The Problem with Creativity

Recently I’ve been losing a lot of arguments to 6 year olds.

They have amazing ways to summarise, cutting straight to the core of an issue or  accepting things as being different, simply because, well they are different.

Kids can often see a way to approach a problem we’ve never even dreamed of. When working with students I’ll reach a point in an explanation where I’m getting to the main idea and think to myself,

I am killing it. Kids are actually learning” [Insert inspirational cliche here]

Enter the ‘Bluzzled Face’.

The Archenemy of teachers…also known as “Blank Puzzled Face”.

Confused Kid.gif

When faced with this ultimate foe, I draw on the power of “Kid Speak”. This amazing power has the ability to cut through huge amounts of waffle, buzz words and seemingly important stuff, and get to the main message.

Which is why I think I can finally beat them all in a classic argument we have all experienced at certain times – whether or not you are creative.

The majority of the time when you ask someone if they are creative it will lead to three possible responses*:

  1. Yeah, I think so.

  2. Oh, sort of, you know, maybe a little bit.

  3. Nah, I don’t think I am.


Even asking my wife, “Would you say you are creative?” led to answer Number 3 (see above). After a pause she turned and added in another comment to our brief conversation:

AmazingWife: Well, when I’m in a structured environment, I guess that is when I really can be creative.

Me: So, you are creative then, right?

AmazingWife: Hmmmm…no.

MeConfused Kid

What’s even more interesting is to ask someone what being creative is…which is something that recently popped up during a conversation with friends (read: me slyly leading the discussion in preparation for this post).

The gamut of responses sounded like:

  • painting
  • drawing
  • acting
  • painting
  • drawing
  • painting and drawing while acting

You may start to see a pattern here.

When working with kids we are often faced with scheduled times for them to “be creative” which usually ends up involving visual arts. Which is great, visual arts IS amazing, but it isn’t the only time when you are creative.

This is what the problem is with creativity. Everybody seems to forget where the word actually comes from – to create.

Quick witted with puns? Creative.

Relatable to people and able to network? Creative.

Ability to score goals in basketball while under immense pressure? Creative.


People forget all of the time that the ability to create something with value is being creative.


Parents forget this. Teachers forget this. You forget this.

I forgot this last week on yard duty and told a kid off…for using a slide the wrong way.

“You go down slides, we don’t go up slides”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I was already shuddering as I stopped that kid from ever looking at a slide in a slightly different way. (Cue violins).


Old Woman Shaking Head

Schools, governments, think tanks and academics are continually discussing the need to be creative, think creatively and work creatively. One of the most heralded, revered and sought after heroes in education, Sir Ken Robinson, even argues that creativity is just as crucial as literacy (see below for his now famous TEDtalk).

Research is showing us a continually worrying thing: as we go through school our creativity decreases. (More know-how here and here).

Think back to those glorious art lessons back in primary school. You’re sitting/standing/rolling around creating a collage or a painting of a landscape. The background of your piece is looking fantastic, birds are where they should be, the clouds are white and the sky is that brilliant, light blue it should be. Taking a gamble, you grab some green paint and decide to fix up your the colour of your sky…

What would the reaction have been by your teacher or friends? More importantly, would you have actually made the change?

Creativity isn’t how well you draw, paint or act.

It’s about taking on challenges and seeing them for what they are: opportunities to try something out, possibly solve a problem, make a mistake and discover what might or might not work.

Creativity is about seeing the potential and creating ways to achieve that potential.

How do you react to mistakes? Do you try to hide them? Play them off? Shift them onto others?

Try creating a new perspective and see the mistake for what it really is – a way to actually upgrade your knowledge, skills or abilities. Hiding away from that doesn’t help you get better, it just makes you better at hiding away.


Like AmazingWife just epiphanised**:

It’s just problem solving, but being willing to see all the options“.

She really does live up to her namesake.

Thumbs up

If you enjoyed this post and thought it was creative, please share and pass it on. We love reading and responding to any comment, so please tell us what you think!

* I admit it, there could be possibly be ONE other response, but that’s it. Maybe.
**Yes, I realise this may be a made up word, but it just sounded so great

Further Upgrades

Ken Robinson’s famous TEDtalk – ‘Are Schools Killing Creativity?’

Julie Burstein –  “Spark: How Creativity Works” or else check out her TEDtalk ‘4 Lessons in Creativity’

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