Creativity at Work Newsletter, July/August 2010
Is America suffering from a creativity crisis? Pundits have been buzzing about this question ever since Newsweek ran “The Creativity Crisis“ as their cover story last month.
“For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it?”
Creativity tests, developed by E. Paul Torrance, have been used for over 50 years to measure the creative thinking skills of children. Scholars have been tracking the children, since that time, recording creations such as patents, businesses founded, publications, art exhibitions, hardware innovations, public policies created, leadership positions, and buildings designed.
It turns out the Torrance test is surprisingly accurate in predicting future creative outputs.
The average Torrance scores of U.S. children rose steadily until 1990, but have since declined. It is the scores of younger children in America — from kindergarten through sixth grade — for whom the decline is ‘most serious.’
The report, authored by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, says creativity outside the U.S. is rising: throughout Europe and Asia, schools that once encouraged rote learning are embracing creativity, while the trend in the U.S is to focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.
Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom. The argument that we can’t teach creativity because kids already have too much to learn is a false trade-off. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process.
American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class. Hmm. So do managers in the work place. Yet a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs says creativity is the number one ‘leadership competency’ of the future.
Students need to learn how to solve problems, and how to conceptualize, not how to memorize everything the teacher says. Creative thinking should be integrated in the school curriculum.
So, what is creativity learning exactly?
- questioning and challenging assumptions, information.
- making connections and seeing relationships between people, places and things
- envisaging what might be
- exploring ideas, keeping options open
- reflecting critically on ideas, actions and outcomes.
Creativity is just as important in science and engineering as it is in art and design. The most creative people in any discipline have the ability to combine ideas from disparate domains and combine them in novel ways to create something new and useful. If creativity is not incorporated in schools and in the workplace, the consequences will indeed be felt in the marketplace.
Canada has everything going for it — except innovation
Canada isn’t off the hook. John Armstrong, a member of the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Growth, says “Canada’s lack of innovation results in poor productivity,” (Globe and Mail July 14, 2010) but he doesn’t make the connection between creativity and innovation.
Experts have been reporting on the Canada’s dismal innovation record for years. Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto, says “Innovation is not invention. [Canada’s] innovation policy is actually an invention policy and that is why it is doing so little for the economy. The key is to move from a producer-driven perspective to a consumer-driven perspective – from invention to innovation.”
Martin says, invention is producer-focused —the invention is something the inventor wants for himself/herself. “Innovation works backwards from the user or the consumer. An innovation makes possible the meeting of a consumer need – whether articulated or not – in a value-adding way that wasn’t previously possible.” Source: Canada at 150: Rising to the challenge http://can150.ca/guest-blog-by-roger-martin/
Kevin Lynch is vice-chair, Bank of Montreal Financial Group does make the connection between creativity and innovation, in the Globe’s Report on Business July 21, 2010:
Creativity lies at the heart of modern competitiveness. Innovation is the ability to create new products and services, to produce existing products in new ways, and to develop new markets. It drives productivity; it drives growth; and it drives our living standards.
I have been teaching this for years, and I’m glad business leaders are finally realizing that creativity is a crucial element of the innovation equation.
Forget about brainstorming?
Ironically, the subject of brainstorming has been getting bad press lately. An article on the failure of brainstorming, was featured in Newsweek’s report on creativity, and was immediately denounced by the creativity and innovation consulting community. Have a look at Marty Baker’s “Creativity Central” blog.
Journal of Business Strategy, Volume 31 issue 4, has published a special issue on creatively intelligent companies and leaders: Arts-based learning for business. Guest edited by Harvey Seifter and Ted Buswick
The Dean of Pixar University explains what schools must do to prepare students (and themselves) for new models in the workplace. He makes a compelling case for arts-based learning to develop 21st century thinking skills.
About The Creativity at Work Newsletter
The Creativity at Work Newsletter provides overviews of new research in creativity and innovation, ‘best practices’ of leading organizations, links to new or relevant websites and an array ideas and techniques from innovation experts