Creativity Is on the Decline — And Why It Matters

Creativity is a crucial aspect of any thriving organization or society—and one that a recent article says is declining ominously in the U.S.

The Newsweek article, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, focuses on the results of creativity tests designed by E. Paul Torrance in the 1950s. A researcher examined almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults and found that while they rose until 1990, the scores have been consistently falling since.

Why does that matter? CEOs have called creativity the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future, the article says, and the solutions to the tough problems facing the nation and the world “emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.”

The American obsession with rote learning and standardized testing isn’t helping, the article maintains. Encouraging creativity isn’t just a matter of adding more art and music instruction—creative thinking is crucial in hard sciences as well. The article notes that pilot programs in some elementary schools have shown that it’s possible to teach children in a more creativity-focused way and still have them meet curriculum standards.

Our family is about to have some firsthand experience with that as my daughter, soon to be 9, enters fourth grade in a special magnet program for children who’ve met certain testing criteria. My wife and I attended an information session about it and were very impressed with the way the program encourages independent thinking. Both of our children have shown considerable creativity, but we’re aware it’s something we have to actively foster—it’s easy to let them fall into a cycle of just consuming TV and videogames otherwise.

And for the adult side of creativity? It’s certainly important in my work as a Journal editor and my wife’s work as a corporate-communications consultant. I do think I need to more actively foster my own creativity. As I mentioned in my May post about turning 40, I’ve been meaning for a long time to resume writing short stories, which I think would be both enjoyable and a good method of mental exercise. Time to turn tomorrow into today on that, soon.

Readers, how important do you think creativity is to your children’s development and to your own workplace and career?  Is creativity encouraged in your workplace or your family’s school? Are there things you’ve done or plan to do to encourage greater creative thinking on both fronts?  Any fun creativity-boosters you recommend for kids or adults?

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