Does Conformity Really Kill Creativity?

In recent weeks, I have been pondering the idea of leadership and courage. Then, I ran across a quote that gnawed at me, 

The opposite of courage in society is not cowardice, it is conformity.
— Rollo May

Conformity versus Creativity

I have struggled to balance conformity and creativity for most of my adult life. For the sake of harmony and order in society, I believe conformity is crucial. I also agree with Charles Dudley Warner,

We are half ruined by conformity, but we should be wholly ruined without it.

Research has shown that social rejection fuels creativity. In a Psychology Today article, Scott Barry Kaufman writes,

The need to be seen as separate from others within a group enhances both nonconformity and creativity. In contrast, an interdependent mindset has been shown to extinguish the spirit of independence that is optimal for producing creative solutions.

Most leaders value innovation. However, leaders must determine whether they have fostered an organizational culture where unique people with divergent ideas can thrive.

Alike "shows" a story.

I watched the award winning, eight-minute short film, Alike, three times. Each time, the story moved me to tears even though no words were spoken, and I generally don’t like animated films. Madrid-based animators Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez teach a brutal lesson on what happens when conformity almost kills creativity in a father and his son. Even worse, the father, in an attempt to do the right thing by the son he loves, unintentionally aids in sucking the life out of him.

What makes Alike a good story?

I love a good story. Of course, research studies shed light on conformity versus creativity, but a good story moves you to action. Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez used music, imagery, and symbolism magnificently. They made a complex topic relevant and relatable. They also captured the audience’s attention from the start and carried us on an emotional journey.

On a personal note, I identified with three of the characters. First, I identified with the son. I have struggled to rediscover creativity and unleash it in my life’s work. While watching, I wondered when did I lose it? Next, I identified with the teacher. As a former teacher, I reflected on whether I had unintentionally stifled the creativity of my students. Finally, I identified with the father. As a parent, I hope that our effort to raise well-adjusted citizens was not at the expense of their individuality and creativity.

Watch. Enjoy. Act.