Children have become less creative over the past 20 years according to Hee Kyung Kim (2011). The study included of over 40 years of data from the Torrence Tests of Creativity, it showed that all but one aspect of creativity are decreasing, including fluency, originality, elaboration, and abstractness. Only resistence to premature closure of creativity is stable. Children’s strengths are also decreasing over the past 20 years:
children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle. (Kim, 2011, p. 292)
With the decrease in elaboration scores, over the past 30 years
1) people of all ages, kindergartners through adults, have been steadily losing their ability to elaborate upon ideas and detailed and reflective thinking; 2) people are less motivated to be creative; and 3) creativity is less encouraged by home, school, and society overall.
I have been wondering for a while whether our “bubble-wrapped” approach to raising children has resulted in this decline in creativity. If a child is constantly supervised and/or corrected there is no time for free play, or for creativity that is not completely controlled by an adult.
Over the past few years I have noticed this decline in creativity amongst my students. I attributed it to a personal bias – maybe my expectations were too high. I have most consistently noticed this in my entrepreneurship class, where the ideas for businesses were somewhat uninspiring.
This matters in leadership. Why? To develop strategy, one needs an imagination, to innovate one needs creativity. In order to cultivate creativity, one needs to be able to evaluate creativity. If we aren’t creative ourselves, then we can’t assess creativity in others. This decline in creativity will have a negative effect on competitiveness and on our society’s affluence.
The question is how do we foster creativity in our culture, when we are training our children to avoid ambiguity, and to look to adults for acceptance? Any tips you can give me would be gratefully received.
UPDATE: May 6, 2014. Article from the Washington Post Blog – Businesses being destroyed faster than they are being created. In 1978, just over 14% of all firms were less than one year old, but by 2014, only 8% of firms were less than a year old. Even worse, In 2011, 10% of firms were dissolving, more than were being created. Is this one of the results of the creativity crisis? Maybe? Or have we just taught the millennial generation to be too risk averse? Only time will tell.