Creativity Crisis: Maybe Buzz Lightyear Knows the Way

Tom Barrack's prediction that Apple CEO and Pixar creator Steve Jobs is destined to become the next Samuel Goldwyn-styled movie mogul isn't any more peculiar than the billion-dollar investor's recent unexpected rant on "Twilight" in an internal memo to his employees.

At the heart of both is a concern that creativity, innovation and the ability to embrace new perspectives have become scarce in Hollywood, corporate boardrooms and classrooms.

Barrack, the founding CEO of Colonial Capital, the world's largest real-estate manager, is in a position to change that. He's the new owner of Miramax Films and Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.

The rambling memo written in a Jerry Macguire moment (Barrack says he started reading his daughter's copy of "Twilight" by chance one night) expounded on the fatal loss of wonder, which leads to discovering new points of view and new ways of doing things.



"In everyday business, we think we know it all. We are the captains of our industry, and we possess all the global knowledge," Barrack wrote. "We are lacking creativity.... it is hard for us to dream... harder for us to change our lives... hard to live in a situation that other people view as unconventional."

Clearly, he considers Jobs an example of a 21st-century visionary. Such leaders can change technology and economics, effectively turning Hollywood and every other industry on its head. "You can't name who is the new movie mogul. But it will be Steve Jobs and Apple TV four years from now," he says. He will become, per Barrack, "the equivalent of what Darryl Zanuck and Samuel Goldwyn were 30 years ago," Barrack told CNBC this week.

Jobs' ability to use creativity as a catalyst to change the face of film animation, mobile content and communications is what is needed in the media and entertainment worlds today, he claims.

While some have been quick to dismiss Barrack's internal discourse as " billionaire financier drivel," he is not alone in recognizing that a renaissance in creativity is imperative to lift us out of the recessionary doldrums. Celebrating artistic works on campus and in communities is not the same as putting creativity to work on capitalism's front lines. Or what Barrack calls "the strict arithmetic cadence of our business."

A Newsweek cover story this summer written by author Po Bronson about "The Creativity Crisis" highlighted alarming evidence that the process of creative thinking and problem-solving is draining from the corporate sector because it no longer a mandate of the educational system. Somewhere between prime-time television and texting, we have lost our ability to "alternate between divergent and convergent thinking to arrive at original and useful ideas," Bronson observes.

The problems we face now, and in the future, demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration or a Greek muse to show up and lead the way, he says.

While the creativity crisis is being recognized as perhaps the single most important issue facing the future of American business, other countries are taking action. The European Union designated 2009 as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, ideas and standards from which are now being implemented. China and the U.K. have both engaged in widespread education reform in curricula and activities, replacing drill-and-kill teaching styles with creative problem-solving and expression. When these students bring their creative mindset into the workplace, everyone wins.

That the same call for creativity is coming from such disparate points in the universe seems to make it all the more urgent.

It's time to make creativity the prize at every stage of our lives. Tune out the drone and distraction of incessant digital connectivity to focus on original thought and novel "aha!" moments. Reignite your left-brain by giving flight to your right-brain. That's how you get to iPad and Buzz Lightyear.


1 comment about "Creativity Crisis: Maybe Buzz Lightyear Knows the Way".
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  1. Adam Smith from GroupM, September 28, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.

    What kills creativity? Being infantilised by authority's conceit that risk and unfairness can and should be regulated away. Hyper-critical, always-on media which oblige CEOs to employ chaperones, and which sterilise public discourse. The mania for measurement and the quarter-on-quarter culture. Moral relativism displacing principled thought. Self-interest displacing altruism. Instant gratification displacing sustained effort. One could go on.

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