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Non-creativity is a learned trait and the good news is, so is Creativity

January 15th, 2015

In 1993 George Land, who is a US general systems scientist (whatever that means) undertook a longitudinal study of 1,600 children of various ages in which he administered a modified standard creativity test that had originally been developed by him for NASA to help in the selection of engineers.

The results of his study were published in a book he co-authored with Beth Jarman called Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering The Future Today. The children were tested for their creativity at kindergarten age, then at age 10, age 15 and finally 200,000 adults were tested. Those who scored 10 out of 10 on the test were classified as being in the genius category.

Here are the results of the longitudinal study showing the percentage of those tested who fall into the “Genius” category for each age cohort:

Age 3-5     98%

Age 8-10   32%

Age 13-15  10%

Adults         2%

Scary isn’t it?

Land concluded “non-creative behavior is learnt.” He now works with various organizations to help them re-capture the creative capacity of humans. Edward de Bono also believes that creativity can be developed as do others including Sir Ken Robinson (join the other 32.179 million people who have watched his TED talk on how schools kill creativity) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (if you can pronounce his name you would be in the Adult 2% group above!)  but what is important to understand is that our education system and perhaps peer influence seems to have negatively impacted our capacity to “think outside the box” as we like to say.

But what’s even more important is the need for those of us seeking to find a competitive edge to learn how to encourage ourselves and our team to be more creative given that it can be a learned skill. We can do that by taking an interest in it – that may sound trite but you’ll be amazed at the rich array of resources you can tap into at zero cost other than your time. I put “how to become more creative” into Google’s search bar and got 179 million results so I don’t think you’ll find a lack of resources to be the problem.

After watching Ken Robinson’s 18 minute TED presentation you might want to grab a hold of Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – How We can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. She also did a TED presentation that is well worth viewing. You could read any of de Bono’s work and Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: Flow and The Psychology of Discovery and Invention.

I can’t tell you how important these ideas are especially if you have young children.



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