I recently delivered a short talk on ‘Creative Leadership’ to a group of Grade 7 students on the occasion of their Valedicition. I asked their parents to raise their hands if they believed they were creative — two or three hands were reluctantly lifted. I then asked the children the same question and every single one of them thrust their hands skyward with great enthusiasm. The parents all clapped and it was a wonderful moment.
There is however a depressing side to this story and it’s this — very few adults seem able to hold on to their creativity. Research shows there are a number of reasons why. Firstly, the majority of education facilities teach in a way that discourages divergent thinking (the ability to seek out a number of possible correct answers to a challenge). Instead students are taught that there is only one correct answer and if they don’t know it, they’re not studying hard enough. Secondly, thinking creatively involves a certain amount of risk. Children aren’t scared of making mistakes, but as we get older, we generally become more risk-averse and feel far more comfortable with the status-quo. Finally, adults seem to consider creative people somewhat weird. Non-conformity is discouraged almost from the time we are born and continues through education and into the workplace.
It’s time creativity was valued for what it is — the innate human ability to solve problems, face challenges and bring about change. I believe we are all creative but as we go through life, we repress this gift in order to conform to the norms of a society that isn’t really working. It’s time for us all to unleash our creativity for the good of our organisations, our country and the world.