Can Creativity Be Taught?

Nowadays it is all about creativity and being creative. According to the Oxford Dictionary, creativity is the use of imagination or original idea to create something; inventiveness. But does this original idea come only from within or can it be taught, improved, developed?

There are psychological studies that believe creativity is a blend of being human and being intentional, the result of genetics, environmental influence and application. We might all be creative, but we need to channel creativity through a purpose, otherwise it will not be shown. Of course, creativity is not something mere personal and individual but it finds its way also in communities, where the creative industries are the result of two concepts: the creative arts plus the cultural industries, covering fine arts, music, game design, film/TV production, events, along with advertising and marketing.
Hence, the industry is the vehicle of a symbolic message, but the art is still about experience. For those of us who are not Don Draper and do not experience his creative epiphanies, there are courses of creative writing, creative advertising, storytelling, filmmaking and so on; yet, how much can they teach and be helpful? Remember the eight-year-old you who could create anything out of some sheets of paper, few crayons and some glue? Remember how you could image dangerous adventures and fantastic creatures right in your garden? That was you being creative – and guess what, nobody taught you how to do it. You just let your imagination run free. Growing up we lose this ability and spend our adult life trying to restore it. As John Maeda, former president of Rhode Island School of Design, said, rather than teach it in a traditional sense, creativity can be rekindled in people.

In 1956, Louis R. Mobley created the IBM Executive School believing the key to creativity was to ask questions in a non-linear way. Once you put yourself outside the comfort zone in embarrassing situations you can realize you have never thought of something in that new perspective, so the creative process becomes an unlearning process, rather than a learning one. Mobley believed we do not learn to be creative; we must become creative people, not by attending classes or reading books, but through experiments and games. Particularly helpful is to spend a lot of time with other creative people, as obvious as it sounds, taking all the benefits from this peer-to-peer relationship. Another important aspect for Mobley was the self-knowledge, in order to overcome one’s limits. Eventually, he let his students the permission to be wrong, to find the great idea after many not so good ones, believing there were not bad ideas.

You don’t have to be the next Salvador Dalì or the next IBM leader to be creative nor you need to measure your creativity through your success. Uber and Airbnb are simple ideas, still, it took creative minds to bring these projects to life. A creative mind that has always been in your child mind. You just need to be that disobedient again, see exceptions, question “what if” and overflow with ideas that might never be developed. Your creative mind might improvise and be independent, and overall not be motivated by grades, but be intuitive as a child’s and let your passion creates something new.

Elena Marverti