Creativity – myths and facts

Creativity – myths and facts

Posted by on Jul 19, 2014 in Creativity and education

Creativity – myths and facts

For my first blog I have decided to launch a series of articles on creativity, mainly aimed at parents and teachers. As a creativity trainer and designer of many creativity programs over the last twenty years I have seen and heard many misconceptions regarding creativity. So let me see if I can separate some of the myths from the facts.

One of the fathers of creativity, Paul Torrance, was asked to develop a training program for the American Air force during the Korean War that would prepare pilots for extreme danger and circumstances and possible brutish treatment. After intense research, Torrance realised that the most critical ingredient for survival, is creative thinking.

What do you associate creativity with? Drawing pictures or making cute cushion covers? This brings us to the first myth regarding creativity.

Myth #1 – you have to be artistic to be creative

Parents and teachers both tend to refer to ‘creative children’ as those who show artistic talent. So, those who can draw, play a musical instrument well or have a flair for the dramatic – they are creative! In truth, artistic talent is one corner of the large creative tapestry. True creative talent can be found in the ability to generate ideas, to make plans to get out of a fix, to improve something, to do it differently. When a group of children were asked to define creativity after they attended a creativity workshop, one said, “Creativity is singing in your own key”! By the way, there is no shortage of definitions out there. How about these for starters: Creativity is: Wanting to know; Taking risks; Being flexible; Seeing the flip-side; Challenging the ordinary/ the one right answer; Shifting paradigms; Looking at the world with fresh eyes?

Myth #2 – you are either born creative or you are not

Results of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, show that 98% children up to the age of five who complete this test, score in the ‘exceptional creativity’ category. The message is clear – we are all born highly creative. The challenge for teachers and parents are to nurture and grow this natural ability. The same set of results, however, show that the opposite is happening. By age 10 only around 30% are still scoring in this category, by age 15, it stands at 10% and only about 2% of adults still manage this score. Somehow the ‘system’ slowly but surely diminishes our natural ability to ‘challenge the ordinary’ and turns us into beings who think there is only one right answer, who think being wrong is the worst thing that can happen to us and that blending in gets us more brownie points than being different.

Someone once said, “Children go to school with 12 coloured crayons; but leave with one blue pen.” And Neil Postman said, “Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.” Somehow, we will have to keep creativity alive in the hearts and minds of our children. The 21st century is tailored towards those who think on their feet, who are comfortable with dynamic change and who embrace the next challenge. In a next article, I will look at ways to grow creativity in our children and in ourselves.

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been!” – George Elliot

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