Many people want to be more creative. But most of them also doubt if creativity is a gifted talent that cannot be learned. To find the truth, scientists did some experiments which results were astonishing and at the same time encouraging.
Creativity is indeed an inborn talent, and everyone has it
In 1968, George Land tested 1,600 children’s performance in a creativity test that was originally designed for NASA to recruit innovative scientists. The children were tested at different ages.
5 year olds who passed the test: 98%
10 year olds who passed the test: 30%
15 year olds who passed the test: 12%
Interestingly, there’s an obvious down trend: the older we are, the less creative we become.
Creativity is not a random gift that only belongs to the lucky minority; we all are gifted with creativity when we were born.
What happens, though, is that during our course of life, we start to “unlearn” our creativity.
Education is the murderer of creativity
Once we enter schools, our brains are stuffed with numbers and vocabulary. All these do not encourage creativity but conformity. Under the current education system, children learn to fulfil teachers’ expectations, pass the exams, and suppress their creative ideas.
Remember, the education system is so because it was designed 200 years ago in the Industrial Revolution to train people to be obedient. It may work well for factory workers, but not for us living in this dynamic world.
So then, the question is: how get our inborn creativity back?
Creativity, as defined by Richard N. Foster, a lecturer in Yale, is “the ability to find associations between different fields of knowledge, especially ones that appear radically different at first” .
Years ago, phone, camera and computer are just three completely unrelated gadgets. But Steve Jobs thought they could be related and decided to combine them into a single device.
Creativity is really about making unexpected linkages.
And to train ourselves to make such linkages, there are exercises we can do on a daily basis.
The Two-word exercise
In an experiment, neuroscientist Paul Howard Jones asked the subjects to create a story by combing relevant ideas, such as “brush”, “teeth”, and “shine”, and then create another story by combining irrelevant ideas, such as “cow”, “zip”, and “star”. Surprisingly, the stories created with irrelevant words are far more creative than the relevant ones .
To apply the study result of Jones’s experiment, we suggest you to start with two words first, instead of three.
Two words given:
First you can think about their relationship, and then think about the environment. Where are they? Are they in the same place or not?
When you are creating the scenario, try to add more details. This would further boost your creativity.
Our example is:
“After his wife passed away, the cat became his only companion. Every night, when he feeds the cat, he would recall the time he spent with his lovely wife.”
You may find it hard at first. But don’t worry! You can begin with the following guiding questions:
- What do they look like?
- What is their interaction?
- Any emotions triggered?
- When they first meet each other, what do they say to each other?
- In what places do they meet?
- What is the smell, the sound, the temperature of the place?
Once you can create a scenario, you can challenge yourself to create more, let’s say four. We suggest five more examples as follows.
Remember don’t be afraid that your story is too crazy. Just catch whatever jumps up at your head.
When you finish, you can scroll down.
- A high-school student has been bullied by his classmates. Every day when he sees the lonely cat around the corner when walking back home, he feels that he can understand her feelings very well.
- On one hot day, at lunch time a construction worker sat on the roof of the house he was working on. The person who hired him was a tycoon. The pet cat in this family looked snobby. She ate lavishly and even had her own big room. The construction worker looked at the cat, and wondered why even a cat led a better life than him.
- The cat had been spoiled so much by his master since she was brought from the pet store. However, one night an attractive woman came. And the cat felt that she could no longer get his master’s attention anymore.
- It rained heavily, and the stream was flooding heavily. A cat carelessly fell into the stream. A man while rushing back to collect the laundry saw the cat. He stopped, and hesitated whether he should jump into the stream to save the cat or not.
Now, since you have already successfully created four scenarios, you should aim higher!
We suggest you create ten scenarios out of two irrelevant ideas every day.
You may take 15 minutes every day, sit in a quiet room, and contemplate over the two ideas.
The time limit here is important, as you can only boost your creativity effectively, if you force yourself under time pressure.
If you need help in generating irrelevant words, you may go to the following word generator: Random Word Generator.