Creativity & Education

Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.

According to research, all of us have a creative gene.

At around about the age of five, we are using about 80% of our creative potential. 

We invent daily – no matter that our inventions have been invented before, the fact is that we are innovating at a remarkable rate.

In a longitudinal test of creative potential, a NASA study found that of 1,600 4- and 5-year-olds, 98 percent scored at “creative genius” level. Five years later, only 30 percent of the same group of children scored at the same level, and again, five years later, only 12 percent.

When the same test was administered to adults, it was found that only two percent scored at this genius level.

What happened?

Education happened.

According to the study, our creativity is drained by our education.

As we learn to excel at convergent thinking–or the ability to focus and hone our thoughts–we squash our instinct for divergent, or generative, thought.

Ever since the 1950s, children have undergone a test for tracking their creativity, in similar fashion to the IQ test. Professor E. Paul Torrance developed the series of tasks, which are administered by a psychologist, to a subject to measure the person’s ability to produce something original and useful. No task has a “right “ answer, because being creative requires someone to generate a variety of unique ideas and then combine them into the best result.

Like the IQ test, these Torrance test results have been tracked and analysed ever since their inception. Every generation, IQ scores have gone up – this is not surprising, given the advancement in the availability of information, instantly and at our fingertips.

As this has advanced, so has our societal intelligence. However, the creativity scores had also been going up in the same way as their IQ equivalents until the 1990s, upon which these scores have consistently dropped in American children.

This is a serious problem – creativity defines our ability to be successful in the workplace, in our world? Without creative thinkers how can we solve world problems? How can we keep up with the constant changes?  

Instead of rising to meet the challenges of the day, our outdated and bureaucratic school systems are busy “teaching to the test.”  Instead of “No Child Left Behind”, they are all being left behind and are (all) ill-prepared to succeed in the new post-truth era of business…and life.

Today, we live in a world of dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and ruthless competition.  We can no longer rely on the models of the past in order to win. Today, we need an entirely new approach.  Unfortunately, the rigid and formulaic educational system is robbing the next generation of their competitive edge.

So what can we do about it? 

Most of the problem lives in the system, not in the passionate teachers who desperately want to develop hungry minds.  In fact, we should honour and celebrate teachers, as there isn’t a more noble and rewarding profession. Even within the stifling factory system, teachers can break free and liberate the minds of their pupils. 

These concepts are top priority, and can be embraced immediately:

1.       Teach creative problem solving over rote memorisation. How to reach an answer is far more important than making the right choice on a standardized test and then forgetting the concept the next day.

2.       Teach kids to challenge assumptions instead of accepting things “as is.” Success is no longer about following an operating manual. It is about imagining the possibilities and real-time innovation.

3.       Teach that mistakes are not evil, and should not be feared. Make sure kids learn that mistakes aren’t fatal – they’re simply the portals of discovery.

4.       Drive diversity of thought over conformity. World progress occurs by challenging conventional wisdom and approaching problems with fresh perspective.  Following the herd is a sure-fire path to mediocrity.

5.       Forster imagination and curiosity. No longer optional, creativity has become the currency of success for us all. This applies to CEO’s and sports-moms (parents).  Musicians and military leaders. Engineers and educators.

Developing the ‘Creative Class’ mindset will allow kids to win in the future instead of falling victim to a broken system.  If we don’t make the philosophical shift to teach critical thinking instead of rule-following memorisation, our very status as an economic superpower will soon be in jeopardy.

While we’re at it, why stop with kids?  Funny enough, these are the same principles needed for any organization to thrive.  Let’s learn from the deficit facing our children.  It’s time to empower our teams, colleagues and ourselves with the same mission-critical ingredients for success.

In the words of Charles Barkley, “Anything less would be uncivilised.”

The 5-year-old in us never goes away, though.

Thanks for reading


Published by Riff

Husband to my inspirational, (long suffering,) wife Gail, father to two, amazing (adult) children, Aubrey & Perri, teacher, former guitarist. When I started this blog I quickly became granda(r) to my beautiful, first grandson Henderson. Grandparenting, something I was relishing but had began to believe I would not get to experience. I now have three incredible grandsons, Henderson, Fennec and just days ago Nate. I Love people. I love my family, my incredible friends, I have love(d) what I do (my Job), I love Music, Glastonbury Festival, Cars, Everton .... I love many things but, most of all, I fucking love life.

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