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Thomas A. Stewart is the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer (CMKO) of the global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Stewart most recently served as editor and managing director of[…]

Tom Stewart says creativity isn’t a linear, consistent phenomenon but rather happens in clumps.

Question: Is there a creativity crisis in America?

Tom Stewart: I think creativity’s always an issue.  I think that it’s always a challenge to imagine how . . . well two things . . . how individuals can express their creative selves in the context of organization’s framework.  And that’s a management and leadership problem.  I’m running a company.  I’ve got some . . . . you know, I’ve got something to lose.  How do I then encourage wild and crazy ideas without screwing up what I’ve got to lose?  And that’s a … Innovation in organizations is an ongoing, constant challenge.  And nobody ever gets it right, but people keep working at it.  I think there’s another … another sort of social issue, which is … and it’s one that … talks about very eloquently . . . which is how do you create and support creative communities and creative places?  One of the interesting facts of cultural history and economic history is that creativity happens in clumps.  You know, whether it’s the Silicon Valley or the area around Waterbury, Massa … or Waterbury, Connecticut which was brass valley … and all of these clusters that Michael Porter talks about.  Or the cluster of the abstract expressionist down by the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village in the 1950s.  Or the cluster of … of people in Florence in the Renaissance.  Or the cluster of impressionists in Paris.  Or American impressionists in Lime, Connecticut.  You know, creative people clump together.  And … and creating … or I’m … too much creativity.  And … and … and supporting these anarchic but necessary communities, how do we … how do you do it?  I mean part of what you do is leave them alone.  But if you leave them alone, will they happen? If you, you know, leave them alone, will Soho suddenly become a place where there are only lawyers and the creative people have to go someplace else?  I mean, how do you … how do you keep this sort of energy going, or can you not?  You just have to say creativity emerges.  And when it emerges you let it emerge.  And when the lawyers come in, they go to … .

Recorded: 6/22/07