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Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Society stresses the importance of education. Good grades in school propel a kid to a prestigious institution; and getting into a world-renowed college leads to a bright, successful future. And this generation is lucky, we are mostly well-educated.

Ironically, schools mainly stuff information in our brains. Even though we are more educated, somehow our creativity is suppressed.

Yeah right, I’m not in the creative industry, it doesn’t matter.

No, having creativity is key nowadays. Any industry needs innovation, and it’s the most important component for success. When we step into society, problems and roadblocks are everywhere. And soon, we realize we lack creativity to solve them.

Scholars [1] have identified two thinking process: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Education focuses on convergent thinking — emphasizes on finding definite, absolute answers. But in reality, we actually need divergent thinking more, which is the ability to find more than one way to solve problems, and it is essential to creativity.

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How important is divergent thinking?

In a research conducted by neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen[2], she discovered IQ is not the factor to a creative genius, but having divergent thinking is. She writes:

Assuming that creativity is a trait everyone has in varying amounts, those with the highest scores (in the skill of divergent thinking) can be classified as exceptionally creative and selected for further study.

School equips us with knowledge we need, and we have more than enough training in convergent thinking, but to be creative once we leave the education system, divergent thinking is what we need to work on, and here’s how:

Challenge yourself to think of 10 options to solve a problem.

Often when we come across a problem, we only think of 1, or mostly 2-3 options. We then hold on to the possible solutions and deeply analyze the pros and cons. 90% of the time, we reject the option we proposed and get frustrated at ourselves.

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We have all been in this situation: In a meeting, person A suggests a solution and everyone starts to evaluate the option. Then person B proposes another option, the same happens. Afterwards, everyone is banning everyone else’s suggestions, and waiting for the BEST solution to come around.

Can you imagine how unproductive is that?

So I challenge you (or you could challenge yourself too): when you encounter a problem, try to think of AT LEAST 10 OPTIONS. Ignore the feasibility for a minute.

For example, your boss asks you to fix the problem of decreasing views on your company’s website. The usual approach is to make a suggestion and assess the option. But with divergent thinking, we should first come up with many different ideas, like to use Instagram to attract younger viewers, change the layout of the web, fix bugs, develop new features, and more. We then go through the list and weigh the pros and cons.

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But I can’t come up with 10 ideas, what can I do?

British science writer Matt Ridley[3] introduced the concept of “idea sex”, which means combining two ideas to “reproduce” a new idea. It is particularly useful when you run out of ideas. To put it in other words, idea sex is like mixing and matching outfits with a limited amount of clothes.

Still a bit confused? Here is more of Matt Ridley’s TED talk on “idea sex”.

What else should I do if I don’t even have a solid idea?

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs once said. He also thought “most people don’t have enough dots to connect because they haven’t had many diverse experiences.” To be creative or innovative, we need a broad knowledge base.

Ever scrolled through Facebook and paused at an intriguing post, then told youself “nah, I’m not interested” and continued scrolling?

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Sometimes, we are too picky to the knowledge we absorb. Similar to the approach of convergent thinking, we look at something and immediately put it into the “yes” or “no” bin. It doesn’t hurt to expand your knowledge base, you never know when the information you acquired is going to be useful.

Creativity doesn’t equal the number of ideas you generate.

Don’t be mistaken, being creative is not measured by how many ideas you have, it rather requires the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical solutions. Always keep a clear objective in mind when generating ideas, you will later realize it makes divergent thinking easier and smoother, and finally boosts your creativity.

Reference

[1] Harvard Professional Development: Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking
[2] The Atlantic: Secrets of the Creative Brain
[3] The Week: What is ‘idea sex’?

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Frank Yung

Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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