Falling Creativity: Not Just Kids!

By Shlomo Maital

           creative kid

   With so many bad things happening the world today, it seems rather strange to be so worried about the decline of creativity.  But I am.  I work with talented managers who consistently report that their ideas are unwelcome in their organizations.    And I observe lock-step linear schools that seem obsessed by erasing any shred of independent thinking among their children.   

    The reason declining creativity should worry us so much is this:  The magnitude and number of problems in the world today are growing; but the resources to deal with them are shrinking. (It’s called ‘austerity’).  So the only way we are going to make a difference and change the world is through creativity – creating something from nothing, widening the range of choices without using resources.  But if creativity itself is being degraded – we are in deep trouble.

      Here is the essence of an interview found on Britannica website with Kyung Hee Kim, a professor at College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., a scholar whose research revealed the depth and extent of falling creativity.

  *  Children in the US, especially those in kindergarten through third grade, are becoming less creative (measured by the widely accepted TTCT Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking).  There is no real explanation for this yet.

  *  For kids: Prof. Kyung thinks the cause may be in their homes, not in their schools; kids spend most of their time in front of TV, computers, video games, and far less time engaged in creative activities and play.

  *  Kids are spending far more time interfacing with machines, rather than with people and paper. 

   * Video games are a growing part of kids’ play.  Prof. Kyung does not believe playing video games fosters creativity.  Creativity is widening the range of choices. But video games are programmed and offer limited choices. 

  * “Contemporary parenting styles” may create overly programmed lives for children, over-protecting them and denying them opportunities to discover for themselves.

   *  Dramatic increases in ADHD diagnoses and over-prescription of medication necessarily “decrease creativity, as creative kids and ADHD kids share common characteristics:  rebellious, emotionally expressive, spontaneous, impulsive, energetic, excitable  kids. “We are unwittingly doping our creative children in a misguided attempt to control undesirable and inconvenient behaviors!”.

   * Creativity scores are falling because “society is less receptive and encouraging of creativity, creative people, creative ideas.”   

     I myself encounter frequently companies that pay lip service to innovation but do everything they can to destroy any wayward, creative disruptive new idea.

       *  No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has teachers teaching to an annual test in reading and math, “which discourages purposeful creativity development”.

    Prof. Kyung concludes, disturbingly:  “….countries such as China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have modeled their educational systems after the earlier American education system because of America’s previous success in encouraging creativity in children. Ironically, in the U.S., NCLB now mandates standardized testing and national educational standards, fosters rote memorization, and chokes creativity in children.”