Creativity has always been an essential element in the evolution of mankind. It is now becoming the most determining factor in the success of kids living in the developed world.
From my earliest childhood memories to around a year after I graduated from high school, I recall my dealings with elderly adults going something like this… “What are you going to do when you grow up young man?” or, “What are you going to study in college?” What I didn’t realize (silly me) was that school wasmy 8-5 job.
If those same people would have asked me “What one thing do you want learn as much as you can about for the next +-8 years, so you can have a fighting chance to regurgitate what you have learned 50 hours a week for the rest of your life?” I would have told them that I was actually planning on moving to a cabin in the Rocky Mountains to live off the land like I had dreamed of when I was playing make believe with my best friend at the age of 6.
However, because of the way that they phrased the question, I almost always answered it with, “I don’t know.” No matter how many times I was asked it, I was never inspired to actually give it any real thought. I just assumed that, after I finished drifting through high school (which I hated, day in and day out), I would be able to skip the college thing, and make my own life for myself. That is, until I began to take some college courses in my sophomore year of high school.
The first course was on classic literature studying the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. The classroom environment was like a drug to me. The only work that seemed to be required was creative thought. My previous experience with school was to take different variations of what other people had already determined was fact, and cram as much of it into my memory hoping it would stay there long enough for me to spit randomly requested bits of it back out at the end of the semester.
This class was different. It required only that I: read books (books that I happened to find very interesting, given their ancient historical context); think creatively about them, their writers frame of mind, and how it speaks to the human experience; and write my thoughts in the form of essays. I had found a creative outlet in school that had previously never existed for me… ever. My high school grades plummeted to -B/C’s, and I began to get A’s on my college papers. I now had an honest, confident, and legitimate answer for those “college” questions I was asked so often… or so I thought.
I was surprised by the reaction that I got from my grandparents when I first told them that I was going to study to be a literature professor. It was somewhere along the lines of, “teachers don’t get paid much you know.” This is not at all what I had expected. In hindsight, though, their response actually made sense. They were not asking me what I was interested in studying at college, but rather what profession I could see myself tolerating for the rest of my life that had the maximum potential paycheck.
Now, 13 years later, I am not a literature professor. I actually never really wanted to be one, it was simply the best solution I could see for a problem I saw myself in the middle of. A problem that I could have fixed if I had dropped out of high school my sophomore year, and began to use creative, independent though to make my own life success.
My 5 year old son is growing up in a very different world than I did. Of course, this has been the case for all new generations to some degree since the beginning of life on this planet, but this time… the difference is proving to be exponential.
Mankind has always relied on tools to utilize our creative power and shape our future. From the early stone and iron tools, to the technologically advanced tools that have shaped society so quickly in the past decade, tools have been the game changers. Of all these tools, media (in all its forms) has arguably been the most effective world changer.
Digital media has been the most widely consumed form of media in history and the world of digital media creation is shifting rapidly. The most powerful tool that mankind has ever held is practically being given to billions of people around the world. A company is finding it extremely profitable to facilitate $5 transactions and digital content transfer between people who are on opposite sides of the planet from each other. One of the most profitable companies (in terms of margin) in the world today is being handed the information it needs to accurately advertise to billions of people for a half hour per day per person without even having to offer them any form of entertainment… they offer it to each other.
YouTube and Facebook are two social platforms that have the potential to give nearly half of the population an opportunity to vote on any given issue gone viral. Think about that for a minute, and throw Twitters active community in as the tipping point on how that vote could sway the course of countries’ governments.
Generation y (1980 – 2000) is still in the haze of their technology buzz, and many of them are getting over their “go to college and get a degree” hangover. They are consumers more than creators. Content creation by everyday individuals for everyday individuals has just begun, however, and generation Z (2000 – 2020) is going to find that content creation is the new “college,” and the determining factor of their success is going to be found almost entirely in their ability to be independently creative. Technology is advancing at such a fast rate now that, though generations are typically gauged in 20 year gaps, 2010 – 2020 will probably be a closely monitored generation of creative entrepreneurs.
Independently creative children born between 2010 and 2020 will have the tools and technical savvy to create digital content (and even on demand manufactured goods via 3D printing) before they are even teenagers.
The high schools of my generation were not exactly breeding grounds for independently creative individuals, and the schools of today are not much different. If I could go back in time (LOL) and give a different answer to the people who asked me those “college” questions now, I would tell them that I was going to get out of the high school babysitting program long enough to clear my head, and begin to flex my creative muscles in preparation for the digital value I would be providing for people in the future.
Now before you go and assume that I am anti-education, let me make it clear that I would not have stopped going to college, just high school. I did not graduate college, but the courses I took gave me the freedom to open my mind enough to figure out how to use it. I would go back again someday if I did not have all the education material I could ever need at my fingertips 24 hrs a day.
As for my 5 year old son, I will not be sending him to cram his head full of facts that other people have predetermined are the most useful and will therefore give him the best chance of success. Rather, I will create an environment for him which encourages him to develop his own independent creativity, and watch as he does what we humans seem to do best when we are not forced, trained, coerced and schooled into doing so… create.
Generation C (2010 – 2020), is the generation of Creatives.