Milena Z. Fisher, Ph.D is a philosopher (Nietzsche scholar), PR specialist and an avid snowboarder. She is a co-founder and president of The Creativity Post a non-profit web platform committed to sharing the very best content on creativity, in all of its forms: from scientific discovery to philosophical debate, from entrepreneurial ventures to educational reform, from artistic expression to technological innovation.
Milena Fisher was born and raised in Poland where in 2010 her book on the American interpretation of Nietzsche (“Nietzsche w USA”) was published and now is being translated into English, German and French. In recent years she cooperated with the late professor Denis Dutton. She strongly believes that scientific studies on creativity require an understanding of “creativity-in-context”, a multilayered, critical investigation of data coming from different disciplines.
Plywood People: You started The Creativity Post. Can you explain what it is?
Milena Z. Fisher: The Creativity Post is a non-profit web platform committed to sharing the very best content on creativity, in all of its forms: from scientific discovery to philosophical debate, from entrepreneurial ventures to educational reform, from artistic expression to technological innovation. The Creativity Post was launched just 7 months ago and it has 3 founders: myself and two amazing young scholars dr. Scott Barry Kaufman (NYU) and dr. Elliot S. Paul (Columbia University).
Plywood People: What need do you see The Creativity Post addressing and what are you hoping to accomplish through The Creativity Post?
Milena: The new generation of creativity researchers has started to look at the subject matter in a broader way. This is the reason why The Creativity Post is providing interesting, and relevant material coming from multiple disciplines. And, our formula seems to “work”. After such a short time in operation, we have (on average) 10.000 visitors a day and that’s growing very, very rapidly. But in the long-term we intend to re-invent the discourse on creativity. If you take a look at the list of our advisors it will become clear that we are very serious about trying to approach the subject of creativity research in a different way. We listen closely to advise coming from academic research and the everyday practice of entrepreneurship and education. I strongly believe that scientific studies on creativity require an understanding of “creativity-in-context”, a multi-layered, critical investigation of data coming from different disciplines. I explain that concept further here. I see “creativity studies” as the interplay between 8 disciplines: the theoretical backbone built upon psychology, neuroscience, anthropology and philosophy, and the infusion of data coming from the practice of education, art, business and technology.
Luckily, a convergence of disciplines into a new area of research has been done in science many times before. Collapsing old dichotomies, building bridges between methodologies was successfully accomplished in cognitive science, and seems to be practiced across the board today. It is time to “open the door” in our current creativity research and look at its current problems in a more interdisciplinary, up-dated way.
Plywood People: Who/what inspires you in your creative process?
Milena: I’m a Nietzsche scholar, and this old, “crazy” outspoken German philosopher who “never took prisoners” will remain as my on-going inspiration. He reminds us about the very important (and somehow forgotten) truth, that meaningful creativity many times requires a massive amount of courage and determination. Breaking old boundaries, creating “anew” is based on the process of braking old habits and heuristics. It is a tough job! Very often coming up with a new idea requires “deconstruction” of the old structure, which implies overcoming our natural need to “belong” and the safety of “being a part of the group”. I see that “creative courage” in the eyes of very successful artists, entrepreneurs, educators; all of them not only “came up” with great ideas but also “made them happened” and this part of the process is usually not “pretty”; it requires confidence and a massive amount of grit.
Plywood People: When you think about what it takes to make innovation and creativity happen, what do you think is one of the most important parts of the process?
Milena: I think we don’t talk enough about the notion of “the pipeline”. How can we create a system and environment in which great ideas are produced and executed, and not get lost in the process? Take a look at the Silicon Valley (which swallows a whopping 40% of all VC capital invested in the US). In that microcosm great tech ideas thrive because a very specific economical environment supports them.
Have you ever wondered why so many super-successful entrepreneurs come from Stanford University?
Well, because their curriculum was slightly different; designers and engineers are taught basic rules of sales and marketing; the school fosters “production” of genius ideas, but at the same time gives people tools to “make them happen” in the outside world.
I’m far from the conclusion that every university should follow Stanford’s model, but it is a good example if you want to see that many times what stifles “meaningful creativity” and innovation is a “systemic error”. We want more innovation, but we don’t have the pipeline, the right environment to promote “out of the box”, independent thinking. In theory we encourage “creativity”, but we don’t explain the rules of the successful “implementation” of good ideas. We can see it in the education system (on every level, from the elementary school system to academia). But, also in the old school corporate business approach that is resistant to any change, and also in the old-fashioned system of art promotion!
We try to implement small adjustments; we “spread the word” about the importance of creativity. But, at the end of the day it might not be enough to foster real change. “The system” itself might require a few major “tweaks” (which, will include setting up channels of effective financing, setting goals in education, and re-drawing incentives in research). To make a meaningful (not chaotic, but pragmatic) change in the system, we have to understand it cold!
Having said that, I’m quite optimistic about the future. “Democratization” of the creative process in the Internet era, the open science movement and on-line education, the emergence of quite different corporate cultures in the tech industry are all already forcing multiple changes in big institutions.
Plywood People: How do you overcome “blocks” in your creative process?
Milena: I read and I do a ton or research. I talk to myself when nobody can hear me. I give myself time to “incubate” good thoughts. But, I also have to admit that I find some “quick fixes”, which are supposed to burst the creative process, quite silly. In practice it doesn’t mater how many (proverbial) “warm showers” you take a day, or how “blue” the room is you are working in, if you don’t have a solid knowledge on the subject, no form of “relaxation” will help. The one thing that definitively helps in the creative process is the skill of critical thinking. I love the slogan of Science TV, “question everything!”. The ability to “think for yourself” is a base for any groundbreaking advancement in both science and art. Be an independent thinker, and fear not!