Ken Robinson, creativity, and the Element

Back in February 2006, Sir Ken Robinson mesmerized the audience at the TED conference with his speech, Do schools kill creativity? The video has been viewed over 20 million times on Youtube so far. It was a defining moment for TED, making Ken Robinson somewhat of a figurehead for TED Talks. In his latest book, The Element — How finding your passion changes everything, he gives another inspiring insight into the field of human creativity and its limitless opportunities. He urges us to search for our very own Element, the point where natural talent meets personal passion.

Most adults have difficulties to recognize their own potential. They underestimate their capabilities, never getting any sense of fulfillment in their lives. But, we all have natural talents that only need to be discovered. We need to find out where our capabilities lie, and what we love to do in order to get in touch with our authentic self. Rooted in outdated paradigms from the industrial age we still waste scandalous amounts of human talents. It is like a second climate crisis — a crisis of human resources. Finding the Element is not only essential for personal fulfillment, it is a cultural issue as well as an economic necessity.

“The Element has two main features, and there are two conditions for being in it. The features are aptitude and passion. The conditions are attitude and opportunity. The sequence goes something like this: I get it; I love it; I want it; Where is it?” — Sir Ken Robinson, The Element

This marks a shift in consciousness. About two centuries ago, Enlightenment provided the philosophical background for the industrial revolution which led to a mechanistic and linear view of the world. The old models of linearity have been broken down for some time now. In order to solve the pressing problems of our time we need a completely new way of thinking, based on creativity and self-assurance. On a personal level, we need to be able to create our own work, and to collaborate with other people in the process of doing it.

Ken Robinson tells the stories of creative people and their remarkable journeys to happiness, fulfillment, and success. The message is that people achieve their best when they do what they love, and that it is never too late to reach out for it. Talking about himself he reveals part of what makes him such a great presenter — the ability to connect to other people.

“We’ve all had experiences where twenty minutes can feel like nine hours. At those times, we’re not in the zone. […] For me, this time shift […] happens most often when I’m working with people, and especially when I’m giving presentations. […] For the first five or ten minutes, I’m feeling for the energy in the room and trying things out to catch the right wavelength there. Those first minutes can feel slow. But then, when I do make the connection, I slip into a different gear. When I have the pulse of the room with me, I feel a different energy — and I think they do too — which carries us forward at a different pace and in a different space.” — Sir Ken Robinson, The Element

The Element is an inspiring book about finding the own potential, enriching our lives, and relating to the cultural, economical, and ecological challenges we all face. We have to find the conditions under which people flourish and to remove those that prevent it from happening. In January 2009, Ken Robinson talked about his book at the Los Angeles Public Library. Paraphrasing Michelangelo he said: “The problem for human beings is not that we aim too high and fail; much more often it’s that we aim too low and succeed…”