Nov 4, 2011

How to teach creativity?

Two basic questions need to be addressed before answering the big question:
What is creativity? [a question as big as: What is God?].
It has been argued that "when we all think alike, nobody is thinking." It has also been said this conversation took place:

M. A. Rosanoff: "Mr. Edison, please tell me what laboratory rules you want me to observe."
Edison: "There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish somep'n!

Creativity implies thinking afresh and some degree of destruction of the past (Schumpeter, may be Picasso). Imagination and fantasy are prerequisites of a creative thought (it seems that Carl Jung conceptualized creativity along those lines). Eccentricity and constant exploration have also been linked to creativity. It is argued that Albert Einstein said: "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources" [which I am trying to do in this post!]. It is also popularly argued that nothing succeeds like failure. And probably negative moods are linked to creativity. Others argue that formal structures, either educational or other types kill creativity, which means that children are more creative than adults. There is also the distinction between experimental innovation and conceptual innovation. Experimental innovation goes more in line with the arguments in the book Outliers. Conceptual innovations are more in line with what Joel Mokyr calls macro-inventions
If you google "creativity" in google-images, it is mostly about light. And if you google "light," you realize that there can't be light without darkness
My definition: creativity is to create something new that adds value. And, actually, this coincides with the definition in the Handbook of Creativity (1999: 3); it also very similar to the Wikipedia definition, which is fantastic, but still limited!
This book is an interesting finding of this post. 
Can creativity be taught?
Creativity can be taught if one think of it as an attitude towards life. The attitude of questioning. This does not mean to question everything [or may be it does], but it does mean to picture an imaginative question mark on the very simple ideas of life, those that are consider standard or "normal," and letting go certainties (as it is argued Erick Fromm said). Absolute certainty is the killer of creativity [probably indirectly as a killer of imagination].  
It has been argued that Leonardo da Vinci said:
I roamed the countryside searching for the answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plant and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightening becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life.
How to teach creativity? 
If creativity is an attitude towards life, what is the best way to foster it at universities. Art and literature are usually linked to creative thinking, and probably more specifically with regard to originality. One avenue to foster creativity therefore is to make art and literature more present in the curricula -- like arts across the curriculum [of course one needs to be creative about how to accomplish this!]. It is very likely that some schools are already doing this, probably The Evergreen College, although they might focus more on interdisciplinary work rather than art and literature.   

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