For the first time, research shows that
American creativity is declining. What went wrong -- and how
we can fix it.
Back in 1958, Ted Schwarzrock was an
8-year-old third grader when he became one of the “Torrance
kids,” a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who
completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by
professor E. Paul Torrance. Schwarzrock still vividly
remembers the moment when a psychologist handed him a fire
truck and asked, “How could you improve this toy to make it
better and more fun to play with?” He recalls the
psychologist being excited by his answers. In fact, the
psychologist’s session notes indicate Schwarzrock rattled
off 25 improvements, such as adding a removable ladder and
springs to the wheels. That wasn’t the only time he
impressed the scholars, who judged Schwarzrock to have
“unusual visual perspective” and “an ability to synthesize
diverse elements into meaningful products.”
In the 1980s, we taught a class on creative process at UCLA. Much to our dismay, many of our students accepted certain myths about creative invention that misled and demoralized them. The same myths cripple people in all walks of life. Debunking those myths can unleash creativity overnight, as the experience of one young man in our class testifies.
This young man - call him Sam - took our class to "rediscover" his creativity. In his first year of college he had written a chart-topping rock song for a well-known band. But in the attempt to come up with an encore, he found himself suffering from a profound case of composer's block. He wanted us to remove it.