Standards Inspiring Creativity

As I read First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, an excerpt concerning standards really caught my eye is:

“Counterintuitively, standards fuel creativity. Take music as an example. There is no right way to structure souds. But in Western Europe in the late sixteenth century, a structured scale gradually became standard. This scale is called a “chromatic scale,” used in twelve tones per octave…On the surface this sounds as though it would restrict the composers’ genius. But the opposite was true. Being limited to just twelve tones didn’t dampen their creativity; it fostered their creativity.”

Using their example, does the standard of this chromatic scale really inspire creativity? I want to disagree. I believe they touch base with a couple of topics. Take for example, when you learn a musical instrument. You know nothing about the instrument so you need to build a foundation. This foundation is the infrastructure that will allow you to master the instrument. You don’t necessary need the standardized scale to learn the instrument. You play a note and hear the resulting sound. The larger your foundation grows, the more musical creativity you can attain. The more you information you learn and the more supplemental knowledge you acquire allows you to be more creative.

The chromatic scale allowed composers to transpose their works onto paper; it didn’t necessarily inspire their creativity. In fact, my friends who have a mastery in piano have often told that learning chords and scales restrict your creativity. They envy jazz players who are illuminated with brilliance on the spot. Now this is not always the case and I know there are always exceptions.

Some form of uniformity and standardization is necessary to prevent chaos; however, it does not mean it will foster creativity.

People who engage in sports learn them in a standardized method. However, there are professionals who do them slightly different and stand out. Their atypical methods allow them to be more creative in making shots, throwing a ball, etc.

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