Declining Creativity: Holy Mackerel, This is a Big Problem!

First, a quick “how did I find this?”  One of the blogs I read almost every day is Larry James’ Urban Daily.  Larry is the CEO of Central Dallas Ministries, and though he writes most often about social problems and social justice (poverty, homlessness), he also has some great surprises.  This morning, he excerpted this article from Newsweek. — his colleague, Dr. Janet Morrison, (who works with “underprivileged inner city students” – she is a marvel!) pointed him to the article.

The article: The Creativity Crisis: For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it.

The article describes how CQ (Creativity Quotient) may be more important than IQ in determining future success.  And the article gives details about data regarding this truth, going back to some legendary tests conducted with the “Torrance kids,” a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by professor E. Paul Torrance.

The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.

  Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

The entire article is a terrific read.  Here are more excerpts:

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

“It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,”

The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.

Overwhelmed by curriculum standards, American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class.

Creativity has always been prized in American society, but it’s never really been understood. While our creativity scores decline unchecked, the current national strategy for creativity consists of little more than praying for a Greek muse to drop by our houses. The problems we face now, and in the future, simply demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration to strike. Fortunately, the science can help: we know the steps to lead that elusive muse right to our doors.

A few comments from me:

Creativity and Innovation are different, but related.  Creativity precedes innovation, and both are critical to future business and societal success.  By the way, in the article, the definition ties the two together: “To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”

Recently, I spoke to a man who helps people start and buy businesses, and he observed that a much, much higher percentage of business purchases these days are franchise businesses than they used to be.  He offered a few implicaitons of this trend.  Here’s one – there’s more of “the same” and less of “ the different.”  Different comes from creativity and innovation  The same is… the same.

It really does appear that we have a need for a creativity and innovation resurgence.  And, the article warns us, it has to start with the right training in school and family at a pretty young age.  So, this may take a while!

Read the article.  Really.  And then… work, more, more often, on nurturing creativity.

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Let me remind you that my favorite book from the 12+ years of the First Friday Book Synopsis is by Twyla Tharp, the award-winning choreographer:  The Creative Habit:  Learn It and Use it For Life.  You can order my synopsis, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  But, I strongly recommend that you actually read the book for yourself.

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