In my public elementary school, I was placed in the Gifted and Talented program. I’m not trying to impress anyone but mention it to describe the environment in which our small group was immersed each week. Though my memory is (often) more impressionistic, I remember a vibrant classroom with different areas and activities that fostered learning, playing, and dreaming.
We explored disparate disciplines from Greek mythology to the Russian language to the inventions of Rube Goldberg, a Montessori-style approach provided stimulation and structure. And like the Apple ad campaign, we were encouraged to be and 'Think Different.' When my family moved the next year and the Gifted and Talented program in my new school district had a narrow focus on math and science, it was like seeing the world in black and white after having viewed it in Technicolor.
I reflected back on this while reading Creative Intelligence by Bruce Nussbaum, a former editor for BusinessWeek and professor at Parsons School of Design. Nussbaum would characterize the first experience as an example of a ‘magic circle,' an intentional space with its own rules where creativity and collaboration can flourish. If you’ve participated in something like a running club or Toastmasters, you’ve been part of a magic circle.
Although the book explores the creative process and ways to apply these practices in transformative ways, Nussbaum also emphasizes that we all have the capacity to be creative if we reframe our skills. And with the democratization of information and technology, we have tools that enable us to unleash our entrepreneurial drive and bring innovative products and services to the marketplace.
Access to social media, crowdfunding sites, and 3D printers has made it possible to turn our passions into projects that resonate with consumers seeking greater authenticity and community. Ironically, the pervasive effects of globalization have fueled the rise of local economies, sustainability practices, and the appreciation of all things artisanal. In the trendiest cities with high concentrations of young creative professionals (another type of magic circle), like Brooklyn and Portland, the culture of craft fairs and food carts is itself being branded and exported.
As Nussbaum’s notion of ‘Indie Capitalism’ continues to take root in our lives and imagination, successfully channeling the creative energy of individuals and organizations has the potential to revolutionize our economy.