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Where has All the Creativity Gone?

I think I can safely say that bureaucracy has never really understood creativity, much less been able to deal with it. Yes, this is a gross generalization. But can anyone think of a counter-example?

An instance where a giant corporation understood that you can't demand creativity on schedule, that there's a large element of play in the creative process, that the creative process is just that because the mind works in mysterious ways to come up with unusual -- and sometimes stellar ideas. But not on demand.

There are numerous stories of the entrepreneurial spirit, of young companies with good ideas developing products, only to be bought out by the big guys, and the creativity as often as not goes down the tubes. Some of these big guys even call their corporate places of businesses campuses just to give you the illusion that the place is primed for creativity.

Of the innovative companies that have endured and evidently survived the mind-constriction of growth, Ben and Jerry's comes to mind. In fact, in the January/February issue of Adobe Magazine this company's operational procedures are discussed and how creative people at the company are encouraged to interact. But this still isn't IBM or AT&T.

It's cheaper to let entrepreneurs develop the stuff and then buy it, a la Netscape. And no, I haven't mentioned Microsoft because I am a Macintosh user and can't speak from a wealth of experience about creativity and Bill Gates. And no, I don't call buying the Bettman Archives creative.

It seems that it can be safely said that when the corporate big guys with deep pockets move in on relatively small, innovative companies, the first thing that usually goes is the creative atmosphere. However, I certainly invite readers to provide counter-examples.

That said, what is it that large corporate bean counters find so unmanageable about creativity? In an increasingly stripped-down business environment, creative people have a hard time convincing organizations that their play is work or that it may take longer than the powers that be have allowed to come up with that really great marketing idea. The managed care approach to sick people seems a pretty good parallel. Cut down the nursing staff -- the people who provide the care -- and throw the sick and infirm out on the street sooner, all in the name of saving money. And be sure to pay your top dogs tripple their worth for these creative ideas.

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