“Creative imagination” or “Quiet Australians”?

Esther Anatolitis

On 8 April’s 7.30 on the ABC, Leigh Sales asked internationally renowned infectious diseases expert Dr Michael Osterholm why the world has been so woefully unprepared for COVID-19 – given he and others have been warning us about a global pandemic for over a decade.

His response? Because “we really lack creative imagination.”

Despite those repeated warnings, he continued, we’re told by politicians that “no one could have envisioned – or so they say – all the constellation of things that have happened here: not just a virus crossing from an animal to a human, but the worldwide transmission, the impact that it has on healthcare, the fact that it also shuts down our global economy.”

If “no one could have envisioned” the inevitable set of possibilities that experts have been outlining in detail, then contemporary governance is in big trouble. Because the capacity to envision a complex set of possibilities is fundamental to good governance.

It’s also, of course, the fundamental skillset of the artist.

Creative skills power economic growth

Artists draw on the oldest and richest traditions we have to reframe our perceptions, reshape our thinking and reset our horizons. Their work generates new technologies, new working models, new ways of thinking. Art creates our future.

Creative practitioners are adept at testing new models, jettisoning assumptions and experimenting with conviction. They actively seek critical responses and opposing views. They are at home with conflict and risk. Their minds are agile, taking confident leaps in new directions, rather than getting bogged down in unhelpful frameworks and obsolete ideologies. They’re sensitive, curious and inventive.