Unlocking Creativity

This is a synopsis of the talk I´ll be giving on 29th of November in Vienna at Ted X

We all have unlimited creative potential that can reveal hidden and diverse realities. By unlocking creativity we can bring these diversities to the forefront of our lives.

An acceptance of yourself and others is about being comfortable with your complexity. Do you think at that at present society is nurturing humanity`s complexity? By unlocking creativity we are encouraging these multiple perspectives and levels so that there is a re-understanding, re-imagining and re-creating of our social space.

We are surrounded by concepts-the way we make sense of the world around us. They are the very fabric that weave us all together, but they are such abstract things-hard to explain and difficult to understand, unless there is some kind of material manifestation. Creativity gives us the opportunity to access each others’ way of making meaning, so that people can begin to understand how human concepts can be seen from different perspectives and therefore be diverse, depending upon their varying social contexts.

Creativity broadens the scope of how we interact with each other, by supporting our multiple visions for the future. This recognition of diverse ways of making meaning would be supporting us all to develop a sense of belonging, rather than alienation that seems to be happening at present, if we do not fit into one standardised norm.

One of the major challenges of our current education system is not to confront our diversity, evident through our creativity, with judgement due to fear. Rather to be curious about these expressions and welcome them to enrich our lives.

If unlocking creativity, in turn unlocks our vast potential and helps us to understand that human beings are as diverse as life itself, why do we continue to see the same thing in society over and over again?

As a facilitator of creative programs, I´ve learned many lessons. The major ones I will be illustrating in my talk and are as a result of what I have seen to be the current situation.

The typical `successful` student of today, is being asked to leave most of their interests and creativity behind so that they can `succeed`. As a result we are producing foot soldiers that are organised into small elite groups, that hesitate to embrace diversity both within themselves, their groups and in others. Students conform to the standards of an elite before them. A `successful` student, learns furthermore to leave behind their creative ways of solving problems and challenging the status quo, deciding that they must be compliant in order to get ahead or even to be accepted.

As a result, successful people have had to become narrow in their approach to knowledge to stay `focused`. They learn that it is valued to criticise anyone who tries to be diverse, open and interdisciplinary in their approach.

Successful students quickly learn how to get the best grades and that becomes the main focus, rather than utilising the tools to question, evaluate, synthesise, create, innovate and re-build whole defunct systems. Those that are diversifying their talents and experimenting with the considerable resources available to them are being told that what they produce is not relevant to the syllabus. Testing is focusing on catching-out students, rather than giving them the chance to explore, test and evaluate their own ways of thinking and knowledge sharing.

Those that succeed in their place conform again, so that history mindlessly repeats through wars and crises. George Santayana’s words ring through my ears, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Santayana, 1905) Do we really want our future to be like this?

Creativity means to produce something new. However, when our students do create all too often it is dismissed as being something irrelevant. Isn`t it our students’ role to devise new ways of thinking and who are we to immediately dismiss that. Perhaps it is just that we don`t recognise it....yet! Is it any wonder that the majority of our teenagers and young adults turn to drinking to dull their energy and curiosity that is just not valued. There are many success stories but what about those ones that have still not had the opportunity to be nurtured? What can we do?

Through play in small groups and intimate settings, reconciliation, dialogue and understanding can be reached. We can explore concepts of nationality, politics, religion, philosophy and culture on an emotive level through creative practices. The secret lies in breaking loose from the constraints that tie us, where we are locked in as preset counterposed categories. Through creativity and play we can access broader parts of our humanity and activate a range of other images and identities facilitating some individual bonding across boundaries. The consequence could be a deep restructuring on an emotive level, one that previously has been dominated by boundary, judgement and criticism.

Creativity stimulates engagement at a conscious level, instead of passive consumption. It allows a dialogical process so that students can actively choose their own path to their future. Creativity takes the focus off grades and onto the different ways in which people think, taking them out of their straight jacket and into an open landscape with many paths leading to different directions.

To nurture creativity the classroom and learning environments need to be compassionate places.
I´m afraid that all too often they are restrictive environments. As the demands on the economy are to be more efficient, in turn this is reflected in the classroom where creativity is stifled or there is only one way of being creative that is valued, instead of embracing the different possibilities of creativity. This is mirroring the economy where the focus is on effectiveness in relation to a status quo.

Yet those that we have admired throughout history rebel against a status quo, by responding to the changing landscape and the needs of the people in relation to this environment. Likewise, education is not about static knowledge or maintaining that normalcy. By unlocking creativity within our learning practices, children, teenagers and adults can respond in their unique ways and deal with the emerging issues of our time. In order to prepare them for this, they need to have a holistic education that is both academically rigorous, giving a thorough understanding of history and social circumstances, but also allows room for creativity so that we can face challenges and transcend difficulties by being flexible, versatile, collaborative and resilient.

Hans Guggenheim who works particularly in parts of the world where there is danger of a disappearance of cultures through domination, rampant western capitalism or continued colonialism, talks about the importance of creativity to transform this widespread threat. "Discontinuities in art traditions are common in history and especially threatening to the crafts in small cultures when the traditional means of transmitting skills from one generation falls into disuse. It is at this point when schools have to provide the means for continuity. At the same time such schools must make it possible for young artists to be able to participate in the global aesthetic driven by technological innovations in the arts." (Guggenheim, 2001)

Creativity is that bridge from what has been to what is and what can be. By understanding knowledge and systems from the past and present and unlocking creativity, we can in turn unlock our diverse futures, so that there are greater possibilities for us to explore that are not just swayed by mindless consumer demand. Instead we can be facilitating and incubating our creative innovations that can be globally beneficial, bringing about a greater abundance than our current determinate times. In the words of H.G.Wells (1920) “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe” (Wells, 1920). By unlocking creativity we are giving education a chance. Or would we prefer to lay the path ahead for catastrophe? We have the power to choose.

George Santayana, Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, p. 284

H. G Wells, The Outline of History, 1920