Creativity is a myth that was “made up by white men in the 20s” » SMEInsider

Creativity is a myth that was “made up by white men in the 20s”

“I don’t believe in creativity,” says Kevin Ashton, the game-changing entrepreneur that invented the Internet of Things and sparked a business technology  revolution in the process.

“Creativity is a word that made up in the 1920s, at a time when white men were convinced that they were the best,” he says.

“White men had a problem in the 20s, right? Because in the 1800s, we learned to read. We went from, ‘no one could read’ to ‘everybody could read’ in a hundred years, and then Darwin had pointed out that we were all the same, we’re basically evolved from the same species. So all the stories that people had told about why they’re better than everyone else didn’t really hold up any more.”

With the old order struggling to keep hold of their position at the top of the tree, the idea of “creative genius”, or eureka-like moments that only strike a select few, became an attractive explanation, says Ashton. The trouble is, it’s nonsense.

Rather, as Ashton suggests in his new book How to Fly a Horse, the best ideas are the result of taking progressive, logical steps and interrogating each of them thoroughly to get better. Some people, admittedly, have a talent for racing through these steps rapidly, giving the illusion that they’ve been hit with a sudden flash of inspiration, but the truth is that the steps are always the same, it’s just a question of speed. Good ideas don’t come from nowhere.

Here, we talk to Ashton in detail about the thinking behind the book and what “being creative” really means.

Top 5 takeaways:

1. Don’t sit around waiting for magic to strike. It wont. (Jump to 4.31)

Magical inspiration- they're the ones that aren't productive - 4.34












2. Accept that you will have to learn from your mistakes (Jump to 7.36)

Expect to fail and fail in a way that doesn't kill you 7-52












3. Innovation is a process, not a goal (Jump to 9.32)

Not big idea












4. Money helps, but it comes second to creative freedom (Jump to 5.22)

Kevin Ashton - there's no one more motivated than someone who is doing that they've chosen to do for which they will be rewarded 6-31












5. People are motivated by passion (Jump to 9.55)

If you really want to motivate people - meaningful 10.04


  • We all have our own rate of ‘creativity’ – as Kevin says some people do have the ability to run through the issues and resolve it at a faster rate to others. But surely that ability to do so is what we define as ‘creativity’ – the problem solving space between issue and solution. So to dismiss it as something made up in the 1920s by white guys is a bit of a leap in my opinion

    • LindseyKennedy

      Hi Rory, that’s a great point. I think what Kevin was saying is that to take this thing that all people do, albeit at different speeds, and try to define it in “exclusive” terms rather than an “inclusive” way is quite a recent concept and makes people feel unnecessarily like they don’t have the requisite skills!