Connected Person Paul Fairweather 3D Doodle

Creativity is a see-change

Paul Fairweather
3 min readMay 13, 2024

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In an earlier episode of The Common Creative Podcast, we interviewed Rachel Barnard, an Australian architect who went to New York on a scholarship but ended up creating an amazing not-for-profit called Young New Yorkers, an art-based program for teenagers who were being arrested, prosecuted and sentenced as adults for what is usually understood to be youthful behaviour. Most of the young people being arrested in NYC were African American or Latinx. Rachel’s art program offered an alternative to incarceration to young people who had been arrested. At the completion of the 8-week program, the group created powerful installations in the courtroom that advocated for criminal legal reforms. The participants then went on to have their cases closed and no conviction recorded.

While the program made an incredible difference for each young person involved, the compelling bit of the story is the change this program made, not to the young people but to the judges and prosecutors trying their cases. When Rachel stepped down after a decade of leadership, some judges wrote to her mother to share that she had made them better judges. The judges could look past the rap sheets and see these kids for who they really were, as extraordinary young people who became powerful contributors to their community.

This story epitomizes creative thinking. For a long time, I relied on Einstein’s definition of creativity at the start of a keynote or master class.

“Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.”

While this definition is great, it leaves out a critical element: people. A little while ago, I came across this line from David Brooks’s book How to Know a Person, which takes the idea of thinking what no one else has thought to a different level and rounds out a better definition of creativity.

“To see someone well is an act of deep creativity.”

While Brooks unpacks it a bit differently in his book, I see that to see someone well; we must look past our first impressions, prejudgments, and biases. But to complete the task, the subject of our gaze needs to open up, allow themselves to be vulnerable, and drop their mask. To take this risk requires trust and a safe space in which to open up so we may connect over their stories, see what is important to them, and hear their ideas.

And it is this level of seeing that allows people to connect at a deeper level where both collaboration and creativity can flourish.

You can listen to Rachels’ podcast interview HERE

I recommend David Brooks’s book How to Know Someone. You can find it here via my Amazon Affiliate link HERE

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