Running down a rural alley, Andres has a rustic piece of wood in one hand and baseball made of socks in the other. The sun is fiery and the wind pushes on the opposing direction but he moves swiftly towards the crowd of kids reunited just a few meters away. They’re all surrounding an antique black & white TV that’s being held by a few wrecked bricks. A baseball game is on; it’s game time.
More than a fictitious scene from third-world cinema, this is a chapter taken from the story of someone I know and who’s life has been devoted to validating the old adage that serves as the title for this post. His name is Andres; he’s a 14 year-old boy who lives in a small town in the Dominican Republic. The anecdote above brings to life a typical Sunday, in which Andres and his friends would get together to watch a baseball game broadcasted locally.
But Andres doesn’t have cable. In fact, he doesn’t even have electricity. A car battery connected with jumper cables powers his small TV and he built the antenna himself using pieces of plastic, tape and a metal can.
See, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole notion of creativity and Andres’ story struck a chord: the infinite imagination that drives the lives of people living in undeveloped countries all around the world. Growing up I had the opportunity to experience this firsthand, and it continues to amaze me as I make a career within this self-called "creative industry".
It’s true, difficult situations inspire ingenious solutions, and this is just one of many examples I’ve seen of good ideas born out of limits and constraints. Actually, the world outside of advertising is full of them. Some are ridiculously simple [merging the top of a plastic chair with the bottom of a shopping car to create a wheelchair], others just incredibly resourceful [using an air pump to draw mountain water and filter it with bleach to make it drinkable]. What’s magical about all of them is how – with limited resources, limited knowledge and limited directions – they prove that creativity is not exclusive to those who are academically gifted or have a broader, cross-disciplinary view of culture like our industry sometimes preaches. And I like that.
I like it because it is inclusive.
I like it because it is pragmatic.
I like it because it is inspiring.
The truth is that I’ve never been a fan of over-intellectualizing a problem, which has become a disease within our industry. Our job is to come up with ideas that are original and serve a purpose, but, in the process, somehow we tend to detach ourselves from the reality of the world around us. We forget that beyond the clever articles, the extensive reports and the cool stuff we see on the web, our ideation process should also be nurtured with authentic experiences… the same ones that breed that “gut feeling” that quite frequently accompanies awesome ideas.
Yes, the web certainly makes available many of these experiences (through tools like YouTube and Vimeo) but, between predictions regarding the future of advertising, social media theories and the next best thing, our streams are so full of rationalization that there’s practically no space to go out, be in touch with reality and ‘feel.’
And that sucks.
We need to get out and learn more from folks like Andres who spend their life bringing stuff to life in the most basic yet inspiringly creative way. We need to remember that creativity is not handed out to some and not others. We all have the ability to think creatively. But, when the circumstances don’t force you to think differently, you may need to challenge yourself to find out just how creative you can be.
The world is an incredibly inspiring place and there's a lot for us to play around with. But, like Andres would say: “It’s not what it is. It’s what you do with it.”