Creativity can change the world, but what exactly?

‘Use Your Creativity to Change the World’ claimed the D&AD Sharp’ner debate yesterday. I made it down to The Hospital Club to find out more about what five of the leading minds in UK’s creative industry had to say on the subject of ‘creativity’ and ‘change’ and here’s how it went down:

Simon Manchipp started by laying down the rules of the house (got to love a good motion), and started a thought provoking evening with a room full of well versed creative individuals. The first and one of the most poignant points of the evening came from Richard Huntingdon of Saatchi & Saatchi. He argued that rather than make people give a shit, creativity can make people do shit. Essentially, creative ideas and campaigns can create emotion and by his reasoning, emotion leads to action.

I really liked his way of thinking, and although Mr Manchipp tried his best to instigate a lively debate (read: argument), I got the feeling early on that the panel were mostly on the same side – no bad thing. David Harris of Wunderman brought up social intelligence and said that another way to invoke action is to use social intelligence. Creating empathy and sparking imagination (both emotions in my mind), leads to behavioural change. A slightly more scientific explanation, but essentially the same thread of thinking. It was set: creativity  –> emotion –> change/action.

By the time Rasmus Bech Hansen took to the stage, I was left thinking if it would be more of the same, but thankfully he raised a very good point about how this change can actually be instigated by large organisations. Are they (companies) really big and bad and after the bottom line, or is there actually gravity behind ‘CSR’, Corporate Social Responsibility? I’ve always been sceptical, but Rasmus made a good case for initiatives such as ‘Windmade‘ (which reminded me of Germany’s ‘gruene Punkt‘) that are funded by businesses and doing good for society and partially won me over to think that actually, combining creativity with large organisations (read: money), a positive change in the world can be made.

For me though, the argument comes down to what sort of change we want to make in the world. Having established ‘creativity’ is the mechanism to create emotions and in turn lead to this behavioural change we crave, what exactly do we want to be doing differently in the world? It’s hard to generalise, but I did come away with some ideas from the lively discussion:

  • Do we need to try and change (western) society’s focus on the ‘me’ to the ‘we’? Surely through collaboration we can achieve greater feats than acting alone? How can we do this?
  • Should we try and turn our short-term mindsets to the long-term? The recession has brought with it the ‘here and now’ view of profits and the bottom line, so should we be working to turn that round and work for a more sustainable economy?
  • Or should we be trying to change education? Sanky, former D&AD President, made a great concluding point that really hit home. We grow up thinking we can change the world, and as time goes on, through social conditioning (read: battering) of education or working, this inner desire can start to burn out and alongside it goes our creativity, or ways of thinking of things differently. So why not use creativity to help people (young or old) remember that they can make a difference in the world? ‘All’ you have to do is do something slightly differently and the change could be great.

I haven’t got all the answers, but the Sharp’ner event made a start by identifying some questions at least. Thank you to the panel and to the D&AD for making that change for me.

One thought on “Creativity can change the world, but what exactly?

  1. This is a great article, thanks for sharing the ideas from that event and your own thoughts: very, very good! I’ve been thinking a lot on this topic recently, and this has helped clarify things. Your article has helped change things for me, so thanks for that.

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