A survey of more than 1,500 CEO’s from around the world asked what makes a great business person. The trait identified as most important was not intelligence or even hard work, it was creativity. And yet, it appears that with each generation, IQ test scores rise a little more, and creativity drops to a little less. I would guess that reflects our cultural bias. We do a great deal to encourage our children to be smart, but we figure kids are just naturally creative, and don’t need any encouragement there.
I don’t have any desire to become a CEO, but I think creativity is very important. It is fun. When you come up with something new, that wasn’t there before, or you turn a situation over and see it from a different angle, when your idea is original, that is really exciting and satisfying. We owe it to our children to help them develop the skills to enjoy the pleasure that creativity can bring.
And creativity is something that can be taught, learned, and developed. Surprisingly, one of the first steps in becoming creative is learning to follow the rules! Many of the most creative pursuits depend on adhering to rules and constraints. For example, origami is a fun, creative craft that says the rules are no cutting, no pasting, only folding. The rules create the game! Poets use rules of rhyme and meter to be creative, artists learn the rules of perspective and color and texture, dancers and gymnasts and composers all must master the rules and limitations of their arts to be creative. And of course, with that mastery comes the ability to break rules creatively, like e.e. cummings, who capitalized creatively.
Another aspect of creativity that is often overlooked is that the delightful “Ah ha!” moments are the results, usually, of long periods of work and effort. Creativity is enormously fun, and seldom effortless. Know, and let your kids know, that hours of practice are the normal route to creativity. Other ways to lead your children to more creative lives:
Art is fun, but it is not the only way to be creative. See what types of problems your kids like getting creative with. Creative recycling? Creative room cleaning?
Encourage curiosity. When asked why he became a scientist, one Nobel Prize winner said that when he came home from school as a child, his mother did not ask, “What did you learn today?” She asked, “Did you ask any good questions today?”
Allow messes. And allow “failures”. Get excited and happy with your children when they are creative, be an enthusiastic audience.
Be a good example. Let your kids see you try to solve problems through trial and error, brainstorm ideas with them, observe and comment on creative problem solving you see around you. Have fun!