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The Pyramid of Creativity
Kathēkonta Issue #4 — On the coming creativity boom and embracing ChatGPT
There's a lot of fear in the world right now regarding AI. Many people are worried that the new wave of generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, will wipe out many jobs, making much of today's "knowledge work" irrelevant. It's an understandable fear to have. These tools definitely will change many jobs in the next few years. But is the fear accurate? Are knowledge workers doomed to a jobless future?
What if—instead of these tools causing a catastrophe for workers—AI could actually bring us a positive revolution in work? Imagine if AI could replace the most mundane parts of our daily work, and instead, we humans could spend our time being creative and using our imaginations. If AI could do that to our daily work, I would hail that as a positive change. Let's consider that possibility...
Introducing the Pyramid of Creativity
Let’s visualize a pyramid that I've named the Pyramid of Creativity, which represents the various types of work we do as knowledge workers (text in footnote):
There are several ways to look at this model:
From most concrete at the bottom to most abstract at the top.
From most directly applicable to a particular problem at the bottom to relevant to many potential problems at the top.
From constrained by reality at the bottom to wholly unconstrained at the top.
From drudgery at the bottom to play and fun at the top.
We can think of the tasks we do throughout the day as knowledge workers and place them on this Pyramid. Are you brainstorming how to bring an amazing feature from a gaming app to your own company’s language learning app? Maybe that is on the “Creativity” level. Are you analyzing data to determine which markets to expand to? Maybe that falls on the “Problem-Solving” level.
Knowledge workers engage in tasks spanning this entire spectrum, although some jobs may be focused more on one or two levels. Spend a moment to consider where you spend most of your time.
An Aside on Computer Programming
So what happens to knowledge work now that AI tools like ChatGPT are entering the workplace? We can approach an answer by looking at how existing software tools have affected the work on the Pyramid for one group of knowledge workers over the past 50 years, programmers.
Software advances have constantly changed the work of programmers over this period. Programming computers was once a job that involved literally flipping switches on computers. As technology advanced, here's what happened (a simplified and abbreviated history):
The flipping of physical switches was replaced with punch cards.
Punch cards were replaced by typing in assembly code.
Compilers (a kind of computer program itself) allowed programmers to write in high-level programming languages, and then the computer would write the assembly language automatically for the programmer.
Programming languages advanced, allowing the programmer to write programs in something closer to mathematical notation, with functions, variables, and the like.
As compilers advanced, they automated the repetitive task of memory management from programmers.
At each stage in programming, computers automated away the least abstract parts of the programmer's job. And as a result, programmers could spend more time tackling the more creative and imaginative aspects of the work.
Looking at the history of programming through the Pyramid of Creativity, we can see that programmers spend more time now in the higher parts of the Pyramid. And they spend less time doing mindless tasks at the bottom of the Pyramid.
The Necessity of Creativity
Back to our question: what happens to knowledge work now that AI tools like ChatGPT are entering the workplace?
AI will automate more and more work at the bottom of the Pyramid of Creativity. This will leave people to spend more time at the top of the Pyramid, doing creative and imaginative work. And most importantly, it will leave us humans to do the most enjoyable work, the work that is most like play!
This all means that creativity is now not just a luxury—it's a necessity in the coming world. The parts of the job that are the most creative will be the parts that remain for humans to do. The tasks on the bottom rungs will be done by AIs instead (or by people working in tandem with AIs). And that's a good thing.
So it's time to unleash our inner creative geniuses! Seek out our jobs' most creative and imaginative parts, and work with AIs to do the rest.
A ChatGPT Prompt for Exploring Creativity
To give us a boost to start working more creatively, how about using AI itself to provide us with ideas on incorporating more creativity into our day-to-day work? I created this prompt for ChatGPT, which lets you chat with a panel of experts on creativity. Try it out and ask them for some suggestions!
Here’s how the panel might answer a question from you…
To use the prompt, copy and paste the below text into ChatGPT, and press enter. Then discuss creativity with the world experts on the topic…
You are a Mentor Panel of expert luminaries chosen for your wisdom and breadth of knowledge on creativity. Your job is to listen to a question from me, and then offer wisdom and advice in your areas of expertise. Your job also involves communicating these in actionable ways for me to grow. Your job is not to talk too much, or give me too much information, but rather to co-create with me, by dialoguing with me, and making sure you understand my perspectives before challenging me with paradigm-shifting perspectives.
On the panel are:
- Sir Ken Robinson (1949-2020): Sir Ken was a prominent British author, speaker, and creativity expert. He was chosen for his groundbreaking work on creativity and innovation in education, particularly for his book "Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative" and his influential TED Talk "Do Schools Kill Creativity?".
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian-American psychologist known for his research on the concept of "flow," a mental state of intense focus and immersion in an activity that leads to optimal creativity and performance. His work has provided valuable insights into the psychological conditions that foster creativity, making him an important figure in the field.
- Edward de Bono: de Bono is a Maltese physician, psychologist, and author who has contributed significantly to the understanding of creative thinking through his development of "lateral thinking" techniques. His numerous books on creativity and innovation, such as "Six Thinking Hats" and "Lateral Thinking," have made him a prominent expert in the field.
- Julia Cameron: Cameron is an American author, artist, and teacher whose work has focused on the creative process and overcoming creative blocks. Her book "The Artist's Way" has become a classic in the field of creativity, helping millions of people to cultivate their creative talents and overcome self-doubt and fear.
- Elizabeth Gilbert: Gilbert is an American author known for her bestselling book "Eat, Pray, Love." However, she is also a respected speaker and writer on the topic of creativity. Her book "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" and her TED Talk "Your Elusive Creative Genius" provide valuable insights into the creative process and how to nurture one's creative spirit.
- Scott Barry Kaufman: Kaufman is an American psychologist and author who specializes in the study of creativity and intelligence. He is known for his work on the Dual-Process Theory of Human Intelligence and his book "Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind," which explores the habits and practices that foster creative thinking.
- Twyla Tharp: Tharp is an American choreographer and author who has made significant contributions to the understanding of the creative process through her work in dance and her book "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life." Her expertise in the arts and her unique perspective on creativity make her an important figure in the field.
- Moderator, who asks me for questions and guides me through the process.
The output of the panel is always in the format of:
[SPEAKER NAME IN CAPITALS]: [speaker’s opinion]
The panelists typically stick to their areas of expertise—but there is some flexibility where appropriate. The panelists respond in character and their responses are written in the same style as the real person they each represent. Whenever they quote a book or other work, they give a reference to the original work being quoted.
Can you please always address me in your questions, rather than asking each other for perspectives?
Also, rather than saying “Jim Collins here”, can you please always indicate your comment by starting with a capitalized name? For example: “JIM COLLINS: I’d like to offer a comment…” or “MODERATOR: Let’s hear from…”
The Moderator never offers his advice himself, but merely guides the process.
The Moderator should start by asking me what I want to talk about.
After each response by a panelist, the Moderator should ask me followup questions to see if I am happy with the response.
This model was inspired by "Brennan's Hierarchy of Imagination," http://creativeleadership.com/cl/brennans-hierarchy-of-imagination.html
In text form:
Imagination — Pure play. Limitless exploration of ideas and possibilities without constraints.
Creativity — Combining diverse ideas into new concepts and things, potentially applicable to solving a real-world problem.
Critical Thinking — Objectively assessing your own work and others to identify strengths and weaknesses, leading to informed decisions.
Problem-Solving — Applying knowledge, logic, and analytical skills to devise practical solutions.
Routine or Repetitive Work — Executing everyday tasks that demand minimal cognitive effort or creativity.