Lit leadership lessons: The power of creativity

By Amisha Singh, DDS

We are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) people. We like numbers. Our problems have one solution. Right and wrong are our anthem.

That doesn’t sound very accessible, does it? Well, that is because of how STEM has traditionally been taught. There are elements of these fields which are a little more structured. After all, 2+2 cannot really equal much besides 4. There’s no wiggle room there. However, when we ascend past the foundations, and we do not have to go too far, we find this beautiful space for creativity. This is the space that many of us tend to ignore or even be unaware of … and this is the space where magic happens.

The basis of STEM is creativity. It is innovation and change and imagination. If imagination was not a central tenant in our field, we would not have made many of the amazing and groundbreaking discoveries we have made in the past. We put a man on the moon and now aim for Mars. We created an invisible net which connects the world and makes information a readily accessible treasure. We postulate how time and space began, and how it may one day end. That is all the work of creative minds. That is imagination in action.

STEM is being taught a little differently now in school systems, which encourages us about the prospect of our younger generation knowing how to wield this sword a little more proficiently. I often think about how this shift in education will manifest in our ability to discover and innovate in a few short years.

But, for us, the lost generation, the generation who was not formally taught about creativity’s role in the science we call our life’s work … well, we need to teach ourselves.

How much of your day do you spend imagining, creating, and exploring? Do you ever access this role in your professional life? We need to learn how to access this space, if for no other reason than the fact that our minds call for it.

The human mind is a beautiful enigma, but one thing we know is that our mind thrives on creation. We like exploring. We are drawn to questioning and learning. Many of us feel the most alive when we are in creative spaces. Even if creativity is not consciously “your jam.” There is a baseline level of creativity we all enjoy having in our lives. Think about your hobbies. Everything from paint on canvas to snowboard maneuvers on fresh powder are art, are creativity lived. What does it look like when we bring that space to our professional selves?

What does this have to do with dentistry? Well, no matter what your practice modality, you are working in two general spaces. One is your comfort zone … the place you have mastered. This is the realm of the procedures that you can do with your eyes closed. This is the space which is often named the “bread and butter” of your practice. This is all the knowledge you have from school and CE courses which is safely tucked into the library stacks of your mind. And research shows that, when we are operating in this space, our stress levels are pretty low.

Often we are on autopilot. And autopilot is also the space where fulfillment usually does not thrive. We know that humans, in order to feel most fulfilled, need a little bit of challenge (just enough) called eustress. This is the good kind of stress we feel when we are testing our own limits and we are learning and growing.

So what does the world outside of your comfort zone look like? Perhaps that is a range of procedures you are interested in, but have not quite mastered. Perhaps that is information which is outside of the realm of what is researched and known in dentistry and calls to be discovered. Whatever this world of creativity and innovation looks like, it is individual. When you identify what yours looks like, you will have access to a level of fulfillment which goes beyond what you experience now.

What does exploring that look like for you? Comment down below!