, unavoidable complexities of work and family—is enhanced by our willingness to embrace ambiguity. It depends on our ability to rethink assumptions and to champion others as they engage their creative energies.

These, in turn, are impacted by individual efforts—and each effort is the essence of what Briggs and Peat call “butterfly power.”

“Butterfly power identifies just how deeply influential ordinary individuals can be in society, powerfully so when [that influence] is exerted in a positive way. When we act with honest, sincerity, and sensitivity, we subtly influence the feedback of change within the entire system.”

“Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve. We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy surrounds us, yes. Problems are everywhere, yes. Yet, we can’t, we don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. Look with optimism, work with conviction, and things happen.” —Gordon B. Hinckley

A willingness to contribute—to step forward and to see innovative means of doing so—is the pathway through uncertainty that is propelling us into the Creativity Age.

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