Can creativity be taught? 7 creative professionals weigh in.

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Can creativity be taught? 7 creative professionals weigh in.

Creativity is the most in-demand soft skill in the world, according to an analysis by LinkedIn. Educators and employers agree that students will need creativity to solve complex real-world problems and to land jobs in the AI era.

But is creativity a skill? And can it even be taught?

True skills can be taught, measured, and practiced with some consistency, writes Tony Wan for EdSurge. Creativity might not necessarily check those boxes. For one, creative ideas tend to pop up unpredictably, like on a walk, rather than when you need them the most, like during a brainstorming meeting, he argues.

Wan posed these questions to seven creative professionals from different industries, including film, writing, teaching, tech, and museum management. Here’s what they said.

Esther Wojcicki, Journalism Teacher: Creativity is a mindset that requires students to think outside of the box, says Wojcicki. But students can’t develop this mindset in a classroom that focuses on doing everything right.

Students need to be willing to take risks and fail to hone their creativity. To help students adopt this mindset, educators can encourage students to be creative 20% of the time and then devote the other 80% of time to the traditional curriculum, she suggests.

Chris Bennett, CEO of Wonderschool: Creativity is a skill that can be learned and honed, Bennett argues. Students can hone the skill by creating work, presenting it, and getting feedback, he recommends. “Traveling, going outdoors and having conversations about the things you’re creating can also enhance creativity.”

George Anders, Senior Editor at LinkedIn: Creativity combines elements of teachable skills and “practically unalterable traits,” says Anders. You can coach students to consider more alternatives when approaching a problem or to reconsider their fundamental assumptions about a problem. But some students may be more inclined to creativity than others, he adds.   

Lynda Weinman, Founder of Creativity is a soft skill because it can be learned, argues Weinman. To learn creativity, students need to do open-ended problem-solving where there is not one right answer. If students learn in an environment where there’s “too much emphasis on rote learning and standardization,” they can lose their creativity.

Alex Davis-Lawrence, Filmmaker and Producer: While creativity can be taught, developed, and honed over time, it’s more of a perspective rather than a skill, suggests Davis-Lawrence. To teach creativity, educators need to combine theory, practice, and time. Students need to hone their creativity on different projects and at different stages of their education and career to fully develop their creative perspective.

Carol Tang, Executive Director at Children’s Creativity Museum: Creativity is more of a mindset that encompasses skills, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs, rather than one specific skill, Tang argues. For example, certain skills, like idea generation, encourage creative thinking.

To develop a creative mindset, students need to have creative self-agency, says Tang. When students are confident in their creative abilities, they’re more likely to use their creativity skill set and improve their skills, she adds.

Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google: Creativity is a skill—but not the most important one, according to Casap. He ranks it below problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and the ability to learn.

Instead, creativity supports these skills and is embedded in them. For example, students use creativity to think of new ways to approach problems. To hone this skill, students need to collaborate with others, he recommends (Wan, EdSurge, 1/21).

Learn more about how to think creatively

11 exercises to boost your creativity in 15 minutes or less

5 questions that suppress innovation

Why brainstorming never seems to work—and MIT’s 4-minute solution

5 strategies Oprah, Paul McCartney, and other leaders use to be more creative

The most in-demand skill of 2019 and 4 ways to cultivate it

The best time for students to think creatively

How to engage your community for creative problem-solving

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