Are Schools Killing Creativity?
In his brilliant 2006 TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson argued that our education system kills creativity. The talk is funny, engaging, and makes a powerful argument that quickly became a staple, even a cliche, in education circles.
I recently showed the video to Gould’s administrative support staff during a lunch gathering. We sat and each of us shared stories about a strikingly talented friend or relative who found little support or opportunity for expression in their educational experiences. Robinson’s talk wasn’t an abstract educational argument, as it can often be seen, but a description of what had happened to important people in our lives.
Ken Robinson is an arts educator. I’m the head of a small boarding school. Our administrative support staff are keen problem solvers and essential to our daily operation. The importance of creativity makes sense to all of us.
But what’s the thinking beyond academic circles? Is this a core educational issue?
Fortunately, our friends at Big Blue have provided some help.
For the last 10 years, IBM has conducted a biannual survey of CEOs and public sectors leaders to “gauge their perspective on emerging trends and issues.” The 2010 study identified creativity, integrity, and global
thinking as the top three leadership qualities of the next five years.
In the 2012 study, leaders were asked for the top four personal characteristics “most critical for employee’s future success.” At the top of the list were being collaborative, communicative, creative, and flexible.
Here’s how the 2012 study explains the results:
“For years, organizations have been embroiled in the so-called war for talent. The challenge has historically been a shortage of particular skills. But today, it’s virtually impossible for CEOs to find the future skills they will need — because they don’t yet exist. Bombarded by change, most organizations simply cannot envision the functional capabilities needed two or three years from now. Conventional training faces some of the same challenges. By the time courses are designed and delivered, the subject skills are already becoming outdated.
Instead, CEOs are increasingly focused on finding employees with the ability to constantly reinvent themselves. These employees are comfortable with change; they learn as they go, often from others’ experiences. As a healthcare CEO from Australia explained, “Today’s connected economy is full of ambiguity, and the characteristics required to navigate that ambiguity are collaboration, creativity and communication.”
The story here isn’t that creativity et al. now trump reading, mathematics, writing, analytical thinking or technical skill.
The story is that times of rapid change require a different mix of tools and competencies than times of slower change. Virtually free access to information and expertise has changed the relative value of knowledge and creativity. And, the fact that hundreds of millions of educated minds are now able to participate more fully in the world has changed the competitive landscape for all.