This the third and last post in a series from veteran educator and interview coach Charlie Margolis on creativity, higher order thinking and raising creative children. You can view the first post and second post - and then finish the discussion below!
Whether or not a child fully develops his/her creative potential depends – to a large degree – on the environment. At home and in school, children need to experience activities which are engaging, motivational, open-ended (with no predetermined answer) and – let’s not forget – fun. It is crucial that the creative environment is accepting and supportive. For children, creative experience is play. The make-up games, turn utensils toys, and allow their imaginations to take them to other worlds. Daydreaming, often considered to be a waste of time, is an integral part of the creative process. Children need to feel they can risk trying-out new ideas, materials and methods. Give children permission to take a risk. Ask questions and try not to be judgmental. The very fact that something is creative implies that it represents a new standard. Whether constructing a fort out of cardboard cartons or making-up rhymes (we call it poetry when adults do it), all children are naturally creative and possess an unlimited capacity to learn.
The Characteristics of Creative Thinkers
Creativity can be expressed in every aspect of life. The creative process is associative. It has to do with “seeing” from a new viewpoint and trying novel combinations. The results are new ideas, discoveries and applications. While there is no such thing as a creative personality, creators generally display behaviors which contribute to their process.
Energy - Creativity is like a rechargeable battery; it is a renewable energy source.
Focus – The creative process doesn’t turn-on & off, like a light. Creators are always thinking, about their problem, even when they sleep.
Open Minds - Most people habituate; that is, they do things in the same way, every time. Creators are willing to try things that haven’t been tried before. They challenge habitual ways of thinking.
Creators challenge assumptions and suspend judgment. Creators redefine what is possible.
Explorers - Creators are explorers. Like the early American pioneers, they don’t always know where they are going or what they will find, but they are always looking.
Tenacity - Creative individuals exhibit an unwavering resolve. They are neither discouraged nor defeated by unanticipated events, circumstances or obstacles.
Resilience - When creators fail – which happens often – they recover and rebound, rather than giving-up and placing blame. Creators view every failed attempt as information that will inevitably lead to success.
Play - Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Do you remember what it was like to play? There were no rules, goals or judgments. It was pure fun for its own sake. Play is an integral part of the creative process.
Horizontal Thinking - The term horizontal thinking was introduced by Edward de Bono. Traditional vertical thinking is logical and convergent; step A is followed by step B, and so forth. Creativity is much less linear. It can go from Step C to step W and back to A. Thus, horizontal thinking expands outward, rather than upward.
Discovering Common Characteristics - Creativity people are like anthropologists. Creative people see connections between disparate things. By combining two or more apparently unrelated ideas, objects or functions, they create something new.
Making Metaphors - Metaphors and analogies play an important role in the creative process. T Revealing new relationships can be artistic and insightful.
Reframing - Viewing common things in a novel ways is called reframing. Sometimes creativity involves reconciling ideas which are apparently contradictory. Can poison have medical applications?
Curiosity - Curiosity is the motivating factor for many creative individuals. They want to know, how, when and why something happens. Creative thinkers are compelled to express their vision to find a better way.
Courage - Creativity requires a high degree of courage. Trying anything new involves risking failure. Creators are not discouraged by rejection.
Risk Taking - Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the creative thinker is the willingness to take a risk. For the creator, failure provides invaluable information and experience. While the unknown scares most people, creators seek it.
Intrinsic Motivation - While most people work for external rewards – money, grades, fame, etc – creators work from the “inside-out.” This is called intrinsic motivation. These persons are self-starters whose satisfaction comes from the process as much as the outcome.
Obsession - Creativity requires dedication and hard work. Creators are obsessed with what they are doing. Their minds are always “in gear,” even when they are sleeping.
Imagination - Picasso said he would like to draw like a child. Indeed, a child’s imagination a wonderful thing. As we grown older, we seem to lose-touch with the capacity to create fantasy worlds. There are no limits to the imagination. Dreams, fantasizing and imagination are integral parts of the creative process. Allowing the mind to focus inward provides freedom to freely associate.
Collaboration - Until recently, it was assumed that creativity was an isolated activity. Now, it is understood that people can be interactive resources for ideas. Many cutting-edge companies promote interaction among peers as ways of exchanging ideas and promoting creativity.
“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.” - Maya Angelou, American poet