Creativity is one of the greatest human gifts. Consider the achievements of modern technology. Each invention, from jet aircraft to the phone in your pocket, began as an idea in someone's head. We take much of it for granted, and it is easy to forget that there was a time not long ago when there were no electric lights, no central heating, no air conditioning and no modern medicine. A short meditation on what we have today tells us just how important creativity is.
It's even more important to realize that lack of opportunity, education or even the absence of training on how to be creative wastes so much human potential.
Training on how to be creative? Yes, that's right. The average human being is full of creative potential, and that potential is very often wasted by lack of training. Creativity training is a cornerstone of so called "gifted programs", but only few selected students are accepted to these programs based on results of gifted testing. Yet, we strongly believe that every child is creative and with proper training every child can reach their full creative potential.
What is creativity? It's simply the ability to generate new ideas. We human beings aren't absolute creators; we don't "poof" things into existence by an act of will. Instead, we modify and recombine what we find into things that are new and different. This is how the creative part of our minds works. We recombine ideas, add a few of our own and create a synthesis that is new and different. But we could not do it without all those other ideas that came before us. Each of us is indebted to people in the past that not only came up with new ideas, but also made connections between different ideas in new ways. The first element in creativity is the ability to synthesize ideas and to recombine them and add our own.
The next important element of creativity is logic. This is a hard one, as logic isn't taught very well these days and most people don't really know what logic is.Logic is actually very simple. It's a three step process.
- 1. Gather information.
- 2. Determine the accuracy of that information, in other words fact-check and run tests.
- 3. Determine the applicability of that information.
You can think of this process as three separate questions.
- 1. "What is the information?"
- 2. "How much of that information is true?"
- 3. "What are the results?"
You're probably way ahead of me at this point. It's easy to see where creativity can go off the rails. An idea may seem wonderful when it pops into your head or is written down on paper for the first time. But, what other data backs it up? How accurate is it? Will it stand up to real world testing? And most importantly, because this is the moral dilemma part, what would be the results of applying it? This can get rather nasty. The world is full of not-so-good ideas that have been applied to the detriment of others.
Teaching basic logic is no more difficult than teaching people to ask the above three questions. Be warned that if you start teaching this method, you may find people questioning some of your cherished beliefs and ideas. But hey, that comes with the territory.
The final element of creativity is practical application. The most innovative idea in the world is useless if it cannot be applied. While a lot of this has to do with the individual having the courage to go ahead and apply ideas that have passed the logic test, it also has to do with the ability to work with others.
No individual in history has ever developed an important and influential idea all on his or her own. There was a time when Newton was the last word in physics, and then his work was improved upon by Einstein. Einstein's theories quickly reached their limit and were improved upon by others.
In this short video, Elizabeth Gilbert shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius:
Ultimately, creativity is a team sport. It takes more than an ability to work with others to develop an idea. It also takes humility to understand and accept that other people are going to take your idea and run with it, change it or even discard it in favor of something better.
So, creativity consists of the ability to generate new ideas, a capacity for logic and rational thinking and a willingness to allow other people the right to use, modify and even trash your ideas. Creativity is far more than just being innovative. And the eccentric genius that thinks he's the only smart one around isn't going to get very far.
Ultimately, it is up to parents and teachers to teach creativity. And those who are successful all begin the same way. They inspire and invite. The teacher who is remembered the most fondly is the one who inspired his or her students to learn and invited them to think for themselves. The same goes for parents. This is why it's so important that parents and teachers have as high opinion of the children under their care as possible. Treat them as stupid or "little animals" and that's what you'll get. Children will deliver the behavior that you expect.
Another important part of teaching creativity is to move beyond rote learning. This isn't always easy in these days of standardized tests that measure the amount of information absorbed, and not how well the student can apply that information. Yet, there is no better stimulus for creativity than hands-on application, even of esoteric subjects like Philosophy. It takes a little imagination sometimes, but any subject can be taught as a hands-on experience. Demonstration of competence is better than demonstration of memory.
It is also important to invite participation. Students should be encouraged to choose topics for presentations and papers. And don't set tight limits, even if they seem logical to you. Guidelines are fine, but tight rules about what can and can't be presented or studied are not.
Another important aspect is to teach your children or your students not to make unwarranted assumptions. It's very tempting, to simply fill in the blanks with assumptions when a person doesn't have enough information. These assumptions are unwarranted because they aren't backed up by real information; they just "seem logical" based on the limited information at hand. This is the lazy way out and is guaranteed to kill creativity because the solutions and ideas arrived at by unwarranted assumptions usually don't work.
Finally, the single most important aspect of creativity is time. We live in a society that places more value on time than it does on the individual. People are constantly expected to do more in less time. But, creative thought takes time. The modern rush of the work-a-day world may be the reason why many of today's problems seem so unsolvable. The people who could solve them are just too busy. So, give your child or your student time to think and be creative. You'll be doing them and future generations a favor.
Child Development, Education, For Young Adults, Gifted And Creative Children, Parenting Younger Children, Raising Teens
Choosing The Right Program, Creativity And Education, Creativity And Logic, Develop Creativity, Developing Creativity, Gifted Test, Giftedness, Intelligent Parenting, Teaching Creativity