Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What is Creativity?

Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional rules, patterns, beliefs, relationships, and ways of doing things. Creative thinking can result in meaningful new ideas, a variety of approaches to problems, new ways to get things done, and an open minded approach to life’s challenges and pleasures.

For many of us, creativity is usually associated with the arts and design; it is of course an essential element in scientific thinking, engineering, and cooking, but creativity is also an incredibly useful tool in the mundane areas of our lives – solving practical, everyday problems …

Here’s an example:
On a hot summer afternoon long ago, before cell phones and regular paychecks, a young man was driving along a deserted road when a sudden THUD and loud grating sound made it clear that something, not so good, had happened to his aged car. A quick examination determined that the gas tank has escaped its rusting brackets, and fallen to the ground.

For some people (me) this would be a crisis, cause for panic. For this guy, it was merely a problem to be solved. He found a bag of old ties meant for Goodwill in the trunk of the car, and a stack of wire hangers meant for the dry cleaners. He knew that ties, especially silk, are very strong, and he’d learned to tie knots in a sailing class. He combined the flexible hangers and the ties into a sling, tied the gas tank in place, and drove off to the nearest gas station.
Good thinking! His clever solution demonstrated the characteristics of all creative problem solvers. He :
  • Identified and stated the problem – the gas tank fell down.
  • Analyzed the different elements of the problem – the gas tank is heavy, tow trucks are expensive, driving like this can create dangerous sparks.
  • Developed several alternative solutions – call for help, slide something under the tank, lift it, etc.
  • Selected and/or created an appropriate method for solving the problem - knot the ties, shape the hangers.
  • Implemented the solution – just do it.
  • And, evaluated the outcome of his actions – this time it worked.
So, what can each of us do to help our kids become creative thinkers and problem solvers?

In my opinion, it’s really not that hard. In my years of teaching, research and writing about creativity one idea stands out above all others – the most effective way to encourage creative thinking is to model the characteristics you are hoping to see - openness to lots of ideas, a willingness to listen, observing with all your senses, curiosity, a sense of play, and most important of all – a willingness to fail – to get things wrong and to try a different way. I believe that trash cans are essential tools when teaching creativity.

In other words, when encouraging creative thinking, attitude is everything. But, strategies help too ...

Please keep reading this blog for strategies, activities, resources, ideas all with one thing in mind, inspiring ideas.