Beyond the Brush and the Obvious: Why Nurturing Creativity is Worth it!

Artwork by Kaya | 4 y o

The other day, I told my four year old that I loved her painting and that I wish I could paint like her, to which she replied: “You need to grow as young as me to be able to paint like me”. 

She has a point and I completely agree with her and, I think, so would Picasso.

This little episode with my four-year-old reminded me of a great study conducted by NASA in the late 1960s. NASA was keen on hiring innovative minds and in order to do that, they decided to commission a study, led by George Land to understand the nature of creative genius. The focus of this creativity deciphering study was primarily on 3-5 year old children. A group of 1,600 children, enrolled in the program, were subjected to a creativity test initially crafted for NASA recruits. The results were fascinating; 98% of these children were labelled as creative geniuses. However, by the age of 10, the genius level dropped to 30% and further down to 12% by the age 15. When compared to adults, only a 2% were able to preserve this level of creative genius. 


So it basically turns out that the school systems and educational models are constructed to dumb down children’s creative genius, morphing them into less creative adults. Arguably, according to George Land,  the educational model, focusing on simultaneous divergent thinking (thinking linked to imagination and new ideas) and convergent thinking (thinking related to judgement and evaluation), was a major culprit in the decline of creative genius as children transitioned through school. 

While the educational system stifles creative genius, there’s good news for us adults—we have the power to reclaim and strengthen our creative muscles. The more creativity we practice, the more it amplifies and positively impacts every other aspect of our lives.

Let’s imagine for a minute how our lives might be if we rediscovered our creative superpower. 

We immediately become more interesting – not just to others, but, first of all, to ourselves. Our ability to see the external environment in different shades enhances and with that, new ideas start popping up and we also become better at articulating them. As a result, we evolve into more compelling conversationalists. 

We become better people: There is a strong correlation between creative capacity and empathy. Once we learn to look at things from different perspectives, we become way better at seeing different perspectives and are more aware of how others interpret what we say (or write). 

We think differently: Creativity is closely linked to divergent thinking, which opens up an entire realm of possibilities and innovative ways of solving complex problems. Breaking established thought patterns enables us to build and appreciate new perspectives, which contributes to personal and collective growth.

We become more curious: Picasso once famously said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”. He got the point that the ability to paint like a child is not about technicalities, but the mindset. Children are naturally and infinitely curious, questioning everything they see or are told. Rediscovering our innate sense of curiosity is incredibly liberating, and also will help us, as adults, to develop critical reasoning skills. 

We might be happier and healthier: A body of research highlights the close relationship between creativity and mindfulness. Taking just a few minutes out of our busy lives on a regular basis to practise creative thinking is an amazing form of mindfulness. Trust me, there is something fundamentally therapeutic in doodling, sketching, observing, listening with no attachment to the outcome, simply for the sake of being there, doing that at the very moment.

It is possible to improve creativity and divergent thinking at any age. And the great news is that the process of rediscovering your creativity is the funnest fun ever!