Ask a roomful of adults if they’re creative and very few will raise their hands.
But Sir Ken Robinson, one of the world’s leading thinkers on the topic, says we’re just not thinking about it the right way.
“Creativity is a function of intelligence. It’s possible anywhere intelligence is being used or applied,” he said.
As his Ted Talk on creativity became the most watched ever, with 51 million views, his words resonated across the globe.
That talk is now more than 10 years old, but Sir Ken says its message still needs to be heard.
What’s in the video?
“Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go,” Sir Ken explains in his TED Talk.
“They’re not frightened of being wrong.”
Getting things wrong, he’s quick to say, is not the same as being creative.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
By the time children reach adulthood, he says, they are fearful of mistakes, which have become stigmatised.
This can be felt as much in the workplace as in our schools.
“We’re running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result of that is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
Well, I’m not a creative type
Sir Ken told RN’s Best Practice that everyone has creative capacity — not just those in so-called creative departments.
“People associate creativity with certain sorts of people, or personalities,” Sir Ken said.
“But being creative isn’t about your hair style or your style of dress. It’s about an attitude and a disposition to the work that you’re doing.”
There’s a common misconception that we are either born creative or not, and there’s naught we can do about it.
Think again, says Sir Ken.
“A lot of the work I’ve been doing has been to argue to the contrary — that you can help people to become more creative,” he said.
Doing that involves shifting your thinking to embrace the value of risk-taking.
“What I’ve been arguing for is that you can make creativity an operational idea.”
I’m not so sure…
People talk a lot about creativity, but often, they’re nervous of it.
One of the reasons for that nervousness is that while people like to talk about change, and the need for change, they’re generally resistant to it.
“Creativity is about new ideas. New ideas are challenging,” Sir Ken said.
“They can disrupt the status quo; they can involve taking risks; they can make people nervous.
“There are all kinds of cultural reasons why people talk about how creativity is a good thing in organisations but then feel nervous about actually cultivating it.”
But it’s too late for me
You can learn creativity, even after you’ve unlearnt it.
Unconvinced? Think of a baby or, more specifically, the baby granddaughter who has just been welcomed into Sir Ken’s family.
“She’s a month old, and like every newborn she has immense natural capacities, but you have to develop them,” Sir Ken said.
“You could go through your entire life and never discover the things you’re really good at or the full range of your talents.”
“If you’re a human being,” he said, “it comes with the kit.”
OK, but I’ll need help
That’s fine. Creativity, and its good friend innovation, depend on collaboration.
We’re just not very good at fostering it.
“Our education systems are still predicated on a rather narrow conception of subjects, and it’s true even in universities,” Sir Ken said.
However, he says innovation usually results from people working across disciplines or connecting with people in different fields.
“We live in highly complicated urban settings and our global systems are deeply intricate, and they all work through collaboration,” he said.
“Collaboration is at the very heart of the sustainability and nature of human societies and it’s right that we should have these practices being cultivated in our education systems.
“It’s curious to me that we don’t, and you even have to argue for them.”