Are we ready for creativity?
Sahar Samy, Egypt
13 August, 2016
We are what we think, and if we think better we can be more efficient, creative and proactive… But how many of us stop to think about how we think?
We probably all agree that having an adequate system, processes and procedures in place are instrumental for business and education to grow and succeed. A pilot can’t fly to his exact destination without a set of monitors and gauges to guide the way and make sure everything is progressing well. Likewise, an organization benefits from systems and processes to drive its operational efficiency and help to optimize end-to-end performance.
With such great value brought by systems and methods, surely a chief goal for all organizations should be to implement the system which assists people to think in the most focused and productive ways for particular tasks. If thinking is the most fundamental factor for success, doesn’t it make sense that the best action we could take would be a help people think about thinking?
Although most of us have an intuitive understanding of what it means to be creative, there’s still lots of uncertainty surrounding the nature of this fascinating concept.
We can define creativity as “the incubator and cultivator of new ideas, which are born from existing knowledge and combined to form a new natural pathway in the brain, leading to an original personal thought.”
The key point to take from this definition is that, at its simplest level, creativity related to the mental process that leads to solutions, ideas, concepts, theories or products that are unique.
Creativity is a fundamental driver for innovation – but what is innovation?
It’s “the marriage of creative thinking and sound logic, which when applied together, create a solution or direction for one to explore and deliver.”
On this basis, we can acknowledge that all progress and advancement is coming from creativity at the outset. It’s the catalyst for change. Without it we remain trapped in the past, rehashing the same out-dated concepts.
The interesting thing is that, as children, we were all far more creative than we are today. Stephen Shapiro author of 24/7 Innovation” discuss how this premise has been tested over the years. He reports that in a study which began in 1969, 1600 five-years-old were given a creativity test used by NASA to select the most innovation engineers and scientists in the future. Of those children, a staggering 98% scored in the “highly creative” range.
Five years later, these same children (now ten years old) were re-tested, and only 30% were still rated “high creative” range.
Another five years later, when the children were 15-years-old, just 12% of them were ranked in this category.
More revealing, however, was that 250,000 adults over the age of 25 also took the same test and only 2% of them scored in the high creatives range. So unless you’re five-years-old, the chances are your creativity is severely lacking!
What does this study prove? In the words of Stephen Shapiro, “Creativity is therefore not learned, but rather unlearned.” Creativity is a quality that can be universally found in all of us as young children, but it fades rapidly as we progress towards and reach adulthood. We can liken this “creativity unlearning” process.
Education systems focus on training the mind for storing and analyzing information instead of developing its power to generate new ideas and bring them into being. And they stigmatize mistakes! A fear of being “wrong” frighten a lot of children out of expressing themselves in ways that are even mildly unconventional or different.
People are educated out of their natural creative capacities, in today’s world of accelerated change, creativity is as important in education as literacy and for that reason, we should regard it with the same status and respect.
The good news is we can all be creative, even in the later stages of life. We just have to be very purposeful about it. First, we have to free our minds from the shackles of limited thinking that constrain our creativity. We can then apply directed principles, processes and techniques to stimulate the kind of original thinking that brings the best possible answers to our everyday (and not so every day!) challenges.
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