The Creative Mind

Finally, there’s proof.  Something I always felt I saw happening.  Something many people have commented on in various ways, perceiving, but not quite able to articulate.  Probably part of the reason why a lot of films are starting to feel redundant, why the music is so repetitive, why you probably can’t name four contemporary pioneers of visual art right now…

Creative intelligence is dropping.

I got this article from Newsweek that states that creative intelligence has been steadily dropping year by year since 1990.

Intelligence can be marked in various ways.  Some have emotional intelligence, meaning they can perceive emotions well or how to manipulate the emotions of others around them.  Some have a spatial intelligence, which would make them a great architect or artist.  Some have academic intelligence.  Some are creatively intelligent, meaning they are good at taking one thing and creating something new or improving it.  It could mean a whole range of things.  For all these kinds of intelligence there is usually some kind of test that is associated.  We most know of IQ tests or SATs.  Well then there’s the Torrance test.  The article goes into some detail on the test and so forth, but here are the most striking parts of what the article says about the decline of creativity over the years…

…there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly…

A large part of the reason why I created this site is because I wanted to use the arts as a way of communicating the idea of “creative intelligence”.  It’s my belief that in order to be a great artist/entertainer, you have to have some kind of creative intelligence in order to move what you’re doing forward.  Of course, there are plenty of musicians who can play instruments, but do not have the creativity to improvise a piece.  Many people who are artists can copy a picture, but probably can’t create something out of their own head without a direct reference in front of them.  But that’s what, to me, means they are not ARTISTS in the sense of it being their path of life.  The life of a person who produces a product based on their creativity.

Leonardo to Picasso.  Stravinsky to Stevie.  Hitchcock to Spielberg.  Some of these folks have an ability to take a medium to the next level.  That’s the kind of thinking I am talking about.  Someone that can take one piece of an idea (like the Torrance test does in it’s drawing section) and being able to expand on it to create something different.  It’s a quality of leadership.  It’s problem solving.

So when we hear music, see movies, or other things that make you say “I’ve seen that before” and we feel that it’s copying something else, it’s probably because the person behind it was not entirely creatively intelligent.  But the folks who have a deep following and fan base, that have set the trends, that have changed the game, were creatively intelligent.  Kanye West.  Heath Ledger.  You name it.  They take the art to the next level that inspire us.  They are leaders.

It’s not enough for a person to get a mic, pro tools, and a computer program to make beats, and then call yourself a music artist.  Sure you can do it, or imitate others.  But come up with something on your own, that’s honest, and catches fire like Prince?  That takes another level of thinking.

I’ve seen a lot of people suddenly take up cameras and call themselves photographers.  People who jump in front of that camera and call themselves models. Folks who buy the cheapest Flip Mino and want to make music videos.   But compare the work of an amateur to that of the creative intelligent person with the natural knack and learned skill?  You can’t compete.

So before someone jumps up and calls themselves an artist, I ask, are they creative? And as the article says you don’t  necessarily have to be in the arts.  A business person can be creative.  Anyone can use a creative mind in any field, it’s just that we usually recognize efforts of creativity in musicians and storytellers.

And who are the culprits when it comes to the fall of creative intelligence?  Well we can definitely point toward the American school system.  We measure achievement by how well you can do on academic tests.  Your grade is reflection of your ability to learn. But plenty of people in leadership positions didn’t do well in school.  Along with that, how many of us learn how to create the solutions to problems?  We learn the process and get the answer.  But how often are we asked to create the process itself?

And furthermore, we have a society that doesn’t really reward creative thinking…at least, not until the thought has been proven to work.  Imagine someone coming up with the idea for an iPhone in 1978?  A computer, a camera, AND a phone all in one?  Yeah right.  How is that going to happen?  We doubt imaginations that don’t seem immediately practical.  A seed of doubt can kill an idea.  So we place a lot of doubt on “out the box” thinkers.  So then they also doubt their own intelligence.  But the ones that truly believe in their idea, and prove others wrong?  We praise them later, especially once they make millions of dollars.

I can go into a whole rant on the industries (i.e. film, music, television, radio, etc) that take “creative” works and market them.  Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t dumb.  It may take a while for others to catch on, but when they notice a remade film disguised as being “new”, a song that follows the exact same format as another one, people begin to catch on.  And when they notice their pockets being drained by nothing but the same product, that’s when the pirating happens.  And yes, the industry wants things “proven” to work, so they tell artists to copy the creative minds.  It’s a very interesting cycle that happens in every business, but we treat it with a different regard when it comes to art.  We think of art as needing to have some kind of unique mind behind it.  I don’t care if my socks are the exact same, but the art I enjoy?  Some of it needs to be original and unique to me.

It’s no wonder that a lot of younger people now are listening to older music.  They feel the creativity and honesty in it.  People are going back to older things trying to figure out where to go next.  Leadership is dropping.  A lot of people sense it happening.

I saw this video a while ago and couldn’t wait for the right post to put it up.  I think you all should check out the WHOLE LECTURE HERE.

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9 comments

  • 07/20/2010 at 5:38 am //

    creative intelligence is as alive as ever .. just don’t look at what is in the commercial market .. that is where the stultification is

  • My mother placed me in Dance class at the age of 4. From that point on I Danced. I Danced til I realized I could MAKE Dance! At the age of 25 I wondered if I had missed my other callings, so I began to “dabble” in other arts. Thank GOD the viewfinder of the internet and social networking was nowhere around during those dabbling years, no one there to tell me how much I SUCK at singing soprano! And while I am a life-long poet, I thank God my 500 fb friends missed my 1989 debut at the Church Christmas Show! Nowadays a person doesn’t stay “in the lab” long enough, we live in a
    show-your-work age, and show it now! Does it mean people are less creative? Or are we just privy to everyone’s experimental process? EVERY ONE!

  • That last video has me wondering if we’re medicating this younger generation into drone-like lives instead of putting them in environments where they will thrive. Forced academics are definitely not for everyone…

    Interesting piece, Merc.

  • Hi Merc, nice to meet a fellow Creative Intelligence disciple. And ‘Sir Ken’ rocks. For me, creative intelligence is a way, a ‘how’ as much as a ‘what’. as you rightly say, a lot of so called creative product is conventional and bland. And something as everyday as brushing your teeth can be approached creatively.
    We need more creativity, in art and in life.
    thanks for the post.
    Orna

  • That was so awesome to articulate about creativity. I knew someone close to me that allowed his very intelligent child to be put on “Ritalin” medication, this child was only eight. This person told me they had to put the child on the above medication don’t they would expell (not allow her to go to school!

    I remember when I was a child the teacher would allow the child (usually boys) to get up in front of the class and tell a joke or dance (have the last 5 min.) if he would pay attention in class and it worked.

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