At one point in my life I worked at a very well known restaurant chain, known for its artery clogging portion sizes, ridiculously large menu, and cheesecake. Before every shift we had a meeting.
First, there was a uniform inspection. They would line us up like military recruits and berate our wrinkles and stains. After that humiliation we would be asked questions about the company’s mission and then go over any specials.
As if that wasn’t enough we would then put our hands into a circle and profess our love of serving through chanting. I went through each of these meetings with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, hating every second of it.
I would then go to each table and recite a scripted overview of the menu. Every step of the process was designed to ensure each guest received the exact same experience.
The company focused on one thing, the guest experience, and by doing so they stripped their employees of their individuality and thoughts.
The weird thing was, I was in the minority. One night I was at a bar with a friend who served at a non-chain restaurant. I was recounting all of the atrocities I had been put through while she sat shaking her head at the horrors. At the same time a group of my fellow servers walked in.
This was the first time I had seen them out of work. They asked me how I liked working there. I was honest, maybe a little too honest. I had had a couple of drinks. They were shocked I felt that way. They loved every second of it. I was confused. Loved it?
Maybe they were just unaware of the differences between a corporate and non-corporate restaurant, which narrowed their perspective. I think the real reason is most people are terrified of uncertainty and therefore creativity.
On one hand we say we love creativity, out-of-the-box thinking. But we also love structure, rules and conformity, which is the exact thing that smothers it.
Which is probably why most businesses, and sadly schools, have turned their back on creativity. It has become unimportant, a waste of time, or worse, a burden. It’s uncertain. Most people fear change. Any perpetual states of limbo. Look at any company that has just had a change in processes and/or management. Scary.
It’s really hard to get people to change their minds about things, especially if you aren’t used to trying new things ever. If there was a drinking game where we had to take a shot every time we saw an argument on social media that went nowhere, we’d be drunk in about an hour. Maybe less.
There is no immediate payoff. It takes time. But, we have too much other, more important stuff, to do, right? Places to go. People to see. Things to clean. Entire seasons of our favorite shows to watch. And we’ve been told over and over again not to waste a second of our precious time.
And we’ve been taught painting pictures, playing guitar, or reading books is a waste of time.
This type of thinking results in cuts in music and art programs and a systematic approach to learning. As if everyone learns the same way. It causes a fear of thinking differently. It punishes innovation and protects the same old way.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, considering our future depends on it, kind of a big deal. It’s not just about making a new painting or a new song. It’s about being able to think for yourself. To come up with interesting new ideas, which leads to new inventions. Most importantly, it allows us the permission to do things we never thought possible.
I'm Jackie, an artist, illustrator, and friend to ghosts, monsters, and aliens. This blog is full of DIY projects, stories, and things I think are cool. Stay weird.