I have watched my fair share of apocalyptic movies over the years and I have been pleasantly surprised to see the difference between fiction and reality. None of those movies ever featured people singing from balconies together, clapping pots and pans in support of essential workers on the front lines or global leaders hosting press conferences just for kids to ask the questions keeping them up at night.
I have been so uplifted by how people around the world have responded to this crisis – with humour, empathy and kindness. But above all else – with creativity.
It would seem that creativity has a unique ability to help us overcome our fear of change; in a most profound way. But why? And how?
To answer these questions, I got together (virtually, of course) with my colleague and all round top human – Leisa Wall – to understand it in more detail.
We started with looking at what drives our aversion to change.
As humans, we relish certainty, so for most of us, change is extraordinarily hard. We find ourselves longing to get back to old routines as soon as possible.
But it’s not the change itself we fear; rather the disproportionate amount of uncertainty inherent in it. What those routines gave us, had less to do with the activities themselves, and far more to do with the comfort their certainty provided.
Because uncertainty leads to a snowball effect of sustained psychological discomfort:
- A sense of lack of control or perceived inability to influence a situation
- Which leads to feelings of being overwhelmed and less able to focus or prioritise tasks
- Which fills us with a sense of hopelessness or lack of motivation and purpose
And, like any discomfort – physical or emotional – our natural instinct is to avoid it as much as possible.
But change is inevitable. And it goes without saying that Covid-19 is driving unprecedented global change.
So, why have so many people turned to creativity in these times? And what can businesses learn from it to keep their staff engaged and motivated during difficult times?
Creativity helps us regain a sense of control
Creativity at its heart is about problem-solving. It’s about applying our skills in different ways to achieve positive outcomes. And when we focus on solving problems we can actually impact, rather than worrying about things that are beyond our influence, we naturally feel more in control.
Creativity engages positive mental processes
In order to solve problems, we allow our thoughts to move away from negative processing (such as worry or doubt) towards positive, empowering processing such as imagination, discovery, curiosity and analysis. And when we succeed, no matter how big or small that win is; we feel good. Which in turn spurs us on to seek out more of it.
Creativity fosters purposeful connections
Research has shown time and time again that connecting with others is important to our overall mental well-being. Creativity fosters positive collaboration and when we participate we feel a positive sense of purpose.
But our participation doesn’t have to be at the point of the creation necessarily. Even experiencing something creatively interesting– like a video on social media – releases feel good chemicals, flooding our bodies with positivity which ultimately makes us feel more connected.
There are so many examples of the power of this from all over the world at the moment. From McLaren’s engineering team who applied their extraordinary talent to the problem of a shortage of ventilators.
To the Netherland’s Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra who applied their creativity to solve the problem of loneliness and lack of connection in isolation through music.
Or supermarkets who created dedicated elderly-only shopping hours, to help solve the problem of how to keep our most vulnerable safe.
In this time of extreme uncertainty; one thing feels more certain than ever – the power of creativity to build resilience and overcome our fear of change is more relevant today than ever before.
Because what all those apocalyptic films failed to take into account is that we share the world with remarkably talented creative people. And sometimes we need the dark to enable all the light in the world to shine.
Sue Gill is FCB’s GM of strategy.