Monday, December 15, 2014

Common Blocks to Creativity #2: Conformity

Let us not follow where the path may lead.
Let us go instead where there’s no path and leave a trail” (Japanese Proverb)

My dictionary defines conformity as “compliance with standards, rules, or laws” and “behaviour in accordance with socially accepted conventions.” Negative form of Conformity creeps into us because of the fear of disregarding social norms, the fear of social disapproval. A number of factors raise the desire to conformity. Fear of failure, fear of humiliation and rejection, and allergy to ambiguity (or uncertainly) may make one escape into a safe, don’t-rock-the-boat, conformist niche. Conformity permits a relatively risk-free existence through the acceptance of the status quo. It manifests itself in excessive compliance to customs, traditions, rituals, and procedures. (Also standards, rules and man-made laws).

An excessive desire for conformity is clearly a block to creativity, since creativity implies change in the status quo. Indeed, conformists have often blocked creative individuals. Jesus, my Lord was rejected by the Pharisees for his teachings (and his claiming to be equal with God) and Galileo was made to recant his theories by the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt, some research evidence suggests that conformity to social pressures dampens creativity.

Some conformity is, of course, essential for any social existence. But without creativity, a society would soon face extinction since the world keeps on changing, thereby making the status quo obsolete. Societies that adapt quickly tend to survive and prosper. Those that stick to conventional modes are often superseded by those that do not.

The roots of conformity may go deep, into child-rearing practices, into what is considered right and wrong behaviour, and the severity with which deviation from socially prescribed behaviour is punished,” write Pradip N. Khandwalla in his book Lifelong Creativity. He added: “Conformity cannot be got rid of easily. Active questioning of conventions and habits, exposure to dynamic cultures, and rewarding of creative forays, however, can break the shackles of conformity. A study of individuals who successfully broke conventions can also fortify one’s resistance to conformity, as also friendship with unconventional types.

Creativity often rewards the non-conformist, the iconoclast, the generalist who treats life not a linear fast track to success, but as a forest of rich discoveries that one can meander through, creating one’s own trail” (Ho Kwon Ping). Most of the time, be a non-conformist!

Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

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