The Power of Creativity

The Power of Creativity

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I have just spent the weekend with Michael Strand – the subversive potter. He uses his pottery to make an impact on broken systems. One of my favourite projects of his is Cuplomacy, which plans to send each US Senator a non-matching cup and saucer, whether Republican or Democrat. It encourages them to go across the Senate aisle, find their counterpart from the opposite party holding the match to their crockery, and have a coffee and conversation with them. It is a great project that could foster a different way of thinking and acting that has not been seen before in American politics.

Michael also talks about former Mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus. Mockus was the first Colombian politician – in fact, one of the the first politicians in the world – to use artistic projects to run the city. Mime artists helped to reduce the number of casualties on the roads when over 400 mimes took over the positions of corrupt police staff. Mimes showed drivers and pedestrians white and red cards (for good and bad behaviour), and parodied people who didn’t adhere to traffic rules. They also painted stars in places where traffic accidents had resulted in deaths.

“We did strange things. We wanted people to learn how to behave better than others. When you do something that’s aesthetically beautiful, you can quickly make it popular via television. We believed that choosing mimes was fitting, because they were ‘doublement pacifique’ (doubly passive),” said Mockus.

Mockus had plenty of imagination for similar projects. For instance, he ran around wearing a Superman costume to encourage people to keep the city clean. He also helped to reduce water usage by starring in a short video teaching citizens to conserve water – for example, by turning off the tap while soaping their hands.

I watched an interesting talk at TED Global last year by ad agency executive Jose Miguel Sokoloff, also focusing on Colombia, where F.A.R.C. guerrillas have created violence over 50 years. “In my lifetime, I have never lived one day of peace in my country,” he said.

He saw an opportunity to sway guerrillas’ hearts and minds with strategically placed Christmas tree lights throughout the jungle and personal messages beside them saying, “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize. At Christmas, everything is possible.” In one season, they demobilised 331 guerrillas, 5% of the guerrilla force at that time. And that was just the beginning.

The creative messages appealed to family values and seasonal goodwill – and led to thousands of guerrillas abandoning their weapons and coming home.

In London, students from the School of Communication Arts also came up with a really innovative, award-winning campaign concept for personalised greetings card company Moonpig. The service would allow people to write letters of kindness to government leaders known to compromise the right to self-expression. For example, they suggested sending Vladimir Putin Valentine’s cards with messages of love and peace.

Although this campaign has never been launched in reality, it demonstrates another real possibility. What more could be done, using our creativity to effect real social and political change?

I want people to think differently – to consider how creativity can make change happen. Can the toughest challenges in world peace be solved in radically different ways?

Should we drop love bombs rather than real bombs, in order to be far more effective in solving big issues?

Trillions of dollars are spent on conflict and control. If we used our understanding of how human beings work, we could spend far less and deliver far more. If only we employed the power of our imaginations, and let loose our capacity for creative problem-solving – perhaps many issues in our communities could be improved.

In the coming decades, I think we will see a revolution – an uprising of positive guerilla action – appealing to people in ways we never thought possible, to effect change.

What action will you take?


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  1. Marc -thanks for a great post. Especially love bombs- I love this idea!

  2. Love it Marc, always! Creative efforts are much needed nowadays.

  3. you know this is right up my alley… Love the examples you shared here:)

  4. Nice post. I agree that creative thinking is the way to create a better future, and at the same time, we need to let go of the old systems and models of the past. We need a more inclusive society and social impact businesses need to take the lead. We have to move away from the singular enrichment of shareholders and the divisive party politics of government.
    Free thinking, creative and conscious business is where I believe we need to head.

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