050405_einstein_tongue.widec Within a couple hours of posting Matt Slaybaugh's piercing and inspiring Finally, This Is For You, I heard from loyal and inspiring Net Cotton Content reader, Erin Scott.

Erin was concerned that it might appear that she had plagiarized the idea — featuring the video of Matt — from me.

Of course, she wrote me, she had not lifted the idea from me. Before seeing my post, she had simply come to the same conclusion: this video must be seen by others and she wants to bring it to people.

Here's her post, which includes more kindness toward me than I could ever want. (Thanks, Erin.)

Her private message to me was heartfelt. I reached her by phone — because conflict can never be resolved through email. Even conflict that isn't conflict.

This Is The Opposite of Conflict
This isn't conflict. This is, er, proflict.

I didn't call to accept an apology or verify the originality of Erin's post.

Because rather than apology or validation, we have cause for celebration. And, of course, Erin's post was as original as mine.

What did I tell her?
I told her exactly what I had been told, years ago, when I started teaching creativity. (Is that plagiarism?)

Researching for my first MBA class on creativity and innovation, I found my way to Professor Srikumar Rao at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, where he had developed a legendary course called Creativity and Personal Mastery. (Alas, the course wasn't offered when I was at Columbia. It would have changed my life.)

I asked him for help in writing my syllabus. He sent me his syllabus, which I strongly encourage you to read. (It's long. It takes a minute to download. But his reading list is well worth the wait!)

I read Professor Rao's syllabus and nearly gave up the idea of teaching creativity. How could I do so without copying most of his brilliant course structure and content?

So I called him and asked, "May I copy large portions of your syllabus, if I attribute your work to you by name?"

"Of course," he readily agreed, not caring so much about the attribution. "Take all you want. Use everything. You see, the more people teaching this, the better."

I've met many academics who protect their content. It was painstaking to develop and it represents their intellectual property. It may sometimes be borrowed (with attribution), but it may not be taken. This is completely understandable.

Dr. Rao wasn't interested in protecting his property. He prefers to change the world. And it's a big world, so he's going to need some help. "The more people teaching this, the better."

And that's what I said to Erin: "The more people teaching this, the better."

Why must we all  — like Matt — write, direct, perform, and amplify the call for creativity?

Three reasons:

  • reach — more of us will reach more people. Erin reaches folks Matt and I haven't met.
  • frequency — we need more of us, so each person will hear the call more often.
  • frequency — another "frequency," the sound of our voices, is different from person to person. Matt's performance might reach one person, but not be another person's cup of tea. Erin's voice might reach that person more effectively. There's no accounting for taste. 

Join The Prospiracy
We must be a conspiracy of creativity. (Or is that prospiracy?)

Let's deliver a call for creativity. Let's encourage those around us. All of us.

Otherwise, consider the daily news. Most any news vehicle — televised, printed or digital — can be divided into sections, like the sections of the daily newspaper:

  • today's mayhem
  • miserable probabilities come true
  • another fall of man
  • the distraction of sports

Many's the day that I put down the morning paper and wonder, "Should I just go back to bed." (No, I should not. The newspaper also inspires. There is much work to be done — and now.)

I still can't understand why we study, with such passion, Tiger Woods, rather than Frank Lloyd Wright. Why is there a Sports Section but no Creativity Section in the daily newspaper.

Why? Because we prefer to dream the glory of unrecoverable youth — than to study the realization of our true potential.

So What Is Creativity?
Einstein — a fairly creative fellow, wouldn't you say? — defined creativity thus:

Your Sources.

What? Say it ain't so, Alfred! Creativity is, at best, repackaging and, at worst, plagiarism?


But fair enough. Einstein teaches us that there might be nothing new under the sun — except each person's unique ability to see and explain the sunlight.

And, as Matt teaches, "it begins as a lump in the throat."

Let's all get lumpy.