This is the second installation of a four-part series on Cultivating Creativity Basics. In this post, I do some myth busting and share with you what a creative mindset looks like. I write about cultivating creativity once a month.
“Oh, that is so clever. I wish I could do that.” “Wow, I wish I had your creative ability.” I am certain that we have both uttered and received compliments like these. The underlying wishful thinking often grows from the unquestioned acceptance that some people are just born with it and some people aren’t.
Myth #1 Creativity is a trait you are born with
We all know that someone in our lives who is innately creative. We admire their ability to create something through the connection of disparate ideas. We wish we were like them when faced with a problem, a blank canvas or an empty page. We catch ourselves wishing we were born with more creative juice in our head.
But did you know that we were ALL born with more creative juice? Some people call this creative juice, “divergent thinking”. It isn’t the same as creative thinking but having divergent thinking indicates a capacity for creative thinking.
In George Land and Beth Jarman’s book Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today, they present the results of an assessment tool for testing creative capacity. Of the 1,600 children that took the test, 98% scored at a genius level in divergent thinking when they were 5 years old. This same test was run again with the same children at ages 10 and 15. At 10 years of age, the percentage that scored at the high level dropped to 30% and at 15 years old, it dropped further to just 12%. When this same test was administered to adults, only 2% scored at the high level. These results indicate that we somehow unlearn divergent thinking, and this unlearning stalls creativity.
Now, the academic in me questions the verifiability of these results as these figures were not published anywhere else. That’s beside the point. You just need to observe your little ones, especially between the ages of 0-5, to realise that their brain capacity for divergent thinking is way more than ours.Confirmed: Myth #1 We are ALL born with the capacity for creativity Click To Tweet
Myth #2 Creativity can be learned
Since we are all born with the capacity for creative thinking and we somehow unlearn it, is there a way of re-learning it? That is the wrong question to ask. “Re-learning” makes it sound like it is an ‘other’, a separate thing that we have to be acquainted with, like the driving of a car or learning how to play the flute. I would much rather have us ask: if we are all born with the capacity for creative thinking, how can we BE creative? How can we open the floodgates of thinking creatively once more? What are the ways of establishing creativity as the new norm?
Since children have the highest level of “creative juice”, observing them would be the best place to start. Below are the 5 key characteristics I have observed that make up a creative mindset:
- They have insatiable curiosity – This statement requires neither justification nor explanation.
- They don’t ever stop observing their surroundings – This might not be readily apparent but you just need to read these articles at Huffington Post to realise that they observe more than what we give them credit for.
- Unrelated objects are made relatable – In my home, dinosaurs live in My Little Pony castles. They don’t conform to what is acceptable but invent new ways of looking at things.
- They can be tenacious – Children cannot be easily swayed from a conviction until they prove it otherwise for themselves. The square block can fit through the triangle hole and I will try and try until I can prove it to myself that it doesn’t because the square block fits through the round hole.
- They are doers – This is probably the biggest takeaway. Children take action. They make. They run. They touch. They DO.
Children don’t turn these characteristics on and off. They are constant. Ever-present. Because we are all born with it, we have these characteristics. They are just a little bit rusty. So with some oiling and practise, we should be good to go. In my next post, I will share my thoughts on how to get us practising.
BUSTED: Myth #2
Creativity can be learned.
- Read more about the Creativity Mindset in children at User Generated Education by Jackie Gerstein.
- George Land gave an insightful TEDx Talk in 2011.
Read: Part 1 of Cultivating Creativity Basics: My Garden of Eden. Next up: Part 3 of Cultivating Creativity Basics: the Creative Habit. See you next month!