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creativity skills

Can Creativity Be Learnt?

Written by Nina Rappaport 

What do all human beings have in common?

That we all have the innate ability to be creative. Think back to your childhood where we explored, experimented, took risks, were fearless, got involved, were inventive, and even did little arts and crafts. Which of these elements of the human learning journey showed creativity skills? If the answer was ‘arts and crafts, you are correct! But that is not all!


Creativity skills should not be confused with being artistic! When we are asked if we are creative, we instantly think of our innate abilities and equate them to artistic expression. Am I an actor, musician, painter, photographer, designer, chef, or poet? And the list goes on. What’s the importance of creativity you may ask?


If the answer to any of the aforementioned artistic talents is “Yes,” then we are thought to be creative. But if the answer is “No,” we seem to think, we lack the qualities that ‘creative people’ were blessed with. This limited way of thinking, about creativity skills, could not be further from the truth.


We all come into this world as creative beings yet seem to slowly forget the qualities that make us creative. We start developing by exploring our surroundings with curiosity and wonder, trying to figure out the inner workings of everything we engaged with. We learned openly, felt deeply, and expressed ourselves wholeheartedly. We played imaginatively and invented fearlessly. We grew and did all of this, without apprehension. Our creativity skills were free and inexcusable, creating without fear of being judged. Additionally, we are learning more about the importance of creativity as it is increasingly needed in many professions.

So, what are creativity skills, and where does it come from?

As defined by the oxford dictionary, creativity is, ‘The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness ‘. Hence, creativity is the ability to take our inspired, original idea. The skill to use our imagination for the desired outcome. Devise a plan or strategize how to get there. And then, execute the plan to bring the whole idea to fruition. These are essentially creativity skills.


We are all creators in our own lives, through childhood, adolescence, and especially adulthood. Taking on the responsibility to make life-altering decisions can be overwhelming and hard. So why as we get older, is it harder to create?


Children are allowed to dream. Dreaming in turn leads to inspiration and nothing, to kids, feels impossible. Nothing seems too unreasonable or too ridiculous. Kids’ imaginations run wild, and they are not frightened to be wrong.  How can children’s creativity skills be further developed and expanded?


The current, older generation was taught to act in a certain way, what is thought to be successful or the right way to deal with a situation. They have been expected to fit into a mold and anything outside those parameters is stigmatized as wrong! Such thinking fails to recognize the importance of creativity. But who’s to say what’s right or wrong?


For some time, people of this generation were hesitant to voice opinions and share novel concepts. Their mantra was, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. This mindset can easily suppress not only the creative, human spirit but also various types of creative thinking.


To understand where we are now, we must understand where we came from. We need to look critically at the conditioning that buried our creative skills, to be innovative, to dare to dream, and to be comfortable with fear and vulnerability.

Concealment and Revival of Creativity

The First Industrial Revolution stifled creativity skills because of the education system that was born from it. That era wanted to produce scientifically minded individuals that would contribute to the workforce and industrialism. The whole system was centered on academic competency, which gave limited career choices, as one would want to be seen as an asset to society and not a burden.


The kind of career one pursued was based on their academic abilities and that ‘job title’, thereafter studying, would display some level of success. The consequences of this societal way-of-thinking, denied anyone wanting to follow their natural talents, thought to be futile and unproductive, into a future of unsuccessful endeavors.


This generation reared a generation that followed suit but started asking questions. This curiosity opened the gateway to a different world. There was still a fixation on one’s success based on the diploma, degree, or certificate one had achieved. Therefore, you spent on average 3.5 years studying to attain the qualification, with the piece of paper that guaranteed a job. They entered a job market that was accepting of the certificate and that’s where they stayed.


Then that generation brought up a generation that saw things from a different perspective. One where ideas were possible. They dreamt of being on the move and connected to whomever, whenever, hence the invention of the internet and mobile phones. Enter the technological era, where science and creativity skills were intertwined. Where embers of those once extinguished creativity skills were on a slow burn until they were stoked and revived.


Then life did a one-eighty, where technology gave birth to endless possibilities. Life started to evolve at a rapid pace, where ingenious thinkers have been solving problems with innovation and thoughts of ‘what if?’.  Suddenly, creativity skills were in demand and people realized the importance of creativity in the technological age.


Our evolution as humans posts the Industrial Revolutions has brought to light the importance of creative skills and an innovative mindset. To this day, mainstream education still advocates the concept that, success is achieved through achieving good grades while failing to sufficiently develop creative thinking skills for students. Good grades can help in one’s future, and academia is very necessary, but it’s not the most important element that makes a person successful and fulfilled.

creativity skills

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), “the number of students in universities has more than doubled globally, in the last two decades, to 235 million. And it’s expected to double again in the next decade”.  Taking the fast-changing technological landscape into account, how many of these graduates would get a job? What job would they apply for? Would the piece of paper they worked so hard to get, be redundant? Do they have the creative skills required for the professions in the age of technology? Are schools helping to develop creative thinking skills for students?


It is said that the jobs of the future have not even been created yet. If this statement is so, why are people navigating an education system that is archaic, instead of learning the life skills and creativity skills, for an ever-changing world?  Never mind learning new skills, why aren’t we reviving and nurturing the skills that we already possess? And lastly, why aren’t the education systems, as UNESCO puts it, ‘Unleashing the Talent’ of every student?


These questions bring a story of a great creative to mind. She tells of her experience as a young girl who was nicknamed ‘Miss Wriggle Bottom’. She could not sit still or focus on anything for a long time or even for short periods of time. She was compared to her contemporaries and was therefore thought to have something wrong with her. She was taken to a doctor for a diagnosis, which probably would have been called ADHD if attention deficit hyperactivity disorder existed in the 1930s. Instead of labeling this girl with a challenging neurological disorder, the doctor decided to oversee this situation using creative skills.


During the consultation, the doctor made some important observations about this little girl. He proceeded to leave his rooms together with the little girl’s mother. In leaving the room he switched the radio on and watched the little girl from another room, together with her mother.


The little girl could not contain herself and leaped from her seat to obey the feelings that came over her. She expressed her joy and innate ability to dance. Her mother was told by the doctor, to enroll her in a dance school, where she was nurtured and later became one of the principal ballerinas of the Royal Ballet.


Gillian Lynne became a dancer, actress, and choreographer, known for her contribution to the very successful Broadway shows, Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Lynne was given the opportunity to explore her creative talents as a young girl and pursued a career that most in that era would have thought superfluous. She was allowed to develop her creative skills to express herself in dance.


This is a lovely story, but how does it help us in the year 2022, especially parents trying to find their way in this uncertain world while being responsible for the development of their child? There is no right or wrong answer, just like there is no manual on parenting. But one thing that can stand a child in good stead for their future, is learning and harnessing creativity skills.

Skills that Creative People Have in Common

A few of the greatest creative minds of our time can be referenced for the incredible influence they’ve had in the world, as we experience it today. Starting with the likes of Thomas Edison and Isaac Newton who came from scientific backgrounds. Steve Jobs concentrated his talents in computer science and product development. Leonardo Da Vinci and Walt Disney – were actual artistic geniuses – one in the medium of paint and the other in animation and movie. And even Sir Richard Branson, who did not even complete high school.


Taking all these inspirational icons into account, it was simple to deduce the commonalities between them, even though their talents are very different. They all shared the skill of Creative Thinking.  


Creative Thinking is said to be the ability to generate thought, something that is unique and will help or solve a problem by looking at scenarios from different perspectives. Creative Thinking includes the subskills of analysis, open-mindedness, problem-solving, organization, and communication, those of which do not epitomize any form of artistic skill.


According to LinkedIn, the forerunner and home of everything professional and career-related, creativity, in all its forms, is the top skill to be highlighted on a person’s resume. The ability to be creative in any job, in any sector or industry can set you apart from a person with high grades or a degree. The need for creativity in the future is not only important for development but is growing in the business world.


Creative thinking opens us up to a world of possible solutions to life’s, sometimes, hard questions. It is one of the most important skills to have when faced with difficult decisions. We can solve problems with those child-like qualities of exploration, imagination, innovation, and courage to find the best possible outcome.


The question then stands, if we were born with creativity and we lost it, can we learn to be creative again?  How do we rediscover our internal innovators and channel these qualities to view the world through a creative lens? And more importantly, how do we nurture the up-and-coming generations to harness their creative skills and guard that mindset while developing into future-ready adults?

Awakening the Creative Within 

There are a few things one can do and put into practice, with helping children develop creative skills. All can benefit from making these small changes to their daily lives that will have a profound effect on how we see life and handle its challenges.


The first port of call is curiosity. Having a sense to always question and find out more can lead to unthought-of discoveries or bursts of inspiration. When we are curious, we interrogate what is found and explore all possibilities. One way to explore curiosity is from a place of empathy. Looking at situations from different perspectives helps find solutions that could be beneficial to society.


Once you experience your findings it’s important to be open-minded. This shows the skill of critical thinking; being discerning yet accepting of what you uncover and how you choose to use that information.


Then there is courage. Courage to be vulnerable to put your idea out into the world, without fear of judgment or being ridiculed. Courage also applies to a possible failure and the ability to show resilience to try again. This essentially creates self-confidence, which is a good mark of any future leader.


Sir Ken Robinson, an authority in education of the arts states, “I believe our only hope for the future is to rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children. And the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future. By the way, we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”


Sir Robinson alluded to the creativity skills inside children that are ignored but it is our responsibility to help them uncover and channel their creativity skills to manage anything in the possibly daunting, exciting, unknown future. And when teaching, learning, and living creatively, anything is possible! Contact us for more information

 Nina is from South Africa. She has a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture but has discovered that her true purpose lies in education. She is passionate about making a difference and creating awareness around important topics, starting conversations, and hopefully bring about change. #bethechange

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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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