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, but 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 literacy or numeracy. 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 remained: how to win back our stolen creativity?
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 can be related and decided to combine them to be a single device.
Creativity is really about linkage.
And to train ourselves to make such linkages, there are exercises we can do on daily basis. Just like workout, you drill every day, and your muscle get bigger and stronger. Soon your latent creativity would be repaired.
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 former one .
To apply the study result of Jones’s experiment, we suggest you to start with two words first, instead of three words.
In this part, we will guide you step by step how to practise the Two-Word Exercise.
You may start by thinking about your first impression about the following ideas:
Then you can start to think about their relationship, and create a concrete scenario where you can put the two things together.
When you are creating the scenario, the more detailed it is, the harder you are exercising your creativity.
Our example is:
“After his wife passed away, the cat is the only thing left. Every night, when he feeds the cat, he thinks of the usual dinner he had with his wife and would shed tears.”
You may find it hard at first. But no worry! You can begin with the following guiding questions:
- What do they each look like?
- What can be their interaction?
- Does their interaction convey any emotions or feelings?
- 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?
If you can create a scenario, you can challenge yourself to create more, let’s say four. We suggest five examples as follows.
Don’t be afraid that your story is crazy. Just catch whatever jumps up at your head.
If you finish thinking, you can scroll down, and yours with ours.
- A high-school student is picked up on by his classmates for his acned face. He sees the cat on the windy lane every day he walks his way back home. Looking at the small face of the cat, he finds resemblance with the lonely stray cat.
- On one hot day, at lunch time a construction worker sits on the roof of the house he is working on. The person who hires him is a tycoon. The pet cat in this family looks snobby. She eats lavishly and even has her own big room. The construction worker looks at the cat, and wonders why even a cat leads a better life than him.
- The cat once had been spoiled so much by his master since it was brought from the pet store. However, one night the master brings along home an attractive woman. Looking at the woman, the cat’s fur hardens, and feels a sense of resentment.
- It rains heavily, and the stream is flooding heavily. A cat carelessly falls into the stream. A man while rushing back to collect the laundry sees the cat. He stops, and hesitates whether he should jump into the stream to save the cat.
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.
|||^||Yale Insight: What Is Creativity?|
|||^||The Huffington Post: 25 Ways To Be More Creative: Inc.|
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