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Are we developing human intelligence at the cost of creativity?

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist

Let us look at how creativity is defined. The same source defines creativity as an ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. Did you realise the difference? The key operative in creativity is ‘new’, which is not necessarily the case with intelligence. The question that begs an urgent explanation and pondering over is- are we over-reliant on intelligence at the cost of creativity?
If you look at most of the cognitive tasks, whether reading, writing, solving problems, composing sentences, etcetera, they are all based on some well-defined constructs, and mostly contain a well identified solution, or let’s call it the ‘one right answer’. Whereas creativity, much like an art form, doesn’t ascribe itself to a set of rules and there is seldom one right answer. In other words, intelligence seeks patterns and prediction, and one has to arrive at some convergent logic, whereas creativity is divergent, and one is open to an unprecedented solution. It seems that our modern education system, increasingly, is discounting creativity at the cost of urging our teachers and students to be more intelligent and making them expert ‘trouble shooters’. That, I am afraid, is like shooting ourselves in the foot. Since, a growing array of problems call for a fresh thinking and an experimental mindset, which are essentially the cornerstones of creativity, we need our students to be much more open to new experiences and teachers to pleasant surprises.
Because creativity, and more importantly innovation (differences discussed in the previous article), call for an open mind and hands-on approach, designing and fabrication is very important. Unless the students are made to put their theoretical assumptions to test and make these models work beyond paper, their imagination won’t fly, and they won’t be able to solve problems in a novel manner. Creating working models, performing experiments, drawing sketches, and thinking in terms of executable concepts, are much needed aspects of education, as much as, if not more, learning of new concepts. Remember, concepts are as good as practice. Let’s not err on the side of teaching too much without students getting a chance to apply and see for themselves what works and what doesn’t.
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