Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shocked Out of Creativity as Kids?

Although I haven’t read Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s book Nurture Shock about child development, the title sparked a thought: Are we shocked out of creativity when we are growing up?

We do know that adults ask fewer questions, laugh a whole lot less than kids and certainly don’t play as much with some exceptions. Those include people such as comedians, clowns, magicians and jazz musicians and employees who are part of organizations that encourage fun like IDEO, Zappos, Southwest Airlines and many software companies. But, for the majority of adults, working life at least is far too serious and the idea of fun is often viewed as flaky.

The scarcity of questions, laughing, fun and play may go way back to the settling in of “judgment” when we were growing up - self-consciousness from how we were taught to react to mistakes, problems and uncertainty. Play is a safe harbor for facing challenging and hostile environments – experimenting without suffering dire consequences. Fun and laughter allow us to let go, reduce the noise level thereby allowing weak signals in our brains where insights reside to be detected. But, we also lose control temporarily. Questions take us out of our comfort zone because they stir the pot and introduce uncertainty. All of these factors battle with judgment for mind and body space.

After a screw up, we have about 500 milliseconds to react with awareness: ignore the mistake and brush it aside for the sake of our self-confidence or investigate the error and learn from it. Let the judgment mindset in? Or, take more of a growth mindset?

What can we do? Young children and students who are praised for their efforts, not their "smarts", typically demonstrate significant self-improvement. They are encouraged to challenge themselves, learn from their mistakes. We can do this for ourselves to bury the judgment factor and soften the bruising of our egos. Who knows what wonderful ideas may emerge when our more open minds are simply wandering around?

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