Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Link Between Mindset and Creativity

"the process of having original ideas that have value"
- Sir Ken Robinson, when asked to define creativity

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics in education at Edcamp Buffalo. As the facilitator of the session titled "Creativity, Mindset, and Risk-taking", I began the conversation by sharing the definition of creativity from Sir Ken Robinson shown above. I often start conversations about creativity and education with a quote from Sir Robinson because his words ring true with many educators and provide an important catalyst to spark discussions. I followed up the quote by asking the participants to think about that definition and how it relates to the mindset of our students and teachers. This required a discussion on mindset, what it meant, and how it impacts students.

According to Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset, there are two mindsets: fixed and growth. People who operate within the fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talent are pre-determined... no amount of effort will alter these traits. The other is the growth mindset. Those who operate within this mindset believe that personal growth never stops, effort is critical, and failure is an integral part of the growth process. If you're looking to explore this topic further, I highly recommend Carol Dweck's book.

After a short discussion about mindset, I asked participants to consider the relationship between creativity and mindset. To me, creativity is highly dependent on a growth mindset. During the brainstorming part of the creative process, people are encouraged to suspend judgement when generating ideas. This suspension of judgement allows for the generation of a large quantity of ideas, many of which might be outlandish or obscure. If a person brainstorms with a fixed mindset, every idea generated is evaluated before it is ever shared, thus yielding a greatly reduced number of ideas. This evaluation requires a benchmark, and that benchmark is usually something that already exists. When comparing and evaluating new ideas against ones that already exist, it becomes very difficult to create anything novel or original.

The creative process requires a growth mindset in order to flourish. This mindset allows for the suspension of judgement, with participants safe in the knowledge that each idea, and possible failure, is an opportunity to learn and grow. Students, and teachers for that matter, that operate in the growth mindset believe that process is more important than product. They also understand that there can be many correct answers, not just one. And finally, they know that knowledge is gained and shared through the process of discovery and divergence, not through the process of scripted convergence.




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