Creativity Myths

Digging through Diigo in search of something I can’t even recall now, I found this nugget from Bill Breen at Fast Company: “The 6 Myths of Creativity.” Finding this may have been the reason I was digging through all of my back tags and pages in the first place, because when I found the article and re-read it, the six myths called to mind several instances of awkward thinking I see very often.  Let’s walk through them:

Myth 1: Creativity Comes From Creative Types

Breen brings up the idea that looking for creativity in corporate departments like accounting might seem oxymoronic at first glance.  However, we recognize innovation in any form and in any pursuit if it truly transcends the status quo and creates original thoughts or processes.  In the contexts in which I work, the idea of creative thought applied to either discipline or process has unbelievable merit.  We look for “withitness” within our teachers; we look for them to be able to resonate with students regardless of teacher age or experience, student age or ability level, and regardless of content.  Do they get it?  What if we apply that principle to guidance departments?  Curriculum writing?  Schedule creation? Why push for anything less than creative environments and people in those areas?

Myth 2: Money Is a Creativity Motivator

Breen states that
People want the opportunity to deeply engage in their work and make real progress. So it’s critical for leaders to match people to projects not only on the basis of their experience but also in terms of where their interests lie. People are most creative when they care about their work and they’re stretching their skills
and our work in schools is no different.  When we ask teachers to come and work with us, whether it’s for curriculum or for some form of professional development, we offer the option of coming during school and receiving substitute coverage, or coming after school  and receiving compensation at a decent rate.  Our participation is very closely split down the middle.  Other reasons (child care, coaching, etc.) aside, we also find that those that come during the day and receive no compensation produce work that is equally as credible as those that come after school.  The difference, and this is a purely personal observation, comes when you do as Breen suggests, and match people that truly care about what they create and feel that they are pushing themselves and their colleagues around them.  Last week I worked with two teachers who were so full of ideas and so willing to take risks in regards to their ideas, the amount of work we got down and the quality of that work was astounding.  All three of us were truly blown away by the possibility of bringing to life the ideas we came up with.  That’s power.
Myth 3: Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
In college and graduate school I lived by the mantra “if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute.”  While snarky and fun, when I began teaching, it didn’t cut it as a model to share with students of how to prepare and perform at you best.  So it was easily scrapped in favor of advance preparation.  In schools, we work amid lots of deadlines placed either by ourselves or external pressures.  However, having kids of my own, I realized something about being stressed: it’s contagious.  When I am under the gun with a project or presentation, I become a bear and my work suffers for it.  I feel guilty for not spending time with my family, and that weighs on me; I feel badly that my work is suffering due to lack of focus. It’s a vicious cycle.  Solution: advance planning and preparation that allows you to focus on the whole when you need to.

Tomorrow: Myth’s 4, 5, and 6.


3 thoughts on “Creativity Myths

  1. Patrick,

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading about creativity lately, so I appreciate this link.

    One thing I think is true is that many people think they don’t have “time” for play or creativity–either time to teach it or time to be creative themselves.

    The irony I find is that when we take the time to relax, be creative, and play–it often fuels our work and makes us more effective, more productive and more enthusiastic, EVEN if the play has nothing to do with what we are working on.

    1. Carolyn,

      For the past couple weeks, I have been thinking about play and creativity as well, and your recent posts were helpful. In my meetings and my dealings with teachers, I am trying to pull in the idea of play an awful lot, but you are right–there is this attitude that it has no place in the serious business of education.

      Just as we learn in conversations, we learn in play. Here is one strategy I cannot wait to try the next time a department is trying to solve a big problem: I laugh out loud thinking of some people marauding around the room as Captain America trying to figure out if we should be reading Moby Dick or On the Road in high school English!

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