There is little doubt that creativity and innovation plays a big role in the US economy. Translating new ideas into better ways of working and market-busting products and services is a serious engine of value creation. Few debate that but many debate how well the US is doing with innovation. Some argue we have a creativity crisis while others argue we are on the cusp of an innovation-driven economic revolution.
A recent column by Geoff Colvin in Fortune Magazine, A Mighty Culture of Innovation Cannot Be Taken For Granted, offers some interesting insight into the debate. Quoting two global studies he notes that the US scores high in innovation and that countries that do better tend to be much smaller. The US is the best large and innovative economy by far. Mr. Colvin also suggest that the reason for that is culture.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that by some measures it looks like the US’s culture of innovation is eroding. For evidence he quotes the World Values Study that ranked the US 10th on placing importance on “thinking up new ideas and being creative”. More alarming is the finding that Torrance test scores have been declining since 1990. The Torrance test has been used to measure the level of creativity in US students for over 50 years.
For a counter point check out Fast Company’s 10th Annual Innovation by Design Issue. A major theme is how the US consumer is putting a premium on great experiences and products with high design content. Design thinking both reflects an innovation culture and transforms an innovation-driven economy.
Of special interest to readers of the Cognitive Design Blog is the section outlining where is designing going next. Margaret Rhodes points out:
“Thoughtful design doesn’t just enable our habits; it pushes us to improve behavior making us more economical, reflective and responsible”
Designs that offer us an opportunity to achieve lasting behavior change in areas such as health, ethics, personal savings and being green offer tremendous potential for creating social and economic value on a macro scale. Delivering such changes requires a deep understand of how human minds actually work and puts cognitive design at the center of the innovation economy.
So what is the state of creativity in the US? Is it on the decline or swelling to new levels?