Is creative thinking based on a born ability, or can you learn it like any other skill? Is it nature or nurture? There is research that argues both cases, and I believe you can do both. I would say that we are all born highly creative.
Creative Nature vs. Creative Nurture
Children use problem-solving and their imagination every day. Here's some insight into this creative transition from child to adult. In 1968 George Land tested 1,600 kids to analyze their creative transformation. He focused on three-five-year-old kids and used a creativity test developed by NASA. This test helped identify highly creative engineers, thinkers, and problem solvers. It had proven to be incredibly valuable in NASA's recruiting process.
George Land tested the same kids when they were five, ten, and fifteen years of age. 98% of the five-year-old kids passed the test, 30% of those same kids passed the test at ten years old, and 12% of them passed the test at fifteen years old.
Two hundred eighty thousand adults took the NASA creativity test, and only 2% of them passed. The result of the study was the realization that non-creative behavior is learned as people age.
Unlearning Non-Creative Behavior
Non-creative behaviors fall into two categories: rules and regulations. The educational model that we use today originated in the Industrial Revolution. The purpose of schooling during this time was to produce good workers who followed instructions.
The question then becomes, can you teach creative thinking? I believe you can teach and learn creative thinking. However, you cannot use traditional learning methods like lecturing, reading, testing, memorization, etc. There are many “creative thinking” courses out there that I would call traditional such as one-day courses, talking head on a YouTube video, or a “guru” speaking on stage.
When it comes to creative learning skills, you first must unlearn by breaking old habits and patterns. Intensify the breaking of old habits by creating new muscle memory. Getting out of the comfort zone is also a big part of this, and it starts with humility. People often come into my workshops with an ego problem stemming from prior successes. Ego is one of the most significant barriers that leaders have when trying to rediscover their creative thinking. Overall, it's an unlearning process, not a learning process.
Unlocking Creative Potential
You don't become a Marine by reading a book. Instead, you go through intense boot camp experiences. Likewise, you don't learn to be creative. You become creative from intense experiences. Becoming creative entails various challenges and tests that put you under stress. Remember the military model and how you can apply it to teaching and learning creative thinking skills.
You should also hang out with creative people that have experience because it creates community. In the Innovation Boot Camp course, we give those who complete the course a callsign— which signifies the experience they went through and achieved. The callsign is a symbol to wear. When we run into someone who has taken the course, we share that common experience of creating community.
The Innovation Boot Camp is a great way to unlearn bad behavior stemming from rules, regulations, and assumptions. The boot camp puts every student into a very intense experience. We start with a blank sheet of paper on Monday and a finished product to pitch on Friday.
To know more about creative thinking, listen to this week's show: Is Creative Thinking Based on Nature or Nurture?