There was a time a few years ago when a small town in China produced up to 60% of the world’s oil paintings.

That town is called Dafen, and is on the outskirts of Shenzhen (which itself has seen a boom in innovation output in recent years).

Dafen specialised in a small trade in original artwork, but was best known for one thing:

Making most of the replica oil paintings in the world.

Thousands of small artists workshops would copy famous paintings by western painters, like Da Vinci, Michaelangelo and Andy Warhol.

The craftsmanship was extremely high quality, due to the number of times a painter would practice perfecting the replica and churning out copy after copy.

You could say without a doubt that these painters were extremely skilled. Far better at oil painting that almost anyone else in the world.

Yet they didn’t create anything original.

Every painting was a copy.

So can we say that their output was creative?

No, it was not creative.

This is a perfect example of why skill and creativity may often be related, but are not the same thing.

You develop skill through deliberate practice, enabling you to then create skilled and creative new output.

But skill is not enough.

In this case, demand as driving the output of non-original work. These was a clear market for it.

Just not for the painter to become an artist.

Until recently.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 to see how the story continues…

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.