Creativity and CreativeIT

The workshop on Creative IT had several accomplished researchers, from academy award contestants to lab administrators, who shared their experiences in building teams that were very successful in executing ‘creative’ projects. It appeared that a major focus was on demonstrating group creativity and show how to build teams that could be called creative. It was impressive to see some of the results produced by academic teams, such as by Donna Cox’s team from UIUC in visualization area, or by CalIT2’s team under the leadership of Ramesh Rao. No wonder that three important issues that people wanted to discuss contained at the top of the list – how to identify the best practices and convert this to a science. Other two issues that were considered important to discuss were what are the real hard problems in CreativeIT that NSF should encourage and how to build tools to facilitate communication and networking.

There were some interesting and intriguing things to me. It appears that many people believe that when artists are involved, things become creative. It appears that people equate art to creativity and engineering to dull and boring. I find it very amusing. Much of the creativity that you see in art, be it movie making or visualization or painting, is due to the originality or creativity of engineers. History has always shown that people in the front get credit while people who toil and do the real work usually remain unappreciated. But should this happen in ‘research’ community also.

I find it intriguing and sometimes frustrating that engineers themselves used to be jealous of scientists – as if they are second tier to scientists. Many of my friends love to be considered computer scientists and feel insulted if they are considered engineers. It appears that now ‘computer scientists’, have new target for envy – art.

Another equally interesting idea at this workshop appeared to be that creativity is a group phenomena – individual creativity was not discussed. This may be over reaction to our academic system in which individual performance is considered primary and the team performance is considered unimportant. I think one must recognize that much of the creativity starts with a spark in somebody’s brain and need lots of other factors for making it successful. But operationalizing any idea requires leadership and creativity. But that is different than the first kind of creativity. And we need both. We should not ignore one for the other.

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