The point that Mr. Sternberg made that I most appreciated was that creativity or creative expertise is not an ability or a skill, but rather a result of deliberate practice in a field, domain or medium. I believe this idea that creativity is an attitude not an in-born skill is very important to the educational system. Raising kids, and in many cases being in the teaching position, I hear from the students and teachers alike that ‘he/she is so lucky, they can draw, write, are good at math”. Never considering the hours and hours it probably took that individual to acquire and perfect that skill. I know I too suffered from this long standing belief about art – that someone is naturally artistic and therefore an artist. Slowly I have discovered how untrue and self-defeating this belief is. I have been using Dr. Sternberg research as proof of this concept of commitment and practice being the key to creativity to everyone I can reach.
Another topic I found very interesting during our morning session was the comment Dr Sternberg made about defining problems during his study of troubled marriages. His research found that that almost across the board on partner did not recognize the existence of a problem in the marriage, which led the couple to define the problem incorrectly and then waste a lot of time and energy on a problem that was not even there. I feel that this concept of not defining the correct problem and then creating solutions to problems that are not responsible for the core issue is at the heart of much wasted creativity in corporations, educational systems, and clearly family systems.
A third subject I found intriguing was Dr. Sternberg’s description of the role of knowledge in his investment theory. He states that knowledge can be a double-edged sword. Knowledge is necessary to advance an idea in a field. But, knowledge can impede creativity by leading an individual to become entrenched or habitual in their ideas and or reactions. An individual can become so used to seeing things in a certain way that he starts to have trouble seeing them, or even imagining them, in any other way. The expert therefore may sacrifice flexibility for knowledge.
A perfect example from my life for this theory was the fact that at 24 I believed I had acquired enough experience and knowledge in my short career to start an advertising firm. Against the very strong advice of all the people important to me, I did start my agency, and 4 years later was able to walk away from the firm with considerable profits, advanced knowledge and more experience than I would have had if I had listened to all the wise and knowledgeable advisors. My stupidity, or naivety, saved me from giving up on my dream and having the opportunity to learn that sometimes you have to go with your gut.