Top Ten Lessons Learned About Creativity

Post by Lark E. Mills (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)

In a previous post, I outlined a comprehensive recap of Lin Kahn’s three part workshop, Creativity and Adversity: Overcoming Workplace Challenges on 9/25/2012, 10/2/2012 & 10/9/2012. Because it can be easy to forget all we’ve learned, I put together this top 10 list, a resource you can file away and return to when you need to be reminded of your creative potential. 

1. Everybody Has Tremendous Creative Capacities

  • You are 100 percent creative but you have internal and external blocks that prevent you from tapping into your creativity.
  • “You cannot use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” –Maya Angelou
  • “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” –Pablo Picasso

2. Creativity Is Not Just for the Arts

  • “Creativity is a function of everything we do. A big part of being creative is looking for new ways of doing things within whatever activity you are involved in.” –Sir Ken Robinson

3. Creativity and Critical Thinking Go Hand in Hand

  • In A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson, he explains that genuine creativity is more than coming up with fresh ideas; it also involves evaluating those ideas to determine if they make sense.

4. Creativity Is a Disciplined Process, Not a Single Event

  • “Creative work requires applying and balancing three abilities [synthetic, analytic and practical] that can all be developed.” –Sternberg and Williams
  • “A creative process may begin with a flash of a new idea or with a hunch. It may just start as noodling around with a problem, getting some fresh ideas along the way.” –Sir Ken Robinson
  • The Graham Wallas Model for the creative process involves four basic stages: (1) preparation: intense research and study on the problem; (2) incubation: thoughts about the problem are left dormant, allowing subconscious ideas to emerge; (3) illumination: a sudden, intuitive insight about the problem emerges; and (4) verification: the idea is tested, evaluated and validated.

5. Creativity Transpires through Collaboration

  • The great scientific breakthroughs have almost always come through some form of fierce collaboration among people with common interests but with very different ways of thinking. […] collaboration, diversity, the exchange of ideas, and building on other people’s achievements are at the heart of the creative process.” –Sir Ken Robinson 

6. Creative People Are Persistent

  • “If you hear a voice within you that says, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gough
  • “It is through dogged determination that highly creative persons take their energies and translate their dreams into realities.” –Leslie Owen Wilson

7. Creative People Are Divergent Thinkers

  • JP Guilford identified three aspects of divergent thinking: (1) fluency: the ability to come up with many solutions to one problem in a short time; (2) flexibility: the capacity to consider many alternatives at same time; and (3) originality: the difference between a person’s ideas and those of most other people.

8. Creativity Can Be Taught

  • We can learn to practice divergent thinking, which involves envisioning multiple ways to solve a problem.
  • In A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson, he distinguishes between teaching creatively (making content interesting by connecting it to student interests) and teaching for creativity (encouraging students to experiment and innovate through critical thinking).

9. Passion Fuels Creativity

  • “It’s a fundamental human truth that people perform better when they are in touch with things that inspire them. […] People often achieve their best work when they connect with a particular medium or set of materials or processes that excites them.[…] If you combine a personal aptitude with a passion for that same thing, then you go to a new place creatively.” –Sir Ken Robinson
  • When we are doing things based solely on extrinsic rewards, our creativity is stifled. When we are working form a source of intrinsic motivation, our passion levels go up and space is created to let creative juices flow through us.

10. Adversity Can Serve as a Creative Muse

  • “Drawing and painting are one of the things that give me a release and allow me to relax and clear my head and put things into perspective. You can never completely get over loss, but whenever things start to pile up, you can either collapse under pressure or you can get stronger.” –Aaron Maybin
  • “Negative emotions can inspire us rather than overwhelm us.” –Leslie Owen Wilson
What lessons have you learned about creativity? What is one of your favorite quotes about creativity? We’d love to hear from you.

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