Reading, Writing and Arithmetic Aren’t Enough To Succeed

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic Aren’t Enough To Succeed

This post is a combination of old journal entries, notes and articles I have written on creative intelligence.  

If you spend any time watching children interact one undeniable fact will jump out at you, no child is the same.  Children are perhaps the purest example of the power of human curiosity and diversity.  It’s human i & diversity that have led to all sorts of inventions and discoveries.

Unfortunately, these human traits are often contradicted by the belief system we have about education and intelligence.

I have always loved to create. When I was young, that meant spending hours drawing imaginary worlds, writing stories about creatures with incredible powers, or spending the entire day with my friends pretending to be Jedi Knights.

Like most people, I also was educated in a system where intelligence is largely a function of how well you master reading, writing, and arithmetic.  In fact, I was taught that focusing on these areas would be a good indicator of my long-term success.  Now while I know that the STEM disciplines have been a critical part of my life, I also know that they are not sufficient for long-term competitive success.

A full education is a diverse one, and focusing on STEM skills alone is too limiting in a world where computers can perform mathematical, writing and reading tasks more efficiently than humans.

We need a different view of intelligence that understands that machines can’t replicate human ingenuity and creativity, a view that combines traditional literacy and creativity to produce the type of thinkers we will need in the feature.  How do we do that?

 I want to point out that being creative has nothing to do with the traditional idea that you are creative or you are not. That is a myth.  The accepted mental model of creativity is poorly constructed. It prevents us from seeing how we can increase creativity.

We should start by understanding that creativity isn’t about who you are, it’s about what you do, more specifically how you think.  To be more creative, you have to develop specific habits that lead to increased creativity. When I first started talking about creativity, I focused on a concept called the “New R’s”.   Over time the idea evolved, and not all of the skills I uncovered had a handy word that started with R.  Now I focus on two groups of skills that explain what I mean by creative intelligence.

Creative Literacy

Unesco defines literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, communicate and compute using printed and written material.  Literacy is a continuum of learning that allows individuals to pursue goals, develop potential, and participate in their community and society. Creative literacy is your ability to identify, interpret, and communicate unique solutions to both simple and complex problems. Creative literacy helps us participate fully in problem-solving. Especially when the solution and the problem are ambiguous.  There are four components to creative literacy.

  • Resourcefulness is the ability to deal creatively and promptly with new or unusual challenges by drawing on support systems that may not be readily available or apparent.
  • Resilience is the ability to recover or remain buoyant when exposed to adversity or change. Some people refer to this as grit or growth mindset.
  • Responsiveness is the ability to proactively identify and adjust to suddenly altered implicit or explicit conditions and to resume stability without undue delay.
  • Repurposing is the ability to actively improve or reuse an idea by adjusting its use without intentionally affecting its obvious meaning. I originally got this idea from the concept of code refactoring.

Creative Capacity

Capacity is the ability to contain, absorb or receive and hold something.  When talking about creative capacity we aren’t just looking at the amount that can be received or contained.  We are also working on our potential to perform.  Think about how professional athletes approach conditioning.   By conditioning, they increase their ability to utilize oxygen and strength. They also improve the chances they will be able to use that capacity during game time.  There are four components to creative capacity:

  1. Articulation is the ability to express or present the details of an idea with clarity.  I also call this reduction to the essence of an idea.
  2. Flexibility is the ability to generate ideas across a variety of different disciplines.
  3. Fluency – is the ability to smoothly generate meaningful and relevant ideas.
  4. Originality is the ability to generate or repurpose ideas so that they are unique among other ideas.

Being creative isn’t about having a special gift and being smart isn’t about being great at math. Both are about the development of habits that lead to proficiency in a particular area of human intelligence. More importantly, we need both types of intelligence to succeed in the future.