Creativity: are we really encouraging it?
Creativity is one of the trendy words nowadays when we talk about education and work. It is usually related to innovation and it is considered one of the most important skills a person should have in the workplace in order to solve problems and come up with new ideas. “Think out of the box”, “Step out of your bubble”, “Take risks” are some of the advice business articles on creativity offer. It is so valued that it is frequently mentioned as an essential 21st century skill students should acquire at school to succeed in life and in their careers. Leaving aside the pedagogical aspect of creativity – which I am going to discuss later on – being creative has become a demand from the market. New ideas generate profit and more opportunities for the ones who have good ideas. And as a demand, many schools have been working to foster creativity in their students so that they become prepared to face a world in which innovation is gold.
As professionals in education, we understand the importance of creativity in the development of our students. As Jean Piaget said “the principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” Creativity, in this sense, is a skill for life and for the development of humankind. When required in class, it usually aims at engaging students in the learning process, considering them subjects and showing them the power they already have – which I believe is the real beauty of creativity: it does not empower people; it materializes the power they have when they create.
After this introduction on the importance of creativity, the logical path would probably be to number a few steps on how to foster creativity, but I would like to propose a reflection based on the following question: is creativity something people acquire or is it something we inhibit instead and then try to encourage?
In this period of my life, I have been living with very young children and it is impossible not to notice how creative they are and how fast they come up with ways to solve their problems and get what they want. However, when we grow up and go to schools or offices, it usually seems that we need tools and strategies to foster creativity because we don’t know how to do things in a different way. I am not a psychologist, not even a pedagogue, but it seems to me that there is something in the middle of this process that inhibit the creativity kids have so that we, adults and professionals, need to find new ways to encourage their lost creativity, a creativity that we not even know we have. And then a characteristic that should provide self-realization and help people deal with their everyday issues become a necessity and an obligation – something that the school and the job market require you to have – and the pleasure of being aware of your creativity becomes a burden of not being able to be the creative person you should be.
Are we creating too many rules? Are we imposing a pattern of behavior for everyone? Are we asking for something “different” when what we really expect is “the same”? I’ve seen myself in that position many times before. I’ve put out sparks and then tried to ignite the ashes.
And perhaps the secret to deal with creativity is not having secrets, or formulas, or steps. Perhaps when we free ourselves from the pressure of creativity, then we can actually be creative and inspire our students, workmates and friends to be their kind of creative.