Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Creativity Crisis

by Marcus Conyers

Part Three in a Six-Part Series

Research on creativity—how well people generate ideas, how original their ideas are, and how they persist in the work of turning ideas into effective action—shows a steady decline in skills related to creativity and innovation over the past 20 years.

In an era where virtually all new jobs created are in small and mid-sized enterprises, we must find ways to nurture innovative thinking and entrepreneurial mindsets in today’s workforce and in students who will be the future job candidates—and proprietors—of those enterprises.

As Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class, puts it, “Prosperity in the Creative Age turns on human potential. It can only be fully realized when each and every worker is recognized and empowered as a source of creativity—when their talents are nurtured.”

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first human-built satellite into orbit around the Earth—and so began the space race with the United States that spawned a remarkable decade of engineering and exploration ending in astronauts walking on the moon. The current creativity crisis should be our wake-up call to better prepare students to become tomorrow’s innovators.

Unfortunately, current education and training systems in the United States and other industrialized nations focus on developing analytic skills and the retention of facts, which are necessary but no longer sufficient for engaging young minds and preparing them to thrive in the working world. For many of us, capacities for creativity are not cultivated and may even be discouraged in the process of our education.

One study, for example, found that the vast majority of young children start school exhibiting high levels of creativity, which decline steadily throughout the school years into adulthood, leading one researcher to conclude that “non-creative behavior is learned.” Research indicates that creativity has declined steadily in the United States since the 1990s across key domains (Kim, 2012). 

However, emerging research from fields such as mind, brain, and education—and studies of creativity—indicate tremendous opportunities for nurturing the creative capacities of children and equipping students and adults with a cognitive toolkit of skills to enhance and act on their innovative thinking. 

Note: This post draws from research that Marcus did for an article, “Innovating Minds—What Students Need for the Future,” for Information Age Education (IAE).


Florida, R. (2014). Rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books.

Kim, K.H. (2012, July 10). Yes, there is a creativity crisis. The Creativity Post. Retrieved from http://www.creativitypost.com/education/yes_there_is_a_creativity_crisis.

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