Can Creativity Be Taught?

Recently, I contributed to an interesting discussion in LinkedIn about whether or not creativity can be taught, and whether or not our educational system promotes creativity. The reactions about creativity being learnable were mixed. The reaction about our educational system was pretty consistent—our educational system doesn’t promote creativity.

Creativity can be taught. The trick is to define it clearly so that you know what you are talking about. Creativity is generally accepted as being the production of something novel and useful. Having such a clearly defined view of it helps because it eliminates most of the mystery around the term. All you have to do it so to make something that solves a problem and is a little different from other things currently out there.

People often associate creativity with artists. And in doing so, they tend to combine creativity and expression as the same concept. Creativity and expression are very different. Expression is the manner in which a feeling or concept is conveyed—very different from creativity. In fact, there are many artists who aren’t creative. And many of these artists don’t intend to be. Whole schools are based on this. Ateliers are schools that teach old master techniques to artists. They aren’t based in creativity at all. These build the time proven skills related to things like classical rendering. The works produced in these schools are expressive, but only creative in the sense that these students are learning new things.

Like any other subjects, creativity can be taught. Some people are better at some things than others. Some people tend to be a little better at math or athletics than others. But that doesn’t keep us from teaching everyone math or from encouraging everyone to participate in athletics. And that’s how we should view creativity, skill that can be developed in everyone.

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