Why are so many creative geniuses misunderstood

The disturbed

1. The disorder

In times like these, it is said that everything is new, but that is not always true. For example, there are two ancient folk wisdoms that are paramount today. They read: Idiots have it easy, and genius and madness are closely related.

Both belong together and can even be explained in the light of science. At least for the American neuroscientist and psychologist Shelly Carson from Harvard University, who for many years has devoted herself to the phenomenon of particularly creative people.

In her pioneering experiment, Carson placed a number of test subjects in a room. The candidates, mostly students, had been handpicked, selected after long preliminary tests and careful observation of their behavior. The first group consisted of people who did every stupid job without much grumbling. They were able to work through given tasks with equanimity. They were not particularly keen on independent thinking. They learned well, usually by heart, what they were told to express without much doubt about the content presented to them. If they were confronted with a new problem, there was usually a lull in the upper room.

Carson put together the second group of noticeably creative students. Her creative talent was clearly recognizable even without preliminary tests. They belonged to the category, which is not necessarily popular with professors, of those who questioned almost everything that was presented to them, and who could not be fobbed off with simple, ready-made answers. Carson now had the test subjects read a text through headphones in which absurd terms occasionally appeared, fantasy words. The test subjects should now count them. This was also communicated to the test subjects.

But the actual experiment ran - insidiously - in the background. The test subjects not only heard the clear voice of the speaker reading the announced task, but also repeatedly heard disturbing background noises. The brain researcher was extremely satisfied with the result of the experiment. It happened the way it had to. The first test group practically did not register the disturbance. They counted, as they were told, the wrong terms like peas, and their facial expressions hardly changed when they were interfered with. They turned out to be perfectly closed systems, people made for assembly lines, accounting tables and form processing.

The members of group two, however, failed. Just a few disruptions were enough to completely throw them off the hook. The few among them who were able to complete the test with their nerves frayed showed an exorbitant error rate.

The scientist found confirmation of what her colleague Hans Eysenck had already suspected in the 1970s: creative people are creative because their brain reacts very openly to all kinds of sensory stimuli. In the average upper room, a mechanism called "latent inhibition" ensures that external stimuli are more or less blocked. People with pronounced latent inhibitions cannot be disturbed or distracted from their routines. Unknown, new - it rolls off you like water on fresh paint. The thinking organ of creative people is switched completely differently. The latent inhibition is weakly developed, the brain is open to 360 degrees, ready for anything, around the clock.

To make things easier, we will call the first test group from now on the inhibited and the second, that of the easily irritable creatives, the disturbed. That also fits in perfectly with what we have been taught for a lifetime.

2. The inhibited

What does this little test tell us? A whole lot. On the one hand: creativity needs concentration. If you want others to have good ideas, you have to be able to shut up and not bother those who think with every fuss. And that has nothing to do with decency and respect for people who think new things when you leave them alone, but is a question of rudimentary understanding, of some reason.

No serious economist today doubts that ideas and creativity will be the most important economic asset of the 21st century. So far, this has played little or no role for the inhibited. But you will have to learn very quickly and very thoroughly that nothing works without the disturbed people. In the course of history, the creative minds were above all things: outsiders, crazy people, weirdos, lunatics, who were often pushed to the margins of society during their lifetime - in order to live magnificently from their ideas long after their death. Cultural history is full of relevant experiences: Hardly a new work of art, an invention, an innovation that did not have to assert itself against the stubborn resistance of the inhibited. Envy, stupidity and ignorance have always proven to be more reliable social forces than the realization that new ideas can also lead to a better life for all. This was possible because the proportion of creative people in society was always small. While they played the crucial role when it came to progress, invention, discovery and culture, their place was clearly the backyard and basement of society. Only occasionally and for a time were the useful idiots invited by the rulers to the first floor. But the situation did not change: those who exploited and used the creative potential of the disturbed were recruited from the ranks of the inhibited. The inhibited called themselves practitioners, while the disturbed were made theorists. Everyone learns that in elementary school to this day. The creatives are scattered, bustling, somehow unsuitable for life. Only through the firm and regulating hand of the practitioner do their ideas become useful. Creativity is therefore a raw material, like coal and oil, which only becomes useful through a strong, latently inhibited class.

Every child knows that raw materials must be shaped in order to be useful. This tradition describes the self-image of most of the people who to this day hold the most powerful positions in our society: politicians, banks and, as before, a large part of management.

In the creative economy, in the knowledge society, it is no longer enough to have an easily governable and manipulable race of bean counters and mediocre system supporters behind you in order to have power. Because their most important aspects of life - car, family home and Mallorca vacation - are gone if the attitude towards the disturbed in the country does not change. No money without creativity. As simple as that.

3. Handicraft

Caution: This is not a small change in fashion in human history, but the reversal of all relationships as we know them. The disturbed take power. The inhibited fight their last stand. Is our relationship to creativity really that disturbed? This can also be determined by asking simple questions and performing simple tests every day and at every hour. One asks a simple question: what is work? What is honest, real work?

What answer do we find?

Handwork continues to win every political and public debate over brainwork. Manual work is honest, brain work is unpredictable and bohemian. Handicraft is the currency of good German, mental work is the domain of the outsiders and the disturbed, of the showmen and intellectuals. Nothing can show this more clearly than in dealing with brain workers - yesterday and today: academics who are looking for new solutions are generally considered quirky. Crazy professors. That is why ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder managed so effortlessly to sack Professor Paul Kirchhof in the 2005 Bundestag election. The candidate didn't even have to go into the details of Kirchhof's tax reform. That would even have been harmful. "This professor from Heidelberg", that is, the brief reference to the fact that the enemy was an intellectual, was enough. Just a disturbed one. Would you trust someone who is disturbed?

Exactly. This infamy brought the SPD into the government at the very last minute. You can rely on the anti-intellectual reflex of the Germans. The country is still firmly in the hands of the inhibited. And they propagate what they know - that's not a lot, that doesn't lead to anything new, but always to more of the same, but it's proven: honest handcraft. This has shaped the nation, in agrarian feudalism and above all in industrial society. Only where tangible products are produced according to a plan and clear guidelines, goods that can be touched and seen, do the inhibited understand that something of value has been created.

Whoever counts on it counts on stagnation and decline. For nearly a hundred years, the value added share of industry in developed countries has not increased. Industry is not dying out - but its role as the engine of prosperity is becoming increasingly insignificant. Automation and technology, the consequences of mental work, make it possible that goods and goods are available without bottlenecks, but fewer and fewer people are busy with the tangible. This fact alone has still not reached the minds of most citizens. In the "leading industrial nation", according to the common self-definition of Germany, last year just eight million people were active in industry, in the manufacturing sector and in the handicrafts. With 39 million people in work, this corresponds to a share of 20 percent. "The country of mechanical engineers and car manufacturers, engineers, mechanics and laboratory technicians is losing its industrial base," said Erike Grimm, a cultural scientist from Erfurt. And the Boston Consulting Group warned in this connection in 2004: "The population takes this risk rather fatalistically."

Who is surprised. What the farmer does not know, he does not eat. Routine manual work always leads to some tangible result, even if nothing more can come out than you already know. But that creates the security that the inhibited need. And makes the creative industry in Germany a foreign body.

4. Creative work

The commodity that this new economy is trading in, creativity, has a hard time anyway. Because, unlike its historical predecessors, it cannot simply be defined in advance, as one can naturally do for a workpiece or a product from the assembly line. First of all, an idea is nothing more than a thought, an abstraction, so nothing objective. "You can't buy anything from it," says the vernacular. Neither is it written anywhere that creative work reliably leads to results. The direction is also often not clearly determinable. Thinking can lead to results that have nothing to do with the original goal, to side effects, to new insights that are completely surprising. This is an essential difference to manual work, which is goal-oriented and systematic. Creative work is risky. It can lead to revolutions, but it can also completely peter out. In other words: Nothing is easier than discrediting creative thinking - and questioning it against the background of what has been tried and tested. That also happens regularly. And there's something else: creative people are by no means as easy to distinguish from other people in the real world as they are in the laboratory of neuroscientists. Basically, the term creativity is not clearly defined. In today's parlance, it actually means anything that creates something new, i.e. things, methods, processes and ideas that no one had before. Inventions, improvements, optimizations, works of art, literature, music, software, design and blueprints, among thousands of other things, fall under this broad definition. A carpenter who creates a unique piece of wood from a piece of wood, an original that has never been there, is creative, as is a surgeon who devises a new surgical technique. A software engineer is on the same social level as a plumber who tinkers with a water-saving, ecologically sensible toilet flush. All known classes and strata dissolve under the creative doctrine.

The knowledge theorist and sociologist Nico Stehr has been one of the scouts of the knowledge society for more than 30 years, that is, of the epoch that is dawning today, whose economy is based on creativity: "It's completely normal," says the professor who now teaches at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen "That people are irritated here. But the transformation that is taking place today affects people and processes at all levels. Whether they want to or not. It doesn't matter whether you consciously experience this change - you can't prevent it." "

But Stehr is by no means pessimistic. "The age of industrial society is coming to an end, the skills and abilities that were necessary to secure its social order are becoming less important," he says. The modern world of work is no longer determined by sheer demand, as in industrial society, but by offers, i.e. by permanent renewal and innovation. One of the most important features of the emerging new class is the ability to decide largely independently and independently of pre-defined work processes which solution is the right one for a current problem. This is so new it makes you dizzy.

And yet in the world for a long time. The new reality of the creative economy knocks relatively late in Germany. In the USA people began to think about the new economic factors knowledge and creativity as early as after the end of the Second World War. While the European economy experienced a second spring - due to the necessary reconstruction work in a continent largely devastated by the war - the turnaround was noticeable much earlier in the USA. One of the first studies dates from the late 1940s.

The economist Fritz Machlup is the pioneer of the creative economy and knowledge society - in the 1960s he played a key role in coining the terms knowledge economy and information society. In his search for the bearers of the creative economy, Machlup did not take the well-trodden path. He did not separate the productive sector from services, academics from artisans or service people. His concept was based on facts: if someone was able to solve a problem largely independently, in a way that nobody had done before, if this process was also carried out by people who were trusted to make the decision about the solution themselves, then Machlup counted them in the category of his "knowledge workers". His first studies in the late 1940s showed that more than 50 percent of the American workforce belonged to this category. In retrospect, one may cast doubt on the number - because many of the professional groups that Machlup optimistically included in the newly emerging creative class were still involved in tight operational processes and guidelines.

For the researchers who followed Machlup, such as Stanford professor Paul Romer (see brand eins 02/2004) and political scientist and bestselling author Richard Florida (see brand eins 09/2006), Machlup's work was important guide. Above all, this work makes one thing clear: neither lonely geniuses nor distant avant-gardists work in the creative industries. The creative industries are nothing more than the new normal state. Except that many have not yet understood that to be normal. That is what constitutes the most important deficit: creative work used to be exclusive, today it is normal. The knowledge society could just as easily be called the age of independent decision-making. That is the prerequisite for an efficient creative economy - and not the industry in which it takes place.

5. Creative class

Top representatives of the new creative class can be found in industrial companies as well as in established trading houses or in offices and authorities. You work for banks or in small craft businesses. "The head sets the framework for creative work. Not belonging to a sector that is completely out of date," says Nico Stehr. But precisely because that is the case, what is called up in the mind plays a decisive role. What is still there from yesterday's world and how much is already there from the one that is currently being created. Consciousness determines membership in the creative class.

According to Richard Florida, one of the most famous proponents of the new theory of the creative class, between 25 and 30 percent of all workers in the developed industrial nations are already active in the creative sector. In 2004, after Florida, the creative class in the USA generated half of all earned income - as much as industry and services combined.

Who are the people who carry this new success for us? "They are employed in science or engineering, in research and development, in technology-enabled industries, in art, music or culture, in the aesthetic and design industries, or in knowledge-based fields of health, finance and law," writes Florida in his essay "Technology, Talents and Tolerance", written with Irene Tinagli.The three "T" s have become the trademark of the professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. What distinguishes Florida's research on "The Rise of the Creative Class" - as the title of his 2002 bestseller - from those of its predecessors is the emphasis on the importance of social components in the development of the creative economy. "Creativity is a basic element of human existence," it says, "a broad social process that requires collaboration. It is stimulated through human exchange and networks; it takes place in actual communities and in real places."

Florida has shown in his book that tolerant and open communities are essential to the success of the creative economy. Narrow-mindedness and intolerance, regardless of whether against social minorities or intellectuals, are factors that massively hinder this development. It is not raw materials and machines, capital and soil that would from now on attract people and drive the economy. It is the "competition for creative minds" that is decisive for the success of regions and countries in Florida in the 21st century. People follow jobs? That was yesterday. Jobs follow people. After Florida, that is the dynamic of our century. And that is where talent and technology are important, for sure. But the most important currency, the capital T so to speak, is tolerance. Above all, tolerance also requires one thing: patience and trust. We want to see how this key resource is doing.

6. Creativism

The German word creativity is rooted in the Latin creare, which means something like "to produce something new", which does not really go any further than the current definition. Only etymologists argue that the Latin stem crescere also plays a role in the formation of words and meanings. Crescere means "grow" and "let become" - in view of the experiments in the neuroscientists' laboratory, this is an amazingly interesting root of the term creativity. Let it grow and become - that describes what is withheld from the creative in Carson's test - the right to be able to think the new without pressure and stress. Creativity must be able to develop, grow in peace.

But this point also presupposes something that society has to learn first, something that is still alien to the culture of manual workers and industry: trust. This is another, missing and perhaps the most important requirement for the knowledge society: Without trust in the ability of creative people, without trust in solutions, no new state can be built. The famous dictum is said to come from Lenin, the father of the total state of the 20th century: "Trust is good, control is better". Inhibited people are born controllettis. In the industrial age, trust exists only in trace elements. Suspicion is the greatest enemy of creativity.

That is why - it has to be a bit of fun - at the transition from the manual worker to the brain worker society, there are funny scenes that occasionally repeat themselves over the years without anything new happening at some point. In practically every larger company and organization, the management, i.e. the practitioners alias the inhibited, calls on the employees to be more creative. That sounds like a speech by Edmund Stoiber, so strange, but confused. How could it be otherwise: The bosses are demanding what they only know from hearsay and something that they have emphatically forbidden for years. Even such nonsense can be demanded with a lot of pressure. The pitch becomes sharper.

At the beginning of the forties, creativity in connection with the classic production economy was barely permitted; people liked to call it a little nebulous "synergy between the worlds". At that time one suspected, probably in view of the success of computers, which were conquering the world as a product of sheer mental work, that thinking in industrial processes is not necessarily the most stupid thing one can do. The increasing pressure of globalization and the associated increased dynamism of the markets did the rest. The product cycles became shorter, the products more diverse - but only apparently. Instead of real innovations, features were created, an industrial variety of inhibited creativity. You put on a standardized product, for example a television, a few - largely meaningless - additional functions and declare it to be an innovative masterpiece. Half steps, as they are quite typical for the inhibited.

But that is not enough, it can be seen everywhere. So more creativity! Come on! Dalli! But that is not creativity, but creativism, the stupid attempt to formalize something that cannot be formalized: thinking. This also shows how much we still live in the realm of the inhibited. In order to increase the sheer production, you could force your workers to increase the number of pieces. They turned the assembly line faster. More output. But creativity is not scalable. It cannot be produced at will. Creativity lives from freedom, not from commands. The command economy has not yet come close to understanding this. How should the addressees react? Throughout their lives they were kept with all their might and vigor from going their own way and finding their own solutions. Generations before you have seen the same thing. If you wanted to make a career, you had to adapt to the inhibited. The organizational forms of the state, politics, corporations and large institutions, tightly managed and hierarchically ordered, exist precisely to prevent divergence. The systems that we find are huge scaling and ordering machines. They are there to combat deviant behavior.

For most CEOs in Germany, it is sacrilege if their employees work at home every now and then. And they also treat their employees to a creative workshop on the weekend - on Monday the fun is over again. Then those who take seriously what is only fun for the hierarchical bearers risk head and neck. Those who act creatively, socially responsible and not shy of risk commit suicide in terms of their career. The lame call for a 100-meter sprint, the blind recommend themselves as driving instructors. As if they don't know what they're doing.

You don't have to fall for them first. You can see in advance who you are dealing with. Language is treacherous. Why is more creativity required? As a rule, we hear from managers and politicians alike, in order to save "Germany as an industrial location" and to create many nice new "full-time jobs". In short: to strengthen the conditions under which creativity cannot grow. Just old power relationships. Nobody who relies on the knowledge society can come to terms with this. If you take the demand for more creativity seriously, you have to leave a lot behind: meeting and time schedules, rituals and hierarchies, majority opinions and house rules - ultimately everything that holds the bargain together.

Creativity demands people with self-organization. So entrepreneurs.

7. The dictatorship of the slow

This is what Tim Renner, who now heads the broadcasting and music publishing group Motor Entertainment from Berlin, has learned. In the nineties, the now 42-year-old music manager had a lightning career. In 1998 he was appointed "President Music" in the newly created Universal Music Group, and in 2001 he became Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Germany. Far beyond the republic, Renner was seen as an example of how a creative, cross-cutting youngster could make it to the highest corporate headquarters. He was the flagship creative in the music industry.

Until 2004. Because in that year Tim Renner did what his company supposedly found the best about him: he got serious, in a creative way. He tried to catch the stagnating and even collapsing sales of CDs in normal sales through an Internet portal where customers could easily buy the sounds of Universal Music online. From today's perspective, that was the right decision. From the company's point of view, it was treason at the time. Renner set the precedent. It is still used to measure how serious the talk about more creativity is.

He learned something else: "I noticed very quickly at the time that everything in the organization was not geared towards performance and innovation, creativity or progress, but simply towards the slowest in the whole group. It was made clear to me relatively unequivocally that it was It would simply not be possible to push ahead in matters of the web. Universal Germany could only have a website with a sales portal if Universal Paraguay also managed it, "he says.

During these days Renner noticed what he defines as "the great paradox, but at the same time the reality of corporations: within their structures, the most successful are the people who are most immobile. The slow always win. And the creative are always handicapped. So are." the rules". These rules, he adds, do not come naturally. They are, like many things that have made corporations and wealthy states so sluggish and remote from the future, a product of the successes of earlier days. Even if nothing more can be achieved with the old methods - such as industrialization and scaling rage at any cost, there remains an "echo from the good days to which one feels obliged. It's pretty perfidious," he says. "But the people who let the creative people run against the wall have a kind of sense of responsibility. It consists in not questioning the remains of the old success, because otherwise nothing remains".

Such systems are not just creatively hostile. At the same time, they are no longer companies. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter defined creative, ie "creative", destruction as a basic constant of capitalism and thus of entrepreneurship. Creative destruction is not just a gag of the new times. As Schumpeter maintains, it is "the essential fact for capitalism. That is what capitalism consists of, and that is what every capitalist entity must live from." One of the findings is that there is no permanence and therefore nothing that is worth defending. The second, perhaps even more important: companies and organizations that do not allow change have ceased to be companies. You have become a bureaucracy. The purpose of the bureaucracy is to maintain its own structure. In art something is called l'art pour l'art, which means something like: art for art's sake. This is an outstanding feature of the old cultural economy to this day. It aims at continuance. It is dependent on subsidies. This type of game is considered normal in Europe. As before, it is a little noticeable to behave when a cultural enterprise manages without subsidies and without public funding - in other words, it is a cultural enterprise.

This is an important indication of how misunderstood the concept of creativity is in the cultural industry: Art for art is nothing other than a corporation because of the corporation. It's not a model. It is an excuse that comes up because there is a lack of creativity to really start your own business. No artist creates a work in and of himself. No company has a purpose if it does not find a market, i.e. it makes its products and ideas available to society. Subsidies don't just turn the institutions that receive them into charity recipients. They also lead to the products that are created being devalued. Regardless of what they are engaged in, the following applies to companies and creatives: those who only think of themselves make themselves meaningless.

8. Ivory towers

Non-profit. You have to talk about this word too, because it is closely interwoven with the self-image of many creative people. The non-profitable, the theoretical, has been in the foreground for a long time in the history of creative people. Because quite a few artists, intellectuals, inventors and researchers felt quite comfortable in the place that the practitioners had assigned them - on the edge of society, in the housing that is called an ivory tower. It was a cozy place for a long time. Nobody asked seriously what their residents were up to, and when they did, no mere mortal could understand the answer given by the tenants. In this way they themselves nurtured the myth of the disturbed, who under no circumstances should be let go unfiltered into the world. Practitioners and theorists of creativity had found their division of labor. It is no coincidence that free-market societies did not simply accept such conditions. In the Anglo-American region it is a matter of course for world-famous scientists that they try to convey what they do to a broad audience without fear of contact. The European scientist still likes the role of the eccentric.

A small test can prove that too: Compare the works of the most famous American scientists and humanities scholars with those of their German colleagues. It should not be difficult to find out that the statements of the Americans are easier to understand even in the original than what large parts of our intellectual elites consider plain text. In the arts, too, the following applies: the stranger and quirkier, the more respected. An artist who does not present himself as alien to the world, so to speak, does not fit into the picture of the creative genius on which the old European culture is so attached. All of this is reminiscent of children who refuse to learn to speak in order to escape the responsibility of growing up. Just don't become independent. It is troublesome.

But precisely because the knowledge society is not a chimera, because it is developing gradually and against all odds, the ivory tower is becoming more and more dilapidated - and many of its residents are becoming grumpier. Sometimes they stomp furiously against the total commercialization of science, sometimes against the intrusion of capitalism into the arts. Of course, not everyone does that, only those who need it. Because the fact that creativity and innovation are becoming more and more important should actually please the brain workers. You automatically move into the public eye. Media inquire.

Is there actually anything better for those who have been tied to the leash of bureaucracy for decades, dependent on subsidies and handouts, always somehow portrayed as strange? Depends on. Because even the ivory tower was never really completely disconnected from the development of society. Just as the bureaucrats triumphed in politics and management and the inhibited took over the scepter, it was also in the cultural industry and science. Bureaucrats usually play a much more important role there than the creative people themselves. It is not surprising that they are resisting reality knocking on their tower to ask what they are actually up to.

9. Obtain

New questions are everywhere. How open, how tolerant, how networkable are those who today count themselves in our creative class really? Reality shows us that we are still practicing here. Manual work still sets the pace in the country; Insights into the new times are still clouded by old prejudices, misunderstandings and the indolence of the inhibited, who do not want to admit that their rule over the disturbed is over. The Republic of the Slow is only gradually adapting to the tempo of the head, the rhythm of the new times. Errors and bizarre things cannot be avoided - they are due to the current conditions.

The study "The Geography of the Creative Class in Germany" published by the Technical University of Bergakademie Freiberg in 2006 provides a good example of this. The researchers scoured the officially available employment statistics for creative workers. The Mecca of the creative class in Germany, they found out, is not in Berlin or Hamburg, Munich or Stuttgart, but in Erlangen. The fact that the Siemens city in Franconia was able to prevail against the competition from the much-vaunted creative cities has a simple, German reason. It is also kind of embarrassing to the researchers, who are almost apologetic in their study. The data for the employees come from the Federal Employment Agency and other authorities, in which work is not measured according to creativity, but according to social security obligations. That turns teachers and administrators into the creative class - and excludes entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Somehow disturbed. -