Who’s Teaching Creativity?

creativity-takes-courage matisse quote2Although the answer to that question isn’t everybody, I do wonder if we’re seeing the beginnings of a tipping point. More and more businesses are clamoring for creative employees, and universities across the country are starting to integrate the subject into their curricula. Hurrah! Are big business and big education seeing what art and design programs have known all along; that imagination and inventiveness are essential problem solving tools? Perhaps so.

Today’s online New York Times has an interesting article, Learning To Think Outside The Box, that fills me with encouragement. In it, author offers examples showing the University of Georgia, Penn State, and SUNY Buffalo/Buffalo State getting into the game with classes like “Introduction to Creative Studies” and “Creativity, Innovation and Change.”

Gerald J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State explains; “the reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative.” “The marketplace is demanding it,” he says. The article highlights a 2010 IBM survey of 1500 top executives that backs him up. It states that CEO’s believe creativity is “the most important leadership quality,” trumping other characteristics. The reason why is simple; in today’s complex world where ambiguity and complexity are the norm, out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation are essential for building innovative products, processes, and delivery systems.

einstein creativity quote 2How do they teach creativity? At Buffalo State the process involves clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing. Sound familiar? I guess design thinking isn’t just for Industrial Designers after all. Other programs focus on how to learn from failure. As artists already know, failure is just one step in the design process. Just think of the hours building and rebuilding that interior design model; of drawing and redrawing that still life; or of sewing and re-sewing that new jacket for your fashion design course. If at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again, experimenting and learning along the way.

All of this is good news. Businesses are beginning to grasp the value of a creative education.  And they’re starting to realize what we already knew, that creative people are imaginative and capable problem solvers.

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Guest Post: Cultivate Your Creative Skills

The-three-levels-of-creativity - colored

By Laura Young

Many of my earliest memories are of art. My family was into museums, botanical gardens, and classical concerts, so I started making art very early. Through grade and high school I enjoyed drawing and painting, playing the piano, and acting/comedy improv, but I always saw the visual and performing arts as a separate practice from my academics. Art was just something I did for myself, because it was fun and pleasing, and I didn’t think much beyond that.

When I applied to college, I didn’t want to apply to art school because I liked many subjects. At the nudging of a family member, however, I applied to UCLA’s art department, and to my great surprise, I was admitted. I had turned in a portfolio but my academics did not meet the average profile of campus, so their decision confused me. More than anything else, I didn’t know what I was good at. I had plenty of things that I liked to do, but I wasn’t an expert at anything, so I wondered what UCLA had seen.

The summer before college, however, the luckiest thing happened to me: I got an internship at Disney, with a woman named Peggy van Pelt. Peggy was an executive consultant at the company, and her expertise focused on creative people: how to understand them in order to ensure their happiness, productivity, and positive development. Peggy was the first person to tell me that while I was making art, I was also cultivating many powerful creative skills.

Now that I work with artistic students in the college application process, I often hear them worry that an arts degree isn’t “sensible”. I couldn’t disagree more! Here is a short list of what artists are good at:

– Problem solving – being able to approach an issue and come up with many solutions
– Working alone with minimal supervision
– Working collaboratively
– Working effectively and in a disciplined manner
– Multitasking
– Delivering articulate critique
– Accepting critique and utilizing feedback positively
– Being able to consider issues in the long run as well as in detail

Those of us in the arts have been listening with some amusement to the national discussion on how to develop leaders for the 21st century. Critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, creativity… artists are already fantastic at this. Of course, anyone could learn these important skills in any major, but for creative students, an arts degree program can be the best, most appropriate context to better identify and interact with the world.

So. My message to you is the same one I got from Peggy: you are already so good at so many things.  Go have fun figuring out how to implement your many talents! We’re waiting for you.

 

Laura Young is the Director of Enrollment Management at UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture. She can be reached at laura.miwha.young@gmail.com, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lauramyoung/.

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