Rewiring our brains for creativity
When was the last time you browsed the magazine shelves looking at really cool design magazines, or walked a labyrinth, or attended a laughing club? Odd questions, you may muse, but not according to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.
Mr Pink’s main argument is that our socialisation, education and training has prepared us well for the world we used to live in, which required high doses of sequential, left-brain thinking; or in overly simplistic terms, planning, analysis, writing and arithmetic. But it isn’t doing such a good job at preparing us for the future which, I might add, has actually already arrived.
This future — which he calls the Conceptual Age — requires a different type of thinking, a whole new mind altogether. But in the process of developing this whole new mind, we have to cultivate and unleash the contextual right side of our brain, largely responsible for conceptual thinking, dreaming, recognition of faces, emotion and creativity — which, sadly, tends to be neglected after our early childhood years.
There was a study conducted a number of years ago called Break Point and Beyond, which tracked 1,600 children over time to see what happened with their ability to think divergently, a predominantly right brain function. Between the ages of three and five, 98 per cent scored in the creative genius category; five years later, this had reduced to 32 per cent and five years after that, by the time they were in their mid-teens, it had dropped to 10 per cent.
The same tests were given to 200,000 adults, where 2 per cent tested in the creative genius category. Quite scary results, and what one might call an invisible disability.
Given the results of studies such as this, it is of no surprise that by the time we enter the workforce, a lot of the creative capacities that we were born with have, through our socialisation, upbringing and education, largely disappeared. And yet, it is in the workforce that we are in desperate need of fresh thinking, not only to remain competitive, effective or productive, but to solve some of the most complex problems our world faces today.
I facilitate many creativity and innovation workshops in Asia and Europe, and one of the first questions I ask is, how many people consider themselves creative? I may get one or two hands raised in a group of 20 or more participants.