By Beverly Davis
Creativity means different things to different audiences. And it can be expressed in so many ways that is difficult to come up with a definition that suits everyone. Merriam Webster defines creativity as “the ability to create or the quality of being creative.” So much for not using the same word to define itself.
When we were shaping our mission in the early stages of SPARK! – to ignite the spark of creativity inherent in all children – we spent countless hours thinking how we would define creativity. I had researched the topic and the importance of igniting a child’s thinking both in and out of the context of formal education. I was adamant that our definition of creativity not be limited to artistic endeavor or even restricted to “The Arts.” With STEM focus being so prevalent at that time (2011), It was necessary to make sure our definition included those areas of study. Our belief was, and sill is, that creativity is a more global approach to problem solving.
Our Programs Committee, comprised of teachers, a principal, an artist, business people and two individuals who run educational programs outside of schools’ standard curriculum, wrestled with this issue.
Here is the result of that deliberation:
Creativity – A sense of wonder that invites exploration and the discovery of new possibilities.
This definition starts with a mental process. A sense of wonder is sparked by many things — a need, a problem, an opportunity, a request, an assignment, and even pure inspiration. It is aligned with the adage, “necessity is the mother of invention” and the ability to question how to do something better, cheaper and faster. Sometimes we see the work of others and that inspires us to question, “What if I did it this way?”
Entrepreneurs see an opportunity to make money by creating a product, service, or experience that others need or want. Their sense of wonder comes from a determination to deliver something others will purchase. In school, teachers give assignments designed to ignite that sense of wonder.
Exploration is the actual process of the creative mind. It involves research, production, modification, collaboration, iteration, and trial, to reach a desired result. This aspect of the definition applies to works of art, scientific discoveries, the creation of new products, and more.
Sir James Dyson recalls that he had 5,126 failures, or iterations, until he eventually created the world’s best-selling vacuum cleaner.
The discovery of new possibilities happens throughout the process and is often the culmination of this process.
At SPARK! we teach children that creativity is a process that drives us toward a goal.