Being Creative is an Act of Courage: Thoughts on Chapter 6 of Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.Robinson defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value (page 151). He highlights three keywords related to being creative: process, original, and value.

Process

It turns out, that it is the process of being creative that is enjoyable. Robinson refers psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow, which explores optimal experience. Flow is the state where work and reward melt together, and accomplishment naturally comes from the process.

Original

Making the leap and willing to be wrong, takes courage. At its core, creativity is an act of courage. Being original requires taking risks, and unfortunately the education system teaches people to minimize risk. Students are graded on an average of performance, not on the highest grade achieved. The grading system encourages students to emphasize consistency over creativity. However, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, and you’re not prepared to be creative.

Value

Value is where the rubber meets the road. It means that the creative process involves others. Being creative by oneself, in one’s head, might be entertaining to the individual, but it’s not necessarily creating anything for others to use or enjoy. Creativity is essentially a group exercise, involving interaction with others.

Two Takeaways

My first takeaway: our current grading system clearly favors consistency over creativity. And this is to creativity’s detriment. Valuing consistency is fine. Valuing consistency in performance seems natural. We need high standards, right?

Right – in certain situations where there is a clear need for consistency like a factory. But when consistency is demanded during learning, learning becomes more about validating talent than trying things out. This current approach literally teaches people to adopt a fixed mindset.

The second takeaway is the social aspect of creativity in creating value. The misconception of the isolated creative adds to the mysteriousness of the process for students. Rather, it’s the exchange of ideas and feedback that give life to creativity.

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