Think You Can't Be Creative? Think Again!

When I was growing up, the word "creative" could be used to describe someone in a similar way that the word "tall" could.

Fellow students in class would be deemed by the teacher to be creative people, who could conjure up new possibilities while the rest of us un-creative type looked on. Similarly, over the past decade I have often heard my students and colleagues say, "I'm not creative" - often in response to an invitation to design or dream a new future for a situation.

The problem with this choice of language is it assumes that - like height - creativity is innate and unable to be changed.

If you've finished your growth spurt and are sitting at 5'4" - then you'd probably want to reconsider basketball as your chosen sport. You're 6'6"? Better become a lock and use that height of yours to your advantage. You're not creative? Then don't try creating new things - you'll only fail. Leave that to the creative type.

Unfortunately, this language can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you begin to limit your dreams and actions based on the supposed fact that you are not creative. As you continue to do things that you are already proficient at and avoid taking any creative risks - you prove to yourself again and again that you are not creative.

I am a passionate believer that creativity can be taught and that no-one is static in their creative abilities. There is countless research that proves the dynamic nature of creativity - and an excellent paper by Brigham Young University has recently added its weight to the argument.

The research team took a group of 90 undergraduate students from a range of academic domains and asked them to perform some creativity exercises, concluding with some self-assessment surveys. Then, they participated in a two-day Creativity Bootcamp, providing the students with the knowledge and actions to move forward with their skills in Idea Finding, Idea Defining and Idea Communication. At the conclusion of this camp, they then engaged in some more creativity exercises, and again reflected using self-assessment surveys.

The results? After only two days, the overall creativity results increased by 5%, with the greatest increases in their creative strength (ability to maintain creative thinking over a period of time, with constant effectiveness) and resistance to premature closure (ability to keep the mind open to more solutions, rather than rejecting ideas too early on).

The creative strength of the students increased by 10% and the resistance to premature closure increased by 7% - all after only seven hours of instructor led training.

These findings - among many others - show the value of creativity and innovation training, and their ability to make real change in a short period of time. The researchers are planning on making this innovation training a 16 week paper for students to study, which will allow further research to be revealed on these benefits.