I recently read a mind blowing article about Dr George Land who had been contracted by NASA to develop a specialized test to measure the creative potential of the agency’s rocket scientists and engineers. Proving quite effective the test left researchers wondering where creativity comes from and whether some people were just born with it or if it could be learned.
They decided to administer the very simple test, that determines a person’s ability to come up with new different and innovation ideas to a problem, to sixteen hundred children between the ages of four or five. The results showed that 98% of the children registered in the genius category for imagination. Astounded by this they continued the study looking at the same children at the age of 10 when 30% ranked in the genius category and again at age 15 when it had dropped to 12%. In looking at adults they found only 2% made genius.
Their results alerted other researchers to the disturbing awareness that our school system robs us of our creative genius. Looking at how the brain works they found two different forms of thinking that use different parts of the brain. One called divergent thinking, where imagination comes from, is used to generate new ideas and possibilities. The other, convergent involves judgement, decision making, criticizing and evaluation.
Land says our school systems teaches us to do both kind of thinking at the same time. When you come up with a new idea you immediately launch into all the ways it won’t work. This acts like driving a car with one foot on the gas pedal and one on the brakes. The neurons in the different parts of your brain start fighting with each other which diminishes your capacity. When you use creative thinking without evaluating at the same time more of your brain lights up and we expand your genius.
In my own experience with writing and then teaching creative writing I always knew the importance of separating the creative process from the critical process. You first have to let the words flow out without thinking they comes back later in editing mode. Until reading about Land’s findings I hadn’t thought a lot about how important it was to apply the separation of the creative from the critical to every area of our lives.
It’s not too late. Dr Land also found that we all have the ability to reclaim our creative juice if we chose. He suggests a simple practice to begin reclaiming your creative imagination at the heart of your genius. Consider your basic table fork and come up with twenty five ways to improve it.
Or you could do this with any problem you are trying to solve. Don’t force this process. Just let your imagination run with the issue. Writing down any solutions that pop into your mind especially when your critical thinking mind is busy with other task like driving a car, going for a walk, taking a shower or washing the dishes. This allows possibilities to arise that you might not have considered.
Now that you have this awareness catch yourself when you immediately want to jump on an idea with all the reasons it won’t work. Rather be curious and allow more ideas and inspiration to flow in around all the ways it could work and feel your creative genius grow.