When Thinking Outside the Box Meant There Was No Box: A Rant on Creativity


When I was a kid, LEGO came in a big box (or if you were super lucky you got the monster sized tub). Inside came a rainbow array of bricks in varying sizes. There were no patterns to follow. There were no diagrams of what was to be built from the contents. Just a box with bricks. Period. Their mission was simple – to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. In fact, if you go to the company’s site today, you find that their mission has not changed, but the experience of creativity sure has.

I mean, when you get a box of LEGO that has a picture of the Guggenheim on the front, or the Empire State Building, there isn’t a whole lot of variation on how that’s supposed to look.

For a while I found myself harumphing at the site of such things. Imean, back when I was a kid we had a clean slate on which to create. There was no right or wrong in the structures and cityscapes I crafted. Well, some of the structural integrity may not have been altogether sound, but no one could tell me my buildings didn’t look right.

Feeling a bit like the “Hey kids, get off my lawn!” lady (you know that curmudgeonly voice that snarks at the prospect of any advancement that changes things from how they used to be), I narrowed my eyes and glared while muttering under my breath thinking about this travesty. No wonder our world is going to hell in a handbasket. We’re not giving kids a chance to open their minds and construct their own worlds. Instead we’re forcing them into this template or that, parroting things that grown-ups had deemed worthy of creative fun.

Thankfully I’ve come to my senses.

While Ido believe that today’s kids are, perhaps, coddled a bit too much when it comes to truly engaging their imagination, there can be no question that in many ways some of the changes are bringing a new kind of creativity.

Kids of today build and create across even more dimensions as they move across myriad media – from the physical opportunities with things like LEGO to an incredible array of on-line media ranging from graphics and video to audio and photography; and then there’s a social piece. Adding into the mix the fact that kids, especially those who previously may have been isolated from others due to geography, can now connect via any number of social platforms. This means the playground just got a whole lot bigger, with lots more toys and fresh ideas from new friends.

Maybe all this change isn’t so bad … but I’m still holding on to my box of Crayolas.

About The Author

What began for me as a career telling other people’s stories has evolved into a journey of helping others tell their stories for themselves. I'm a “classically trained” Journalist whose passion for communications began with my first job ripping wire copy in 1982 and has evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media – from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting and guest booking. I've also curated content for several of the tech industry’s leading conferences. It was after finding myself engaged as an activist for LGBT equal rights that I began to explore the way in which personal stories inform and influence people’s everyday lives and I began using my tech background to teach people to make these connections of personal stories, using new technologies as the medium. Presently I run my own consulting firm in San Francisco, working with companies and individuals helping them navigate the crowded waterways of new technologies with the express purpose of leveraging these rapidly evolving platforms to tell their stories. Through workshops, seminars and strategic consulting services, I walk clients through the story-telling process and towards the kind of deep engagement that comes from truly authentic communication.

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