SimplyForties is a 47-year old single mother of a college-aged son who is navigating her way through midlife and documenting it at SimplyForties, where she writes about personal finance, relationships, grown children, the environment and social responsibility. She lives in a small rural town in far west Texas where she tries to live a better life every day.
“We are going to see a huge deflation of innovation, creativity, and responsibility, paid for by the stimulus package, IMO.”
I recently received this Tweet from someone and I’ve been seeing versions of it a lot lately. It is not my intention to debate about the bailout. I don’t see either side winning any converts and its efficacy is something only future generations will be able to decide.
What I would like to discuss is the implication of this statement and all the others like it, which is that creativity and innovation are only fueled by economics. My understanding of the baseline of this idea is that we have a huge problem and, if we throw money at it, we will not need to figure out how to solve our problem or to avoid its reoccurrence. Be that as it may, are people only innovative and creative during an economic downturn?
I have to admit that I have argued a version of this myself when I wrote about lower gas prices being a mixed blessing. In that article I voiced my concern that falling gas prices would stifle alternative energy production. Admittedly, gas prices and the Big Three automakers notwithstanding, there are still lots of people out there working in this area.
I believe people are creative and innovative because they are creative and innovative people. They see a problem and are intrigued with trying to find a solution. I was in the IT field for many years, still am in a freelance way, and every IT person I’ve ever known has a thing for problem solving. We figure out the resolution to a problem because we have a need to do so. I’m just as driven to find a resolution for IT problems presented by friends and relatives as I am by those presented by paying clients. Being an inquisitive person, I waste countless hours in my workshop coming up with perfect solutions to a myriad of challenges; many of which I could just as easily resolve by going to the store or picking up the phone. I do it because I like to solve problems and don’t like to ask for help; not because I’m broke.
At any moment there are countless numbers of inventors in their basements or their little shops tinkering away at solutions to problems. Do they hope to strike it rich? Probably. Will they stop inventing if they do? Probably not. Dean Kamen, inventor of an all-terrain wheelchair and the first insulin pump, is a very wealthy man and yet, among other things, is currently working on a generator and a water purification system to be used in third world countries. Presumably he is inspired not by money but by the needs of others. George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company and inventor of numerous photography related technologies, had a laboratory built in his mansion in Rochester, New York, and continued to refine photography and photographic equipment until he was in his seventies. His invention of the “Brownie”, a portable camera for children, in 1937 came well after he was a very rich man.
I’ve never read an interview about an artistic person, be they painter, dancer, writer, film maker, etc., who failed to say that it wasn’t about the money. Did they hope to make a living? Certainly. Would they do it regardless? Yes.
The idea that innovation and creativity are driven solely by economics really bothers me. Am I missing something? What do you think?