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Exploring Intersections Throughout Our Lives

· Organisational,Neuroscience,Art Science Links
With the upcoming release of my new book “The Creative Advantage: How the intersection of science and creativity reveals life’s ultimate advantage”, I’ve been reflecting on why I landed on the science and creativity intersection.

It seems that intersections has been a recurring theme for me. Way back in the dark ages I’ve reflected on my first experience, a constant juggling act of navigating both my Italian heritage within an Aussie environment. The intersection of cultures, that sometimes clashed, many years later turned into a deep appreciation of what my background had provided.

Then once I could make my own decisions about what path I would take I was attracted to an undergraduate degree that combined studies in teaching and environmental science. This inter-disciplinary qualification lay the foundation for what was to become many years of working in public advocacy on environmental education. It led to a further twenty five years working, training and facilitating to build organisational and societal capacity on climate change across government, non-profit and community sectors.

But the stimulus for this book came from prompts closer to home. Almost a decade ago my mum was in the advanced stage of dementia that was eventually to take her life. A simple online course at the Uni of Tasmania laid out what was happening in the brain, special caring needs and how to navigate this debilitating disease.

This was happening at the same time as I was progressing a career transition, involved in setting up a number of start-ups, and exploring a more experimental and entrepreneurial approach to work and life.

Flexibility was the key to ensure both my mum was well cared for, as well as how I could still earn a living. I found great solace in my art practice, studio time and completed my graduate studies in visual arts.

And again here was the beginning of more intersections, with research showing that art based practise can assist our short and longer term health and wellbeing. In the case of dementia, art and music have been shown to be as a means to tap into long term memories. So while the neuroscience was explaining the decline in my mother’s brain, by continuing my art practice, taking her on walks in nature and access to music were providing a restorative benefit to both my mum and I.

This led to investigating the role art and more broadly creativity, can play in the transition periods we encounter in our lives. This is particularly in middle age and the shifts in mindset that can happen with relationships, careers and our assessment of what’s important in life. Call it a mid-life transition rather than crisis, but this period of self-reflection set the scene for my next decade.

While continuing to work with local government and community on sustainability, more intersections became evident seeing firsthand the consequences of ignoring the science on climate change with the Black Saturday 2009 bush fires.

I recalled Einstein was quoted saying “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” These intersections demanded attention– the economics, society , health, politics, were all colliding with the environment. And while I continued to seek ways to problem solve the impasse Australia has found itself in, I observed another way… a more creative way.

I became fascinated with how we can incorporate creative problem solving into both everyday and larger more complex issues. Observing how people solve everyday life problems, how a single mother made clothes on a tight budget, a father modified a wheelchair for his disabled son, an amateur archaeological made special finds on his digs, to how an auto mechanic created his own specialised tools. These seemingly small but innovative everyday acts point to the innate creativity we were all borne with and, as with any skillset, we can learn.

So why are some people just more creative than others? They’re not borne with it, and it’s not a divine gift. What happens at the intersection of science and creativity is no longer a mystery or based on myth. Of even more relevance, creativity is a skill that can be learnt and practised, with studies showing that creativity is close to eighty percent learned and acquired. And here I come full circle and the realisation that the skills I learnt as a visual artist and sculptor, intersected with those from the disciplines of science and management.

Researchers are providing greater insights into what’s going on in the brains of highly creative thinkers and practitioners, as well as the power of brain plasticity. The brain turns out to be far more adaptable and, with the right sort of triggers, can rewire itself in various ways. New connections are made between neurons, while existing connections can be strengthened or weakened.

Creativity is the most important asset we have to negotiate through this rapidly changing world. From the way we manage our work life and conduct business, to how we learn a new skill, model behaviours for our children and shape the way we age to express our unique selves, let's pay attention to intersections as the creative brain has no limits.