So what exactly can be classed as 'creativity'? In fact, there have been many perceptions of this word throughout history. Consulting one of the major sources of information for the modern era, Wikipedia, we can find an idea that the 'creativity' that we know today was not always the feeling, emotion or attribution that we understand in this current era.
To quote Wikipedia: 'The ways in which societies have perceived the concept of creativity have changed throughout history, as has the term itself. The ancient Greek concept of art (in Greek, "techne" — the root of "technique" and "technology"), with the exception of poetry, involved not freedom of action but subjection to rules. In Rome, the Greek concept was partly shaken, and visual artists were viewed as sharing, with poets, imagination and inspiration'. So – it follows that creativity must have rules, it must be metered, constrained; which some would argue goes against the embodiment of the word, the concept, itself.
This suggests that if creativity is to have rules, how are these to be obeyed and when can they be broken? It seems that the ideas captured within this E-Book lend scope to the notion that there is a general feeling in the wider education community that creativity is being largely ignored in favor of measurable outcomes – i.e. test scores, as this is a goal that is not easily measured and therefore of little use to the teaching community when the community is being seen as a merely profitable, functional venture.
Creativity is not always profitable. Creativity is not easily measured. Creativity is subjective and therefore, immeasurable and loose. These are words that place fear into the hearts of superintendents and school boards across the globe. If something cannot be measured and tested, then what place does it have in the world of academia?
From Wikipedia: 'Renaissance men sought to give voice to their sense of their freedom and creativity. The first to apply the word "creativity", however, was the 17th-century Polish poet Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski — but he applied it only to poetry. For over a century and a half, the idea of human creativity met with resistance, because the term "creation" was reserved for creation "from nothing".
In the 19th century, art took its revenge: now not only was art recognized as creativity, but it alone was. When later, at the turn of the 20th century, there began to be discussion as well of creativity in the sciences and in nature, this was taken as the transference, to the sciences and to nature, of concepts that were proper to art'.
So, it seems that creativity has been as much-maligned in times past as it is in the current age. Scott Barry-Kaufman, a cognitive scientist and leading researcher in the field of neuroscience has said, "The entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you're actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task."
Convergent thinking is a concept first introduced to the world by psychologist J. P. Guilford in the 1880s. It is normally touted as the ability to give the 'correct' answer to a standard question. The idea is that the answer should not
require significant creativity;
convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with a single, well-established
answer to a problem.
Some might say that inventors who stuck to this method of thinking would never create anything new. It is divergent thinking that allows for this: the re-packaging and re-working of old ideas into new compartments of thought.
The 18th-century philosopher David Hume, argued that invention was often an act of recombination, of compounding an idea or transposing it from one field to another, a notion repeated on occasion by the contributors to this book. For example, the first printing press was the result of the re-construction and re-use of a commercial wine press. The technology needed for this leap in human consciousness was actually within reach for the compatriots of the day – they just needed someone to think outside the square.
The benefits of the printing press would be seen later down the line. Having said that, it is pertinent to surmise that perhaps Johannes Gutenberg (the inventor of the printing press) had met with
opposition at some point in his inventive strategy, perhaps along the lines of, "So what good will this thing be, then?"
Only history has revealed to us (as future generations) the impact of such an invention as the printing press. In Gutenberg's day, there may have been other, more exciting, more accessible and relevant inventions that were taking precedence in popularity. Equally, the first airplane, as Lehrer points out, was really just 'a bike with wings'. Only future generations would come to understand the significance of what these two bicycle salesmen had actually achieved.
In these two cases as Lehrer points out, "the radical concept was merely a new mixture of old ideas."
So what are we to do to foster creativity within our students and within ourselves? Lehrer is very clear on his ideas for a cultural revolution. He says: "Instead of sharing links with just our friends, or commenting anonymously on blogs, or filtering the world with algorithms to fit our interests, we must engage with strangers and strange ideas," he writes. "The internet has such creative potential; it's so ripe with weirdness and originality, so full of people eager to share their work and ideas. What we need now is a virtual world that brings us together for real."
One must remember that the word "creativity" derives from the Latin: "from nothing". In order to truly be creative, do we have to release, let go, of this idea that creativity is a measurable 'thing'? That it can be metered, taught, enhanced or embodied within the next generation – or should it merely be nurtured when recognized? How can something that is so inherently convergent to regular thinking be understood?
The teachers, trainers, philosophers and modern guides who have shared their opinions, thoughts, techniques and dreams in this book have made one thing very clear: creativity may in fact be under threat in this modern world and it is up to the teachers and guides of this world to make sure that there is always a place for "thinking outside the square".
...and for being recognized for doing it.