Teaching Creativity

A recent New York Times article titled “Learning to Think Outside the Box: Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline” spotlights a new trend in education: teaching students the art and science of creative thinking.

This is a departure from the standardized, compartmentalized approach that has dominated both secondary and higher education systems for the past century. Many colleges across the country are beginning to offer certificates, minors, Master’s degrees and even PhDs in creative studies, and transdisciplinary studies (the fusion of seemingly unrelated subjects such as, say, art and engineering) are becoming more prevalent.

Education is seen by many as preparation for the job market, and in this instance, the new wave of campus brainstorming sessions is being driven by market demand. The article cites a recent IBM study that surveyed 1,500 chief executives from 33 fields. What was the number one factor they considered critical to their success? Creativity.

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status,” remarks Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education expert. His 2006 Ted Talk “How Schools Kill Creativity”, currently the most-watched Ted Talk of all time, argues that schools are doing a vast disservice to children, society and humanity as a whole by not cultivating this powerful innate capacity for inspiration and innovation.  He has said that “all kids have tremendous talents — and we squander them pretty ruthlessly” and laments that we are “educating people out of their creative capacities.”

The importance of creativity seems obvious, especially in such a dynamic, fast-paced and challenging civilization such as ours. As technology becomes more advanced, it threatens to overtake many of the more left-brained occupations that has powered our growth throughout the 20th century. Pundits and government officials stress the importance of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and indeed these skills will continue to be vital and in high demand in the decades ahead. On the other hand, for someone to invent “the next big thing” and to thrive despite the increasing demands, fast-paced change and global competitiveness of a 2020 world, they will have to be much more than a head full of facts, figures and formulas. They will have to be someone who dreams.