Creativity First


Ravi Gupta, Dean, Whistling Woods International

As history has proven, it is those civilisations that have valued creativity that have best survived. Through imagination and innovation, they built empires, left behind architectural marvels and contributed amazing tools of communication. We witnessed a similar pattern during the industrial age, when companies that transformed their production methods endured. Likewise, in today’s information age, it is the creatively-orientated companies that prove to be the most successful.

What is creativity? It is not easy to define, but when you look at the animal kingdom, one factor that differentiates us from other species is our creativity. Creativity is visualising something meaningful that does not exist and then bringing it into existence. Creativity is contributing to the world something that it didn’t know it was missing. 

In Darwin’s theory of Survival of the Fittest, forms of life that survived are those that were adapted and transformed to needs for survival through creative evolutionary solutions. If we are observant, explorative and analytical, nature’s many illustrations of creativity – through colour, texture, material, modes of communication or movement or construction – guide us to harness our own creativity. 

Creativity is putting to use all available resources, technologies and ideas towards identifying and solving our numerous problems and needs. Our creative endeavors have helped to transform our society and changed our lifestyle for the better. We have applied this process to design and the application of technologies. Past illustrations include the manipulation of sound, word and language structuring. We progressed to the discovery of recording techniques. More recently, our imagination has led to the invention of the transistor, mobile communication and the Internet.

                     Our creative skills are as old as our ability to communicate.

Through much of civilisation, we passed on knowledge by way of story telling through oral tradition,  music, dance and performing arts. By the third millennium B.C., over 5,000 years ago, we learned how to communicate using representative drawings, characters and words. Initially we inscribed them on rocks and later on papyrus. This helped us record our experience and pass it on to later generations, resulting in a cumulation of knowledge.  

With the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the mid 15th century AD, we acquired the skills to reproduce our cumulative knowledge. The Church took full advantage of the written word to spread its message by way of the printed Bible. The State, in turn, used the written word to establish societal norms. When independent intellectuals started to use the printing press to distribute opinions that the Church or State thought was seditious, the State brought in legislation to control reproductions of written material. This was the first use of Copyright. Early Copyright laws were enacted to protect the interests of the State or Church and not those of the authors.

Over time, the rights of the authors were acknowledged, and laws were adapted to better protect the interests of creators.

The first copyright statute in law was the British Statute of Anne, defined in full as "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned", was passed in in 1710. Initially, copyright law only applied to the copying of books. Over time, the law was expanded to other uses such as translations and derivative works. With the emergence of the industrial revolution, an entire jurisprudence on intellectual property, including Trademark, Patents and Copyright, evolved to support the concept of protecting and encouraging creativity, with the acknowledgment that real value is integral to intellectual property.

It is hardly surprising that, the world’s largest and most dynamic companies today are those that either own valuable IP, or monetise other people’s IP. While many of these organizations did not exist 20 years ago, their ability to monetise IP has massively increased their market valuation. It is estimated that 84% of market value of S&P 500 companies lies in intangible assets.

The creative community is now grappling with the reality that major tech companies have benefited from the monetization of valuable content often at the expense of the creator or rights holder.

Given the value of creativity, is it something that can be taught? It is true that there are many examples of creative geniuses who have neither benefited from formal education nor have worked with abundant resources and yet they have made the history books. Prodigies are not simply the product of academic institutions.

However schools of learning can create the best possible environment to stimulate creative instincts.

Quality institutions encourage experimentation, question traditional narratives, conjoin different perspectives, and offer seemingly contrary programmes and learning modules. Quality intitutions also allow for failure, a key aspect of creativity. 

We are all born creative, but the common tendency is to suppress our creativity under pressure from family, peer group and the community. However it is those societies that have encouraged creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship that rate most highly on the scale of overall success. 

The media and entertainment industry is often referred to as the creative industry. This definition reflects the fact that our output is largely intellectual property. That is our product. In the United States, creative industries rank second in global exports, contributing enormously to its GDP. More significantly, the creative industries represent the American Dream, its culture, fashion and lifestyle, stimulating the global imagination and building its brand equity. There are many countries around that world that would like to follow suit.

The focus on teaching or encouraging creative thinking in all areas of economic activity helps a nation to grow. The U.S., not surprisingly, has filed for 80% of all patents globally in the last 15 years. By comparison, India filed for just 1% of all applications for patents in the same period. A focus on creative culture, even for a small nation such as Israel, has helped address problems of water shortage, security issues and agriculture in a non fertile land. 

For a country to fully realise its potential, creativity must come first.

A country which cannot sing its own songs, tell its own stories, create its own music, find its own solutions to problems, is all the poorer for it. India is fortunate to benefit from a tradition of song, music, dance, movies and many other forms of creativity. What we need now, is to fully realise its economic and cultural potential.


- Ravi Gupta is the Dean, Whistling Woods International film School, Mumbai. He is a post-graduate from IIT Bombay and an MBA from JBI, Ravi Gupta brings with him a wealth of media and corporate experience. He was the founding CEO of B4U, founding member of SRFTII, Managing Director of NFDC and has also been on the Governing Board of FTII. He has been closely associated with the production and distribution of over 150 films. Notably among these are Salaam Bombay, Gandhi, Maya Memsahib, Rudali, Ghare Bhaire, The Making of Mahatma and Rudali. He has represented India on the board of the Paris-based FIAPF and has been on the board of the Los Angeles-based IATAS that awards the iEMMY.


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