Last weekend, I saw the blockbuster end-of-summer film Straight Outta Compton, a biopic chronicling the late-1980s and 1990s “reality rap” group N.W.A. In the midst of reminiscing over the golden age of hip-hop, an important realization dawned on me: Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, two of the original five members of N.W.A, were the personification of integrating creativity into your work. Here are three quick observations.
Lateral Thinking Is Brain Exercise. First, the brain scan of a rapper at work is a neuroscientist’s dream. If said scientist is researching creativity, then the spontaneous freestyle technique of rappers requires the brain to engage in the flow state of consciousness, a neurocognitive mechanism that we now know is critical to exercising creative thought, and hence, innovation. Rappers minds’ at work show lateral thinking on steroids. A 2012 Scientific American article by Arne Dietrich outlined what neuroscientists have learned from the brain scans of rappers.
Know Your Creative Value. Second, the film teaches a really important lesson about not under-selling the value of creativity. Too often, “creatives” and the creative process are undermined and under-valued. This dismissive attitude is regularly evidenced quite tangibly by lower compensation. At different points in the film, both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre had to conjure up the courage to part ways with their business leads, after recognizing the real intrinsic and monetary value of their creative assets. They decided to act on evidence that they were being swindled and forge their own path.
Collaborate. Third, N.W.A. was originally a collective of African-American teenage guys who put their observations about the urban Los Angeles society around them into poetry and sampled music. Based on their resourcefulness and satirical wit, in another time the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss might have referred to them as bricoleur poets and composers. Singly, their impact would have been interesting, but not as strong. As a collaborative of lyricists, rappers, DJs, and MCs, their impact was potent. They were “one from many." This is a principle from complexity theory and chaordic systems thinking. Collaboration is an essential tenet of creativity.
See the film. You never know where your next creative inspiration will come from.