Sir Walter Murdoch Lecture 2011: Todd Sampson on “Creativity: Balancing Fear and Success”

Last night with friends I attended the Sir Walter Murdoch Lecture for 2011. This is an annual public lecture given since 1974 in memory of the Murdoch University namesake, Sir Walter Murdoch. This year’s speaker was Todd Sampson, someone I hadn’t really heard of before last night (much to the surprise of my friends, I should add).

I really enjoyed the lecture and found a lot of resonating insight. A different doorway of thought drawing on aspects of thought, perception, culture and personhood that I’ve been thinking on. The topic of the lecture “Creativity: Balancing Fear and Success” had a lot of useful content (and though I understand it is a lecture that Mr Sampson gives regularly, it was no less interesting for that).

The following notes are what I took from the lecture, perhaps they might be of interest or use to you. (Feel free to let me know in the comments).

Creativity is a powerful force that disrespects the status quo. Disrespecting or making war upon the status quo is a subject that occupies a reasonable amount of my thinking. From this perspective I find that creativity as a concept cannot easily be ignored and the potential for impact is massive.

If you give people the opportunity to realise their ability to make a difference in their world, you tap into a well of creativity. Such a well was part of the foundation of Earth Hour – one of Todd’s biggest successes. Prior to last night I didn’t really understand what was being gained out of such an event. Now I get it.

  • If you take a group of eclectic people and sit them down together to talk, they will come up with an idea.
  • If you then take that idea and create a symbolic event, the idea becomes a kind of social activism.
  • Then, take this social activism to your advertising and connect every person to the idea that they are also all people – oneness.
  • Such social activism can become corporate activism multiplying the impact of that one single event on a massive global scale. 

One event. One single hour. Worldwide.

Earth Hour’s impact is that it brings people together with the ability to each take one small action.

It isn’t that everyone turned their lights off for an hour and that this is now a yearly event in partnership with governments and corporations globally… it’s that through a symbolic event people think about the issue. They talk about the issue. They take action on the issue. It is a micro action, but such actions pave the way for other actions around environmental conservation, climate change and sustainability.

Each person with their one small action, contributes to the shifting of culture through creativity.

Another powerful force that influences everyone worldwide, is fear. I am firmly of the belief that everyday culture and conservatism condition us to fear, condition us away from creativity where we might question the world and society around us.

We all experience fear… fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of looking bad. In Todd’s view, all fear stems from these three places and while my personal jury is out on that right now, it’s a good place to start.

The answer is not to eradicate fear, but to engage with it. I liked Todd’s approach which was essentially to “be brave just a little bit longer” and to remember that action is the antidote to fear.

In his experience he finds that the most successful organisations and people balance creativity and fear.

Largely this post is just about my notes from the lecture and only a little about my thinking around it. I may (or may not) come back to these concepts and talk about them a little more in the context of my own thinking and what I personally am about for the world.

But I have become aware of something, and I noticed it acutely last night. I am conscious of my sense of ‘moreness’ within, that something that says I still have stuff to do, to say, to learn, to teach etc… that sense of being ‘called’. It bubbles below the surface of my awareness and every so often it surges, and it’s almost like I’m about to cry… I feel overwhelmed and there is a rush of intense emotional insight into whatever is going on at the time. That sense of ‘moreness’ was there last night and it was just at that moment that I recognised and linked the physical response to it.

Whatever it is I’m about… I’m getting closer all the time to that discovery. I cannot wait.

 

 

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