Why creativity is important (and how we are killing it)

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up – Pablo Picasso
When was the last time you did something which had no immediate practical application? When did you last do something truly creative? It may have been yesterday, but, more likely, it was a lot longer ago than that. Our creative urges, almost universal in primary school children, are often beaten out of us as the more practical consideration of finding a job for our future becomes the focus. But it doesn’t have to be like this and, in fact, the two can quite happily go hand-in-hand.

Why creativity is important

1. It leads to innovation which leads to progress

moon-walk-60616_960_720Thinking in terms of the macro benefits of creativity to society and the economy for a moment, it makes financial sense. In the business world we need creativity desperately in order to solve the problems which businesses and the wider world face and for businesses to become more effective and efficient. If there is no creativity, where will progress come from?

2. It produces more effective workers in the modern world

Again, to think of the need for creativity in practical and financial terms, modern jobs require much more creativity than they did in the past and will continue to demand it even more. Fostering a child’s creativity and inquisitiveness will fit them better for the world in which they will live and work than pushing them down a narrow corridor of learning purely what is practical and will get you a job right now.

3. It increases mental well-being

photo-1448932133140-b4045783ed9eAlthough we live in perhaps the most prosperous time in history by most measures, many of my peers complain of disaffection and unhappiness in what they do. We are also increasingly concerned for the mental health of children and young people. It is no coincidence that “adult colouring books” are now taking up acres of shop floor space and seen as an effective way to deal with stress. Though, admittedly, these do not demands masses of creativity, their popularity shows that we miss doing something that has no obvious immediate practical application and allows a little creative expression.

4. It promotes greater problem-solving (and less whingeing)

Someone who is engaged in creative activities is more likely to approach problems as something to solve than something to complain about. And funnily enough, proactively addressing problems and not whingeing both make us feel better!

How we are killing creativity

1. Making being wrong a crime

My experience of working in the business world has shown me that many people are almost paralysed by the fear of being wrong. There seems to be an unwritten rule that it is almost better to do nothing than do something wrong. This naturally reduces creativity and thereby, ultimately, effectiveness in the workplace.

2. Teaching to the exam

birger-kollmeier-910261_960_720This is not a criticism of teachers. I was a teacher in a previous life and found myself virtually forced to teach to the exam in some instances. Exploring a topic and following a line of thinking are not rewarded – there isn’t time to go off-topic. I decided to drop Physics at school because it was taught in a very prescriptive manner of copy down the note, learn the note, repeat the note in the exam. Just to be clear, though, this isn’t Physics’ fault and conversations with friends who have taken their study of Physics far beyond the age of 13 have convinced me of the wonder and opportunity for creativity which the subject offers.

3. Demoting the arts in schools

The most obvious manifestation of creativity in schools is the arts, like Music, (English) Literature and Art itself, but we hear reports daily of reductions in funding for these areas and prominent political figures denying their usefulness. The focus is on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. These STEM subjects are fundamental to human progress and should quite rightly form a significant part of a rounded education, but given the prescriptive way they are often taught, where are children going to learn creativity?
In summary, having the opportunity and capacity for creativity make us better workers and happier humans, yet we are inadvertently stifling, if not killing it entirely.

What do you think? Is creativity a luxury or is it something essential? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, please do share it with your friends through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

Want to find out more?

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