Sir Ken Robinson is a professor at UCLA and has some very inspiring insight about what schools are doing for our culture and what we might change to make them more productive in our society. Sir Robinson has a number of talks all over the Internet participating on TED, RSA animate among many others that I would highly recommend watching. I couldn’t agree more with nearly all his ideas but one point he made in his speech about Changing Education Paradigms particularly caught my attention he speaks of an experiment on divergent thinking and how most people get progressively worse at it as they get older and being creative in general.
The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Sir Robinson also explains it as not being a synonym but a essential capacity for creativity.
He explains you can test for a person’s capacity for this by asking a person for instance; how many uses can you think of for a paper clip? Most people can think of 10-15 different uses, but people who are really good at it can think of hundreds. This illustrates an individual’s ability to think of situation in many different ways. He then goes on to explain how tests for divergent thinking was developed called Break Point and Beyond and in this test if you scored high enough you were considered to be thinking at a genius level. The test was given to group of kindergartners in which 98% scored in the genius level but the sad and interesting aspect was that when given the same test as the children grew into adult hood as a whole the were progressively worse at it and by the adolescence only 13-15% scored in the genius range.
Unfortunately, I imagine creativity only continues to diminish as you get older, As schooling teaches the answer and the one way to get there, to converge and not the beauty your own path and the value of your own answer. I always held a quote dear to me that both Mark Twain and Einstein both said a variation of:
“I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”
I’ve always tried to to remind myself of this ideology, to use my power to question, but I think I might be due for a paper clip exercise of my own. Explore your divergence of thought so, you can converge on useful creativity.