The Creativity Index

In 1958 E. Paul Torrance a psychologist from Minneapolis designed a series of tasks that children could take to test creativity.

Torrance had the idea that creativity was just as important as I.Q. in predicting the future success of a child. He tested 400 Minneapolis children. In the years after they took the test a large number of the most creative children excelled in business and achieved high positions in public service, media and commerce.

To those of us who have been saying for a long time that creativity is the key to innovation (“creativity spawns innovation” a tweet sent to me said) the findings by Torrance and his successors comes as no surprise.

It is interesting therefore to read a recent Newsweek article that looked at a more recent survey of creativity in the United States (by Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary) that shows that the C.Q. (Creativity Quotient) is falling in modern children tested as against the historical figures collected from 1958 onwards.

The article “The Creativity Crisis” http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html then goes on to discuss the possible reasons for this decline. It is partly related to the style of life of modern children but there is a real feeling that creativity is no longer prized in the classroom and that many of the arts based subjects (music in particular) are suffering from the pressure to do well in standardised tests in mathematics and english.

Interestingly, there is a reference in the article to the Chinese doing the exact reverse to the U.S. in their education system and realising that innovation comes from the promotion of creativity in the classroom. This comes just a few hours after I read a prediction by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), that China would overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading economy by 2020 (see http://www.zeenews.com/news597647.html )

This surely raises the vexed question for those economies like the U.S. and European countries that are cutting back on school expenditure and concentrating on narrowing their curriculum, that they are making themselves less and less competitive as the Chinese seek to raise their C.Q. ratings by changing from a fact based/ test driven curriculum to one which allows children to develop the ability to think creatively and imagine their future.

The good news is that there are a number of schools that are challenging the present obsession with a narrowed test driven curriculum and are allowing their children to “think of innovative solutions” to problems. There are schools that are developing productive project based learning that is creating innovative solutions to real world questions.

These schools may be swimming against the tide but their children will ultimately be the beneficiaries and maybe all of us may benefit from the ideas that they will produce.

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