Creativity – A Queenswood Quality
Tuesday 26 April 2016
Society needs creativity. We need people to invent things, solve problems, and make beautiful objects to enrich our experiences. We depend on the creativity of people to help us survive and flourish. People do say things like, “I’m not really very creative”. Perhaps what they mean is that they are not particularly strong in obvious fields of creativity such as art and design, creative writing, or composing music… but we can be creative in any field.
I take creativity to mean thinking outside the box, approaching an issue from a different angle, making something new and valuable. It could be an idea or a scientific theory, an invention or a literary work.
How does creativity happen?
Is it connected with intelligence? Is it confined to certain personality types? What are the neurological processes at work? On the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, we might wonder how it is that one man could create such wonderful plays and poetry.
Creativity in Schools
It is important for schools to consider how creativity can be encouraged. We have to be careful that there is not too much emphasis on receiving knowledge and testing understanding of quite a narrow field. The emphasis on testing and league tables and promoting the idea that there is a correct answer to everything, works against creativity. It constrains rather than frees our minds. Many have observed that young children seem to be naturally creative, so does secondary education have a damaging affect or does freedom to think imaginatively naturally decline in teenage years?
There is some research that suggests creativity is on the decline. One US researcher has found that data indicates that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” This researcher has clearly not met Queenswood pupils!
According to the research, all aspects of creativity have declined, but the biggest decline is in the measure called Creative Elaboration, which assesses the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way. Ken Robinson in his brilliant book, The Element, argues that schools really need to review opportunities to be creative. He argues that schools need “to offer a richer vision of human ability and creativity,” urging schools to understand “the benefits to us all of connecting properly with our individual talents and passions.”
Some schools do not have a broad enough take on intelligence so they do not encourage creativity enough. They teach pupils to get the right answers rather than encouraging them to question, to think outside the box, to make connections.
Five Ways to Be More Creative
This BBC article explores how we can help ourselves be creative and what happens to our brains at moments of creativity. It suggests that we can improve our creativity, helping us to approach problems differently or have new ideas and thought processes, through simple steps such as making small changes to the daily routine, taking a break and working on a mundane task, or improvising in the manner of jazz musicians or cartoonists. Perhaps most importantly, we should cut out all distractions, for it states that “prolific children’s author Roald Dahl allowed very few people into his famous garden writing hut, while Jonathan Franzen famously wrote his 2001 novel The Corrections at times wearing earplugs, earmuffs and a blindfold.”
Creative Freedom in Our Daily Routines
We tend to have a time of the day when we work most efficiently. We might be a morning person or an evening person. This is sometimes referred to as our peak circadian arousal time. Interestingly studies have shown that these times are not always the best for creative thinking. We have too much brainpower at such times and creativity might come at our off peak time.
Recent research confirms this idea. In a paper published last December in the journal Thinking and Reasoning , psychologist Mareike Wieth and her colleagues found that when people have to solve “insight problems” that require a high degree of creativity, solvers are much more successful when they tackle these problems at the time of day in which they are least alert. In Out Of Our Minds Ken Robinson talks about creativity: “This quality is so important in our fast changing world which is complex and the future is unknowable. People who will be front runners think of solutions to problems e.g. energy saving, new technologies. We need entrepreneurs, innovators, creative people.”
So it is important that we are not straitjacketed into just learning what’s on the syllabus. It is good for us as individuals and good for society that people are given plenty of opportunities to be creative and for this we need times when our minds can wander.