The truly creative person is not an outlaw but a lawmaker.
As radicals move into the conflict that is often required to produce social change they tend to rigidify as individuals and to form themselves into highly dogmatic organizations, intolerant of diversity within their own ranks.
… people who break the iron frame of custom are necessarily people of ardor and aggressiveness. They are capable of pursuing their objectives with fervor and singleness of purpose. If they were not, they would not succeed. And it is sad but true that in shaping themselves into bludgeons with which to assault the social structure they often develop a diamond-hard rigidity of their own. Thus arises the familiar problem of what to do with the revolutionaries when the revolution is over.
A mature society must make a particular effort to reward its innovators, because its very maturity discourages innovation.
Youth is characteristically impatient of carefully weighted procedures. The young organization (or individual) want to “get to the point.” The important thing is to get the job done and not to worry about how it is done. The emphasis is on serving the stark need as directly as possible with no frills.
But goals are achieved by some means, and sooner or later even the most impulsive man of action will discover that some ways of achieving the goal are more effective than others. A concern for how to do it is the root impulse in all craftsmanship, and accounts for all the style in human performance. Without it we would never know the peaks of human achievement.
Yet ironically, this concern for “how it is done” is also one of the deceases of which societies die. Little by little, preoccupation with method, technique and procedures gains a subtle dominance over the whole process of goal seeking. How it is done becomes more important than whether it is done. Means triumph over ends. Form triumphs over spirit. Method is enthroned. Men become prisoners of their procedures, and organisations that were designed to achieve some goal become obstacles in the path to that goal.
A concern for “how to do it” is healthy and necessary. The fact that is often leads to an empty worship of method is just one of the dangers with which we have to live. Every human activity, no matter how ennobling or constructive or healthy, involves hazards. The flower of competence carries the seeds of rigidity just as the flower of virtue carries the seeds of complacency. “There is a road to hell,” said John Bunyan, “even from the gates of heaven."
A common stratagem of those who wish to escape the swirling currents of change is to stand on high moral ground. They assert that the old is intimately bond up in moral and spiritual considerations that will be threatened by any change. When Russia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had to face the superior technological development of Western Europe, Slavophiles were impelled to speak of the Russian soul, much as some writers in India today assert that the superiority of Western technology is more than balanced by India’s spiritual depth. The new thing will usually look barbarous compared to the old. The era that is being born will often look less spiritual and less laden with the deeper values than the era that is dying. A society that has mastered the art of continuous renewal will not let such impressions distort its judgements. It will reject the notion that nothing is morally worthy unless it has been around for a long time.
Whether in art, in manners or in social structure, the trend to intricate elaboration often falls of its own weight, and people again seek a simple relationship to life and to one another.
The accumulations that weigh one down may even be of the nonmaterial sort, for example, reputation oк status. An organisation may avoid experimental ventures because it fears to damage its reputation for soundness. Many a gifted scholar has allowed his creative talent to be smothered by a growing commitment to his own previously stated doctrines. Many an established specialist fears the loss of his reputation if he ventures beyond the territory where he has proved his mastery. Indeed this fear is the greatest obstacle to intellectual breadth in the scholarly world.
Modern technology need not destroy aesthetic, spiritual and social values, but it will most certainly do so unless the individuals who manage our technology are firmly committed to the preservation of such values.
We imagine that freedom, like sunshine or fresh air, is always there to be had if someone isn’t forcibly preventing us from enjoying it. But freedom as we now now it has been exceedingly rare in the history of mankind. It is a highly perishable product of civilisation, wholly dependent on certain habits of mind widely shared, on certain institutional arrangements widely agreed upon.
What may be most in need of innovation is the corporation itself. Perhaps what every corporation (and every other organization) needs is a Department of Continious Renewal that would view the whole organization as a system in need of continuing innovation.
The society capable of continuous renewal not only feels at home with the future, it accepts, even welcomes, the idea that the future may bring change.
Sensible people will understand that there will never be a time when we are not in immanent danger. Cruelty, violence and brutality will be held in leash only by unresting effort — if held in leash at all. Sloth, indulgence, smugness, torpor begotten of ease and flabbiness begotten of security will always lurk in wait.
A mood of wise and weary disenchantment may seem wonderfully mature, but it does not account for much of the growth and movement and vital action in the world.
Instead of giving young people the impression that their task is to stand a dreary watch over the ancient values, we should be telling them the grim but bracing truth that it is their task to re-create those values continuously in their own behaviour, facing the dilemmas and catastrophes of their own time.
The moral order is not something static, it is not something enshrined in historic documents, or stowed away like the family silver, or lodged in the minds of pious and somewhat elderly moralists. It is an attribute of a functioning social system. As such it is a living, changing thing, liable to decay and disintegration as well as to revitalizing and reinforcement, and never any better than the generation that holds it in trust.