What exactly is it? Are there different types? Can it be taught or fostered?
Finding a definition of creativity that everyone agrees on seems impossible. It is generally agreed that creativity often involves the combining of new and/or established ideas in new, innovative ways.
Whether or not a creative innovation is good or bad depends on whether the new idea is effective in some way—does it make something easier, safer, faster or more aesthetically compelling?
Many people associate creativity almost exclusively with the arts. However, creativity is not restricted to any subject, discipline or activity. It is very possible to be quite creative and innovative while doing things that many of us view as mundane – cleaning house, mowing the lawn and so on. Creativity is a way of operating.
Some years back, I had the pleasure of attending John Cleese’s lecture, “Creativity in Management”. This sparked my interest in how creativity might be taught or fostered. I looked for ways to advance my own creative development and for techniques to aid in the training of the comic book artists I was working with.
Cleese’s lecture was incorporated into a series of videos that his business training company, Video Arts, produced. There are three Cleese videos specifically related to creativity:
- Creativity in Management
- The Importance of Mistakes
- The Hidden Mind
You have to pay to see the first two tiles but The Hidden Mind can be viewed online.
In recent years, I’ve gotten involved with public education. This has renewed my interested in finding ways to foster creativity, especially in the classroom environment.
Creative thinking is vital to student success in all subject areas. To prepare students for future success in and beyond the classroom, they need to have techniques that foster creative innovation.
As educator, author and creativity expert Ken Robinson points out, we don’t even know what the world will be like in 5 years yet our schools are now teaching kids who will be expected to work productively for forty or more years from now. The education we give kids today can’t possibly anticipate the information and skills they will need years down the road. However, if they have the tools to be creative and to innovate, they will have a much better chance of succeeding no matter how the world changes.
Here is a link to a great video presentation, “Do Schools Kill Creativity” that Robinson gave at a recent TED conference.
Other Robinson videos can be seen on YouTube. I also recommend his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.
Based on the research I’ve done so far, here are some things that can be said about the slippery subject of creativity:
- Creativity is not a talent; it is a way of operating and it can be taught.
- It is not related to IQ (providing you have a minimum level of IQ).
- To get into a creative mood, creative people often get into a “playful mood” to explore ideas for enjoyment.
- The best combination of environment and attitude that is needed to foster creative thinking involves having a quiet space and enough time to get into the proper frame of mind. However, these conditions are not practical to use in a classroom environment.
- There are a variety of brainstorming techniques for individuals and for groups that are useful in the classroom.
- For creative thinking/brainstorming, it’s vital to create a climate where people are not identified with/tied to/judged by the ideas they throw out off the top of their heads. They have to feel free to contribute without fear of being judged negatively. You never know what may turn out to be a constructive contribution. Seemingly ridiculous thoughts may spark a chain reaction that leads to a creative solution.
- Creativity and humor are linked. The way seemingly dissimilar ideas come together when brainstorming is similar to the way a punch line works in a joke. The humor in a punch line is often derived by shifting to a different frame of reference when coming to the end of a train of connected thoughts or events in a joke. You laugh at the movement of contact/juxtaposition between two frames of reference.
- Mistakes are a vital part of the learning process. There is a British proverb: The man who does not make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.
Ideally, I’d like to discover a group of tools/techniques that enable students in an often boisterous classroom environment to be more creative and innovate across a wide range of subjects and endeavors. I’d also like to be able to measure the effects of adding creativity fostering techniques to various subjects. (That will be no easy feat!)
As I get a chance to do more research on creativity, I‘ll post what I learn here.