“If we want to solve problems, we need to make even greater use of creative thinkers,” says English designer Dominic Wilcox. And we are all creative thinkers. Wilcox helps to bring out the creative instincts of our childhoods and combine these with our knowledge and experience. “My work is partly about inspiring people and encouraging them to think more creatively.”
Dominic Wilcox creates connections. Between children and adults. Between then and now. Between subjects that seem completely unrelated at first sight. He argues that creativity is all about creating connections.
Let’s start with an example of how he inspires others. Three years ago, Wilcox asked 450 children in his home town of Sunderland to draw their own invention. Local craftsmen then created prototypes based on these drawings and these were displayed at an exhibition. “This exhibition was visited by people who, until then, were mostly intimidated by difficult themes such as art and design,” says Wilcox. “Now they were coming into contact with design and they liked what they saw.” With his initiative, Wilcox also wanted to demonstrate something else: he wanted to show that we should take children’s ideas seriously.
Creativity is all about creating connections
‘Little Inventors‘ emerged from this project, an organisation that transforms children’s ideas into reality. For example, Little Inventors organised the Food Waste Challenge, in which two thousand children submitted their ideas on how to fight food waste. The winning idea was the ‘alarm bowl, a device that allows you to scan your food items and sounds an alarm two days before their final expiry date.
Little Inventors drew a lot of people’s attention, including the organisers of the World Creativity Forum, who asked Wilcox to come to Eindhoven to showcase creative ideas within the theme of food waste. But that will not be the only subject of his talk; he particularly wants to discuss how adults can learn from children’s natural creativity and approach, and from their belief that nothing is impossible. “Little Inventors aims to coach the thinkers of the future,” he says. “We give them self-confidence and teach them how to solve their own problems. The power of creative thinking gives people confidence, since creativity helps them to share and communicate their ideas. That is quite empowering.”
‘You should act proactively, then creativity will develop’
Wilcox urges us adults to combine the creative approach taken by children with our own knowledge and experience, in order to arrive at new ideas and solutions. He is convinced that we still possess the creative instincts of our childhoods. It’s just that they have disappeared beneath all sorts of other layers, courtesy of the teacher who shot down a good idea, or another who said: ‘Be serious for once’. “If that happens to you a couple of times,” Wilcox says, “you soon learn not to be creative. You start to think more and more straightforwardly, which is not a good thing for creativity. We often think in the same pattern and we are all busy. The key to creative thinking is to remove all of the layers that surround our natural creative approach and combine that with the knowledge and experience we have gained over the years. So be sure to make time for this. In fact, I believe that our creative eye should be employed throughout the day. A portion of the day is fine, but the whole day is even better. In addition, I encourage a mindset in which you make connections in the brain between experiences and observations. We enter the practical, logical mode too easily. But you should be acting proactively, then creativity will develop.”
‘I designed a car with stained glass windows and a bed inside’
Being constantly alert
Wilcox gives an example of his own. “Five years ago, I visited a cathedral with my parents. I was very impressed with the stained glass windows and I wondered why these are so seldom incorporated in modern-day designs. I also wondered how I could do this myself, for example, by creating a 3D design instead of flat windows. One year later, BMW asked me to help them think about mobility, the immediate reason being the fact that the Mini will have existed for a century in 2059. So, I delved into the subject of self-driving cars, as these will undoubtedly be driving safely on the roads by then. And if car crashes were to become a thing of the past, you could use any material you want to design cars. At that time, I recalled my visit to the cathedral and I designed a car with stained glass windows and a bed inside. The car of the future is more than just a means of transport. It is a place to live on wheels. I took that idea to the extreme with my design. It is an example of being constantly alert and creating connections.”
Moreover, he adds, the example shows another thing: beautiful things have been invented, also in the past, and we should not simply ignore them. “A huge historical knowledge library is available to us and there are all kinds of connections that we can create. We can put these fantastic tools to good use on any problem or challenge, including the Sustainable Development Goals.”