Creativity v Money
In World War 2, my Uncle Harry was in the 8th
Army, the Desert Rats.
They were fighting the Germans in North Africa.
In typical British army style, their equipment was crap.
Everything was left over from the First World War.
But they were fighting a modern, well-equipped, efficient
The Afrika Corps.
Uncle Harry said one of the worst things was the way the
British Army carried its water and petrol.
They used flimsy containers that were pretty much just big
Rattling around all over the desert caused them to leak or
The Germans meanwhile had better equipment all round.
Uncle Harry said he was particularly jealous of the Germans’
water and petrol containers.
These were so tough you could stand a lorry on them and they
So the British soldiers did what they’ve always done best.
They stole the cans off the Germans and used them instead.
Eventually the British army learned to copy the German
And, even today, these containers are still called Jerry
Isn’t that what creativity’s about?
It’s about improvising, using your brain.
Use whatever you can, from wherever you can.
It’s not just about spending money.
Anyone can win when they’ve got the best of everything and
more of it.
But the real buzz is winning when you haven’t.
Lack of money often forces us to be creative.
Brian May, from Queen, loved the unique sound of his
So, even today, he has expensive replicas made.
The original guitar was made by his dad, in his shed.
The body came from an old wooden mantelpiece.
The tremolo arm came from a bicycle saddlebag carrier.
The knob on the end from a knitting needle.
And the springs were valves from an old motorbike.
He had no money so he was forced to be creative.
Now he uses money to try to replicate that original
One of the people that influenced John Lennon and Paul
McCartney most was Buddy Holly.
He was one of the inventors of rock & roll.
And, as with anything you invent, you have to make it up.
You can’t just copy what went before.
If you want a sound you have to create it.
Two of his most influential records were ‘Everyday’ and ‘Not
There aren’t any drums on ‘Everyday’.
To get the different sound he wanted, the drummer just
slapped his leg throughout.
Same thing on ‘Not fade Away’.
The percussion is just drumsticks on a cardboard box.
Lack of money, lack of resources forces you to be creative.
I was at a party at Robin Wight’s house once.
Robin had bought a large chrome sofa by the English/Israeli
designer Ron Arad.
Everyone was admiring it.
I knew Ron Arad and we were discussing the sofa.
I said, “I like your
work a lot Ron. But, for me, your earlier furniture seemed more daring. Like the
armchairs made from the seats of a Rover 3 Litre car and some bent scaffolding-pipes.
Ron thought about it a bit.
Then he said, “Now I
am famous, if I have an idea, whatever it is, I can always find the money to
make it. When I was poor I had to think more.
I had to find other,
more creative ways to do it.”
That was a really good lesson for me.
Money may not be helpful to creativity.
Money may make us creatively lazy.
I see lots of articles about what happened to creativity in
Well the drop in creativity seems to me to coincide with the
rise of computer generated graphics (CG).
We don’t need to think of a clever way to do anything.
Now, CG can do everything.
So the answer’s simple: money.
And whoever’s got the money can buy what looks like
But it isn’t really.
Because, as with any technological innovation, everyone else
has got it, too.
And if we do the same as everyone else, we’ll look like
We’ll just be another big money production like all the
And that’s not very creative.
If we want to stand out we’ll need to do of something no one
else is doing yet.
And that’s a lot more difficult, because that takes brains.
As Winston Churchill said, “We have no money. We shall have to think.”