Why Creativity Can’t Be Taught

“What is creativity?

During my research I found there are about as many definitions of ‘creativity’ as there are people. For example:

Henry Rollins says: “Starting with nothing and ending up with something. Interpreting something you saw or experienced and processing it so it comes out different than how it went in.”

Daniel Pink‘s definition is: “Giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing.”

The English Oxford Dictionary‘s definition is: “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”

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Now, according to ‘Psychology Today’ creativity cannot be taught. In 2011 they wrote, you can teach everyone how to use a hammer or knitting needles.

But knowing how to use a hammer or a knitting needle doesn’t make you creative. Visualizing, dimensionally manipulating or modeling the chairs you build in your mind’s eye won’t necessarily make you creative either. Whether material or mental, these tools just provide the techniques and materials that make creative outcomes possible.

Seven years ago many states started calling for tests to find out about the student’s creativity, Massachusetts and California ahead.

Psychology Today does believe that tools for imaginative and creative thinking can be exercised and that habits, behaviors and strategies within the creative process can be taught. But they don’t believe creativity itself can be taught.

Neither do I. Let’s take a look at the quote I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I found many more quotes like these and each one of them included words like “imagination”, “fantasy”, “ideas”, “invention”, and “mind-wandering”. None of these habits would go with a person uninterested in inventing a creative process, creative thinking or any creative mind.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania wrote an article in 2014, about 4 feet long, including tons of complicated words, unnecessary studies and quotes, and at the end came to the conclusion that creativity cannot be taught. I had to read the post twice to be sure of the result. (Source: Wharton)

Monica Malhotra, Managing Director of the MBD Group, an interior designer and decorator without a technical degree, clearly declared in 2016: “Creativity cannot be taught to anyone. It’s a quality which is god-gifted. People can help you polish this quality but no one can imbibe it into someone,”

Even Steve Jobbs said: “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

How do you teach fantasy, imagination, vision and painting pictures in your head to someone? I believe it’s as simple as that: “You can’t.” I’m with Steve Jobbs and Monica Malhotra on that. Creativity is a God given talent that cannot be taught nor learned.

Share your opinion about this conclusion in the comments, please. I’m curious.

34 thoughts on “Why Creativity Can’t Be Taught

  1. I agree with the idea that creativity cannot be taught. I am a pretty creative person, but there are people more creatively minded than me and there are some who have no creative bone in their bodies. We should stick with what we know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I upset the students each year at the beginning of their first lecture. “I cannot teach you how to write scripts for radio or TV. I can give you tips and suggestions, and the practicalities of how to present them and put them on paper, but I cannot teach you how to write. That will come from inside each one of you – in some mysterious fashion.” I could tell after the first assignment that maybe from a class of 70, there were maybe 2 or 3 who ‘had it;.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have long heard that creativity can not be taught, and my years of writing have only reinforced that notion for me. Another example is music, in which you can teach everything except how to compose a melody. Once in a while a new tune will appear in my mind out of nowhere, and I think, too bad I can’t read or write music, otherwise I could preserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a million for dropping by and leaving your comment, Robert. I appreciate it. Basically I agree with you – on the creativity part. Of course one cannot learn how to compose – either a person has a musical bone or not. But: One can learn to read and write music. I learned it too. 🙂 I would say, if you can do that, and you have that tune in your head… you can write it down and compose…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said! I’ve been a teacher for a good part of my life, and trying to teach creativity is like trying to teach someone who is completely colour blind to see ‘green’. It can’t be done. That said, there are many degrees of colour blindness, in the same way as there are many degrees of ‘creativity’. Some people are so creative, they hardly seem to inhabit the real world at all. Others, like me, are plodding creatives. We do see, but it doesn’t come easily. I guess each one of us has to ‘know thyself’ and make the most of what we have been given. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Only in degree, I disagree with your premise. Everyone can be creative, under the right circumstances.
    For a few years I earned my salary going to client companies and moderating brainstorming sessions, developing ideas for new products. My success depended on making that mixed group of people conclude they’d had a creative day, that they had come up with ideas which hadn’t been thought of before.
    Under the right circumstances: by narrowly defining the issues to be addressed, by coming in with twenty ways to prompt creativity, by starting the day with a pep talk that they were creative because all people can be creative, I was successful.
    Compared to authorship, that job was easy. All I had to do was extract more ideas from the people who’d spent a little bit of every day having these ideas. The hard part isn’t thinking of the next product, the hard part is making it work. In the Land of Intellectual Property, that’s called reduction to practice.
    With respect to authorship, I agree with your premise completely. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who’ve said they have an idea for a novel, but they haven’t done anything with it. They can conceive of the basic idea, but then don’t have the ability to break the idea out into a sequence of ideas, the outline, then write a coherent story that follows the story arc, gives us relatable characters we care about, and gives us the emotional experience we’re seeking.
    In addition to creativity, authors need an understanding of the craft, and they need one more thing: the stubbornness to follow through and complete. That’s taking an idea and turning it into something tangible.
    Everyone can be creative, under the right circumstances, for a conveniently small task. Few can make their creativity produce a published book, or even a short story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can tell you from over 30 years of experience as a teacher that this is true. I can plant a seed, read aloud, give them the tools to paint, and play outstanding music for them to listen to. Then I smile and encourage children. They find creativity. I help them run with it. Outstanding post!

    Liked by 1 person

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