What is creativity?
What is creativity?
Let’s hear from Sir Ken Robinson, one of the leading voices on this subject.
“I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Creative work in any field often passes through typical phases. Sometimes what you end up with is not what you had in mind when you started. It’s a dynamic process that often involves making new connections, crossing disciplines and using metaphors and analogies.
Creativity is about fresh thinking. It doesn’t have to be new to the whole of humanity – though that’s always a bonus – but certainly to the person whose work it is. Creativity also involves making critical judgments about whether what you’re working on is any good, whether it’s a theorem, a design or a poem.
There are various myths about creativity. One is that only special people are creative; another is that creativity is just about the arts; a third is that it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression”. None of these is true. On the contrary, everyone has creative capacities; creativity is possible in whatever you do, and it can require great discipline and many different skills.” Sir Ken Robinson (source here)
TEACHING FOR CREATIVITY
An except from Robert Sternberg and Wendy M. Williams
(source: Center for Development & Learning)
What makes a person creative? Why are some people more creative and others less so? We often think that the creative people are the ones who have some rare and unattainable ability, but it is not so. Creative people are ones who make a decision: They decide to buy low and sell high in the world of ideas. In this article, we first describe this idea of creativity as a decision, which is formalized as an investment theory of creativity. Then we describe 24 tips you can use in your teaching in order to foster creativity in your students and in yourself.
The Investment Theory of Creativity
Buying Low and Selling High
The investment theory of creativity (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995) asserts that creative thinkers are like good investors: They buy low and sell high. Whereas investors do so in the world of finance, creative people do so in the world of ideas. Creative people generate ideas that are like undervalued stocks (stocks with a low price-to-earnings ratio), and both the stocks and the ideas generally are rejected by the public. When creative ideas are proposed, they often are viewed as bizarre, useless, and even foolish, and summarily are rejected. The person proposing them often is regarded with suspicion and perhaps even with disdain and derision.
Creative ideas are both novel and valuable. Why, then, are they rejected? Because the creative innovator stands up to vested interests and defies the crowd. The crowd does not maliciously or willfully reject creative notions; rather it does not realize, and often does not want to realize, that the proposed idea represents a valid and superior way of thinking. The crowd generally perceives opposition to the status quo as annoying, offensive, and reason enough to ignore innovative ideas.
Evidence abounds that creative ideas are rejected (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). Initial reviews of major works of literature and art are often negative. Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby received negative reviews when it was first published, as did Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. The first exhibition in Munich of the Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch, opened and closed the same day because of the strong negative response from the critics. Some of the greatest scientific papers are rejected not just by one, but also by several journals before being published. John Garcia, a distinguished biopsychologist, was summarily denounced when he first proposed that a form of learning called classical conditioning could be produced in a single trial of learning (Garcia & Koelling, 1966).
From the investment view, then, the creative person buys low by presenting a unique idea and then attempting to convince other people of its value. After convincing others that the idea is valuable, which increases the perceived value of the investment, the creative person sells high by leaving the idea to others and then moving on to another idea. Although people typically want others to love their ideas, immediate universal applause for an idea usually indicates that it is not particularly creative.
You can foster creativity by buying low and selling high in the world of ideas–defy the crowd. Creativity is as much a decision about and an attitude toward life as it is a matter of ability. We routinely witness creativity in young children, but it is hard to find in older children and adults because their creative potential has been suppressed by a society that encourages intellectual conformity. We begin to suppress children’s natural creativity when we expect them to color within the lines in their coloring books.
Balancing Analytic, Synthetic, and Practical Abilities
Creative work requires applying and balancing three abilities that can all be developed (Sternberg 1985; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995; Sternberg & Williams, 1996).
Synthetic ability is what we typically think of as creativity. It is the ability to generate novel and interesting ideas. Often the person we call creative is a particularly good synthetic thinker who makes connections between things that other people do not recognize spontaneously.
Analytic ability is typically considered to be critical thinking ability. A person with this skill analyzes and evaluates ideas. Everyone, even the most creative person you know, has better and worse ideas. Without well-developed analytic ability, the creative thinker is as likely to pursue bad ideas as to pursue good ones. The creative individual uses analytic ability to work out the implications of a creative idea and to test it.
Practical ability is the ability to translate theory into practice and abstract ideas into practical accomplishments. An implication of the investment theory of creativity is that good ideas do not sell themselves. The creative person uses practical ability to convince other people that an idea is worthy. For example, every organization has a set of ideas that dictate how things, or at least some things, should be cloned. To propose a new procedure you must sell it by convincing others that it is better than the old one. Practical ability is also used to recognize ideas that have a potential audience.
Creativity requires a balance among synthetic, analytic, and practical abilities. The person who is only synthetic may come up with innovative ideas, but cannot recognize or sell them. The person who is only analytic may be an excellent critic of other people’s ideas, but is not likely to generate creative ideas. The person who is only practical may be an excellent salesperson, but is as likely to sell ideas or products of little or no value as to sell genuinely creative ideas.
Encourage and develop creativity by teaching students to find a balance among synthetic, analytic, and practical thinking. A creative attitude is at least as important as are creative thinking skills (Schank 1988). The majority of teachers want to encourage creativity in their students, but they are not sure how to do so. Those teachers and you can use the 15 strategies presented below to develop creativity in yourselves, your students, and others around you. Although we present the strategies in terms of teachers and students, these strategies apply equally to administrators working with teachers, parents working with children, or people trying to develop their own creativity.” Read the entire article from Sternberg & Williams here.
Where do good ideas come from?
Related posts: See our Ken Robinson Collection, creativity infographics and Two Dozen Tips for Teaching Creativity from Sternberg & Werner here.
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