This is bad news. We have just entered the age of crowdsourcing, consumer generated content, and plethora social media tools and technology that enable consumers and spectators to become creators and broadcasters and it turns out this transformational moment coincides with a measurable decline in creativity.
You know what that means? I do. If there aren’t already enough bad TV spots on air, heinous videos on YouTube and insufferable online ads popping up to take over our screens we can now expect the next generation to produce even more. Egads, the last thing we need is less creativity just when we’ve all become content creators.
The findings are based on tests that have been in use for over 50 years. Pioneered by E. Paul Torrance in 1958, the evaluation system, while not perfect, has accurately predicted kids’ creative accomplishments as adults with enough reliability to remain the de facto standard to this day.
Historically those who’ve done well as children have grown up to become entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, software developers, and, of course, creative directors. Between 1958 and 1990 creativity scores went up; but for the last 18 years they’ve inched downward year after year.
No one knows why this is happening, exactly, but if you have kids in public school, especially those that emphasize standardized testing, you know that we’re not doing much to encourage creativity and problem solving compared to the efforts put into rote memorization.
Interestingly the solution isn’t about teaching more music or art or creative writing necessarily. It’s about problem solving. Neuroscience now informs us that the relationship between the left side of the brain (concentrating on facts and what you know) and the right side (scanning distant memories for relevance) is what yields that aha sensation. And there are exercises and educational approaches that can both stimulate and encourage that catalytic moment.
What should educators and parents do?
1. Emphasize project-based learning. Develop curricula that call for fact finding, idea generation, solution evaluation and implementation.
2. Encourage role playing at a young age. Seeing alternative views and perspectives helps creativity.
3. Don’t answer your kids’ questions; make them explore possible answers on their own.
4. Mate with an opposite: families that celebrate uniqueness enhance flexibility and adaptability.
5. Diligently practice creative activities and problem solving.
Got any other ideas? Besides turning the schools over to Tim Brown and Sir Ken? Please share.