Over the past 30 years or so (wow, how quickly times passes!), I've conducted research with animals, children, and adults that has helped me to understand the creative process in fairly
rigorous terms. I've also developed a formal, scientific theory of creativity called Generativity Theory. I've concluded - contrary to popular belief! - that creativity is an orderly and predictable process. This might sound ominous, but it's actually great news, because it means that creativity can be engineered - and that all of us can realize the enormous creative potential lying within us.
Almost all kindergarten students express creativity constantly, but by the end of the first grade, very few children express creativity. It's no secret why: In a very obvious, very heavy-handed way, teachers and other authority figures shut down creative expression big time. "That's a silly question." "Keep doing your assignment." "Stay within the lines." "Stop DAYDREAMING." That's what we all hear, and it has an enormous effect. In fact, the only people who continue to express creativity are the misfits - the kids who just can't be socialized. In other words, the misfits end up OWNING creativity!
That's not fair, and it also isn't necessary! My research shows that we all have roughly equal creative potential. The key to exploiting that potential is to learn and practice certain basic skills - what I call the Four Core Competencies of Creative Expression. To get a quick fix on how strong your creativity competencies are, take the free test at http://MyCreativitySkills.com.
If you're a manager, teacher or parent, you might also want to take the test at http://MyCreativitySkills.com/managers. That test looks at eight skill sets that help leaders bring out creativity in other people.
If you're in charge of a business or other organization, the bottom line is that you don't need to leave creativity to chance. With minor tweaks in policies and procedures, creativity can be systematically programmed into every level of an organization, increasing creative output in an organization by at least a factor of two. In a scientific journal, I recently reported on a project in which nearly 200 city employees in Brea, California, were given basic creativity training, transforming Brea into a City of Creativity - which translated into millions of dollars in savings and new revenues, by the way.
To get more information about my work in this area, check out the cover story in the new issue of Scientific American Mind (http://SciAmMind.com), or visit my website at http://DrEpstein.com.
A Ph.D. of Harvard University, ROBERT EPSTEIN is a long-time researcher and professor, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine, a contributing editor for Scientific American Mind, and a visiting scholar at the University of California San Diego. He is the author of 14 books, including The Big Book of Creativity Games.