The road from the Renaissance to the iPhone might have taken much longer had the world not invented modern banking and finance. Money, an abstraction of value, is indeed a necessary precursor to globalization. It is also the source of systemic crises when the abstraction loses touch with the underlying value as when sophisticated financial instruments become self-referential.
Perhaps the best explanation of this duality of money – conduit of prosperity and vehicle of crises – can be found in George Gilder’s information theory recasting of capitalism. In “Knowledge and Power” Gilder argues that money is information-free, that is it does not embed a traceable link to the value it is supposedly based on. Bartering by contrast is information-full but too slow and cumbersome to accommodate a vibrant economy. Suffice to say that money is liquid and, whatever the associated risks, we owe much of our prosperity to the liquid character of modern economies.
With the right checks and balances in place, let me pose that liquidity is a generally good thing while simultaneously turning the argument to the knowledge economy. The question I want to poise is this: how does creativity, arguably the new currency of our modern economy, score against the liquidity criteria?
Let me argue that when it comes to transacting creative assets we are still in the bartering age. As Roger Martin effectively points out in his “inter-domain complexity” HBR piece, our highly specialized domain stovepipes are creating a self-inflicted complexity crisis. I propose that with their specific subject matter jargon and accreditations individual domains are slowing the movement and diffusion of creativity and with it the output potential of the knowledge economy. Said differently, creativity is the new currency of our knowledge economy, but highly specialized subject domains compromise its liquidity.
Having myself worked in several such stovepiped domains it never ceases to surprise me how wicked problems are not dissimilar when regarded from the general approach perspective. In my personal experience foundational distinctions such as Peter Drucker’s “doing things right vs. doing the right things” have proven useful in tackling almost any type of wicked problem.
In closing, creativity is the ability to fit non-obvious patterns to apparently disparate dots; past Malcolm Gladwell’s 10000-hour rule, this ability could care less about the details behind the dots, indeed static quanta of domain specific knowledge. In a truly dynamic knowledge-driven economy creativity should permeate the structural fabric of our society almost unhindered, just as the neutrino passes through normal matter unimpeded.
Photo credit here.