Creativity Can Save the World

How are imagination and the global economy connected? Well, if you're a Hollywood producer, you'd know that the highest grossing films of all time tend to fall in the fantasy/imagination/sci-fi genre. Think, Harry Potter, Spiderman, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The studios behind these blockbuster franchises know that they're virtually certain to get a good return on their investment both in the States and overseas.

But beyond the box office, how else is imagination linked to a robust economy? As the global economy shrinks and America's economy contracts, smart businesses have started to focus on the need to reinvent how we think, injecting more creativity and non-linear thinking into the workplace. Writers like Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, point to a new trend called the "imagination economy." Creative, right brain thinking, they say, is how we can protect Americans from outsourcing, reinvigorate our economy, and regain our place in the world as the incubator for innovation and ideas.

At the 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the theme was "The Creative Imperative." This took place a couple of years before the world economy went into freefall. But even in the good times before TARP entered the vernacular and General Motors went bankrupt,
economic experts touted creativity as the must-have for future world financial strength and growth.

As children we embrace imagination and play, but as we get older, imaginative and creative pursuits tend to be quashed or stymied by the pressures and sometimes sheer monotony of adult work life. Creativity can seem like an indulgence. It's never lost on me that the child who
builds a fantastical city out of Legos and makes music out of pots and sticks is applauded for demonstrating ingenuity and imagination, while the dad who jams with his "band" or reads graphic novels on vacation is chastised as the child who refuses to grow up.

In our bleak economic times with unemployment rising to a scary nine-plus percent, perhaps the only thing many people are fantasizing about is how to pay their bills or keep their jobs. But we all need escapism now more than ever -- not just for entertainment, but for inspiration.

President Obama is reportedly a big Spiderman fan. Perhaps he fancies himself as the webbed superhero who can save us all from the likes of the Joker or, in this case, Ahmadinejad's so-called evil ways. Between the nuclear threat of North Korea, the polar ice caps melting, and the economy crumbling, clearly America is in need of a superhero right now -- a creative, imaginative leader who can think in a non-linear way. And while President Obama probably doesn't have the time to engage in any right brain hobbies in the Oval Office, the President has admitted to reading Harry Potter to his daughters each night. That in itself may not save the American auto industry - but perhaps it may help stir his imagination to come up with new ideas to help solve the world's problems.