Most Americans value the proposition that there is a unique form of American ingenuity and creativity that has been the envy of the world. But perhaps not all Americans appreciate the role that diversity has played in our history of innovation, and how critical a role difference and variation play in the realization of the Creator Archetype.
Perhaps nowhere more than in American music can we see the power of diversity in driving creativity. African, Irish, Mexican, Cuban, Caribbean and other sounds have influenced generations of American musicians, who at their best, do not homogenize these strains into the musical equivalent of a Muzak melting pot , but instead allow them to be heard and experienced as distinct elements. Elvis transparently drew from African American blues and gospel, sometimes drawing criticism for having “stolen” black music. Contemporary artists now routinely integrate elements of Latin, European and African music in new and exciting ways, and while the predominant influences continue to be those of the Western hemisphere, since the 1960’s, elements of Asian, Arabic and other genres have been creeping into our musical mainstream.
Difference energizes the Creator in myriad other ways, as well. The personalities of John, Paul, George and Ringo could not have been more different, contributing to their sustained and extraordinary output. Research has shown that intergenerational difference fuels creativity, as well: when both older and younger people are involved in the creation of a Broadway production, the resulting product is more successful (and critically acclaimed) than when just one generation dominates the creative effort. When both sexes are present in corporate life, productivity and financial performance improves. In all of its varied forms, difference challenges, provokes, stimulates, unsettles, unnerves, inspires – all critical ingredients of the creative process.
Did the fact that Steven Jobs was Syrian by descent play a role in his particular expression of creativity? Did the fact that Steve Wozniak had a very different style and skills from Jobs’ produce a special combined effect? We will never know. But had Jobs’ birth father never been allowed into the United States, or had he gone solo in his enterprise, we can be fairly certain that the most innovative technology company on the planet would not have originated here, at least not in its present form.