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Messy Success

splatter"What still eludes the captors of knowledge is creativity," writes Timothy Egan in The New York Times (3/21/14). This is so, Timothy writes, "even though colleges are trying to teach (creativity), corporations are trying to own it, and Apple has a ‘creativity app’ … An original work, an aha! product or fresh insight is rarely the result of precise calculation at one end producing genius at the other. You need messiness and magic, serendipity and insanity. Creativity comes from time off, and time out."

It’s one thing for Nate Silver to use data to predict election outcomes with astonishing accuracy, and quite another for Hollywood to crunch numbers to churn out its next big hit. As director Darren Aronofsky says, "Ten men in a room trying to come up with their favorite ice cream are going to agree on vanilla." Similarly, it’s one thing for Amazon to use data to recommend books, and quite another to try to "crowdsource and metrically mold its way into producing its own content." Its data-gathering is great if the goal is simply to bounce back what they receive.

"As a business model, Amazon is a huge success," Timothy writes. "As a regular generator of culture-altering material, it’s a bit player. Why? It has marginalized messiness." He traces the creativity gap in part to an educational system that compresses "the sum of education for the average American 17-year-old into the bloodless numbers of standardized test scores … The push for Common Core standards," he writes, has stifled creativity. "Educators teach for the test, but not for the messy brains of the kids in the back rows."