I’ve done talks at a fair few schools recently. I’ve written about what I’ve found before (see here) and some of those same concepts of a lack of creative confidence keep appearing. It all makes me wonder – is it worth it? Should I be bothering at all?
When I ask the audience (of 14 to 18 years olds), “what would you do with a billion pounds?” they manage to answer it, just, but in such a low level way.
“Buy a car” was one boy’s answer.
“What sort of car?” I asked.
“What about one of those small bubble cars?”
After a big pause he said, embarrassed, “A BMW”
“Ah, one of the small BMWs”
“No way, a great big one.”
“So, you do know” I said. “Why didn’t you know that you knew? Why didn’t you write down ‘A big BMW’?”
One other girl said, in all seriousness, she would by “A book”. A billion pounds and she’d by a book.
“What book?” I said.
Reading this you’ll probably laugh and say ‘that’s teenagers for you’. But I’m not sure that it is, or rather that it should be.
The question is of course testing imagination and barriers to thinking about what we want and what we deserve.
One teacher questioned my approach of attempting to ‘inspire the students to think big, break out of artificial boundaries and claim their future’ saying that they were quite capable of that and really what they needed was to knuckle down and concentrate and that my message negated hard work and academic study.
What would be the point of booking a speaker on Creativity and Brilliance for them to say “you’ve got to get your head down and study” – that’s the schoolsjob. I have to assume they’re doing her job and I can build my message on top.
It was announced this week on the news that on average 70 graduates apply for every graduate job. Companies will not even look at anyone who has less than a 2:1 degree. My theme is not that hard work and study are not important, the opposite in fact that you need to perform even better than before, but that great qualifications are no longer enough ON THEIR OWN. And that creativity is what will be the deciding factor if everyone has the same high standard.
So are children confident with their creativity? Are they able to unleash it and use it to be brilliant, to better solve problems and further themselves and their careers?
I’m not so sure. When I do any of my creativity games at schools, fun tests to see who’s paying attention and who recognises boundaries to their creativity, they all fall for it, everytime. They’re all so eager to please that they don’t have any thoughts of their own without thinking about the answer they think the teacher (or in this case me) is looking for. When I do the same routines for business we have good fun with the games and occasionally people see through them. But when the children stand there in my orange hula hoop, terrified to step out of it in case they ‘do it wrong’ I feel that imagination, thinking big and identifying boundaries is needed by them more than any generation I’ve ever worked with.
This raises the question of how far I can go without appearing to tread on teachers or the system’s toes. I don’t think I do, but anyone who has a particular bee in their bonnet may feel that I do.
If you see me do the hoop thing you’ll see that I say we need to get rid of the artificial self imposed limitations that constrains us but we are still bound by the walls of the room – the real boundaries and we need to know what those real boundaries are in order to be fully creative. I use sport as an example: without following the rules you can’t play the game. I make a big point of saying that everyone has unbounded ‘creativity’, not ability. What we all chose to do, what we’re all eventually capable of, is different. Only an idiot would say “you can do anything”.
If you look at the lyrics of my closing song it says: “You’ve got to do everything that you can” not “You can do anything that you want”. There’s a key difference there.
Schools by their nature have to operate like sausage factories. My message is anti-sausage factory, it’s an add-on to what schools do, it’s what they can’t do. At the end of the day, I’m talking about creativity, not about being normal. I’m talking about standing out and standing up, not about being the same. To do that I have to be a maverick, I have to be a loose canon, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing the job right.
We’re dealing with a changing world. The only thing we can be certain of is that things will change, and at a faster pace too. I think that systems, like schools, don’t like that and try to fight it.
My message is that if we can teach our children one thing, it needs to be that they are able to cope with change. We need to make sure they learn how to learn. And that’s what creativity is.
My opinion is that the schools may not want it, but our school children certainly need it.
(Read more here)