What the Creative?

I’m always wondering what they mean when they use the word creative or creativity in those online articles or the Insta ads I keep getting. It’s never been a one-term-fits all for me really. Creativity is something that feels like endless play, where anything is neither wrong nor right. Where even if you don’t ‘win’, you still managed to enjoy the journey itself. I remember one semester my team of 4 developed an impressive sustainable travel concept using the design thinking principle. It involved a readiness, for which we weren’t if I might say, for synergetic collaboration but also difficult compromises. It was both a chance to inspire one another yet an opportunity to endure emotional stressors.

Innovative ideas often flourish within creative ‘projects’. I’ve put quotation marks around the word project to not limit what I mean by it. Cooking for instance could be a project but so is a uni assignment.

One evening I was over for dinner at a friend’s house and knew that she was working on something with the university’s Mission Zero, so I was extremely curious about what she and her team had developed. I made her show me the work, albeit her constant underrating it, and she finally showed me The Two Tales of The Binckhorst. A 29-page book written by Christina Thierfelder and illustrated by my friend Marie Genova and realized together with Paul Lindenbergh & Arman Shabrazi. This creative baby emerged from the aim to solve the wicked problem of ‘vulnerable businesses’ in the Binckhorst neighborhood in The Hague.

On my cycle home, I couldn’t control the sense of loss & disappointment I had with our university. Nor could I stop thinking about the countless projects THUAS students have made only to be submitted on Blackboard and stashed away in God knows which folder in our laptops! So many hours, tears, arguments, presentations and brainstorms were spent. Potential solutions, ignored. Potential seeds, unsown.

Then a final year International Business student & Collective guest writer came to mind. In May 2020, Daniela wrote about her transition from incessant worrying in the article ‘The Mindset That Changed My Life’. When I asked her what this overly trivialized concept meant to her, she responded to my LinkedIn message with, “Creativity supports all parts of my life - from university and internship all the way to my mental health. I perceive creativity in two ways - one as a solution to nearly everything because I believe that thinking outside of the box can help one overcome every obstacle at hand and the other - as the perfect escape from reality.”

However, I was still wondering about how education might harness my creativity? And how come our so-called ‘network university’ barely has platforms for students to cross-pollinate ideas? I’m sure I am not the only one craving to share my thoughts and ideas without having to consider what style of writing I should be using? Or what grade am I aiming for? A place where our minds could literally just flow & say what I call ‘stupid shit’, without the fear of receiving criticism in front of the whole class.

So I reached out to one of the lecturers who guided my class to create the aforementioned sustainable travel concept, Peter Hanssen. He reminded me of the still existing The Lighthouse platform and the unfortunately discontinued Innovation Playground. While I firmly believe there should be no compromises when encouraging creative thinking, he pointed out that, “Space and time costs money and if the initiative is not embedded in a curriculum, supported by clearly defined goals, or compulsory for students, it is a challenge to have a group of committed volunteers to build it up and make it work over time.” I am hopeful nonetheless, knowing that a Senior Lecturer within our Faculty of Management & Organization acknowledges that “Creative thinking is needed to think in opportunities, to delight and to surprise your audience with fresh ideas and to avoid standardised solutions, because there are no standard situations.”

More often than not, I see only a handful of students in our university who are fiercely active with extracurricular activities.. I want to accentuate ‘fiercely’ as there are either students who are passionate to carve hours out of their time, to engage in work that doesn’t involve their main academic responsibility and there are those who are completely disengaged and want to simply graduate. Can you identify these people around you? Within your class? In the university as a whole? Perhaps it's that person that triggers the thought, ‘What is he or she up to now?’ when he or she sends a message in your WhatsApp group.

This brings me worries for the juniors I am leaving behind as I progress into ‘adulting’ and face real & high stakes issues after graduation. At the same time comforted by the fact that, without the non-academic work I have engaged myself in, I wouldn’t have gradually built up the confidence & diverse insights I have now.

To close this article I’d like to share the words which Anggara Mahendra wrote to me in an Instagram DM in Indonesian and then translated. “Creativity is part of life’s tool box. Whatever form it is in, it will be useful to adapt to any condition.” When I asked this talented visual storyteller from my island home, Bali, how one could hone his or her creativity during this monumental transition period triggered by the pandemic, he said, “We just got to join whatever discussions, including those that aren’t really up in our alley. Even within communities that are significantly different from ours. Because with that, we can enrich our perspective.” By Vanessa Dietzschold

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