Sir Ken Robinson is an expert on creativity and innovation. I highly recommend that you watch his excellent talk on ForaTv, especially if you don’t have time to read his book called The Element: How finding your passion changes everything. The talk is about 90 minutes and it basically summarises the book.
In these times of unpredictability and uncertainty, we need to think and work differently. It is becoming clear that old, linear ways of working and thinking are collapsing. Those people and businesses that prize flexibility, creativity, adaptability, self-assurance, collaboration and entrepreneurship will win in the future. An essential ingredient in creating a vibrant and healthy economy is to help people discover their ‘element’.
Sir Ken believes it is essential that we find ‘our element’ in order to live a balanced and fulfilled life. Your element is the place where what you are good at and what you love to do comes together. It is an expression of your most authentic self and is the point where you connect with your deep sense of identity, purpose and well being. When you have found your element, you are likely to be more productive, self confident, creative and adaptable.
Few people know what their true talents are and what they are capable of achieving. Many people plod along with no deep sense of fulfillment and meaning. Most people spend time in jobs that don’t really light their fire. We tend to define ourselves by the jobs we do even though this work often does not express who we feel we really are.
Sir Ken believes we all have natural capacities that we lose touch with as we spend more time in the world. In many of his interviews, he tells the story of when he asked a class of adults to put up their hand if they believed they were creative. Very few people raised their hands. He asked the same question to a group of children and everyone put up their hands. Children seem to have a confidence in their imagination that adults don’t. We are all born with enormous natural capacities but we lose touch with them along the way.
Sir Ken believes companies have wasted the talents and capabilities of their human resources, just as we have squandered the earth’s natural resources. People become locked into an organization by their job description and companies fail to tap into the capabilities and contributions people can make beyond their job descriptions. Sir Ken says that human resources, like natural resources, tend to be buried deep and it take a bit of effort to find them.
My favourite part of the talk is when he discusses a comment Michaelangelo made about his famous sculpture called The David. Michaelangelo said something along the lines of, ‘I didn’t make or create the David. I can’t take credit for it. I revealed it. It was in the stone all the time. My job was to find and uncover it. All you have to do is remove the parts of the stone that aren’t David and then David appears.’
This is true for people too. We become encrusted with preconceptions we, and other people, have of us. Authenticity comes when you strip away some of that junk. Finding your element is about chipping away at your extra stone and finding the David in you. It makes life so much more fun and fulfilling.