Children are creative geniuses, but adults are not – so where does our creativity go?
We have a creativity problem – both as an industry and as humanity.
In a study of 1,600 school children, 98 per cent were considered ‘geniuses’ at divergent thinking at age five. At 10 years old this number dropped to 32 per cent, by age 15 it was 10 per cent and down to just 2 per cent by full adulthood.
What are we doing wrong? How does our unbridled creativity and child-like imagination just disappear into the ether – especially when it is so useful to us? Why did it take Pablo Picasso “four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child?”
One culprit is this idea that creativity is a light bulb moment. It’s the “huzzah!” when you come up with a great idea while showering, or getting hit on the head by an apple while pondering the forces of gravity. Ideas are “created” in the minds of geniuses.
This is a relatively new idea, and one that is quite limiting. If ideas are supposed to just “come to you” in a flash, then what do we do if we can’t find them? It’s too easy to then give up and assume that you are “not a creative person”.
But everyone is a creative person, whether they believe it or not. The issue is that we often view creativity through this limited mindset. If this is you, it’s time to try on a new one.
The Ancient Greeks didn’t view creativity as creating – they saw it as discovery. Ideas were not to be found in the brains of clever people but in the natural world around us. Whether it’s the delicate intricacies of a spider’s web or the beautiful harmonies of butterfly wings, nature is the great creator and inspirer.
And then there’s the “biophilia hypothesis”, the theory that we instinctively love nature because that is where we first evolved. We feel at peace in nature because, like us, it is full of life. And in that peace, we have the freedom to let our imagination and creativity run wild.
Today, this is a perspective that is regaining momentum. Nature and forest learning has fast become a mainstream trend. Parents are increasingly encouraging children to play outside more, while more and more outdoor/forest nurseries are starting up. Even Steiner schools – known for their holistic, artistic and hands-on approach to education – continue to be popular. Clearly using nature to build and maintain children’s creativity, health and happiness is a popular idea.
And it’s not just children. The wellness sector is one of the fastest growing sectors, at a rate of $60bn per year according to Euromonitor. Consumers everywhere are starting to adopt a holistic approach to their mental and physical wellbeing, and this is not a shift marketers can afford to ignore.
But can this help drive businesses forward? We think so. And we’re not alone.
Companies like Facebook have introduced walking meetings. More are urging their staff to reclaim their lunch breaks, get outside, get some fresh air and kickstart their creative thinking. Camp Grounded is even pioneering a “digital detox” summer camp where business leaders hand in their technology so they can hold hands and sing songs (which isn’t as horrifying a prospect as it sounds!).
Brands are also using this trend of 'reconnecting with nature' as a marketing tool. Take a look at the Persil/Omo 'Free the Kids' campaign, or Strongbow’s 'Nature Remix' campaign. Both campaigns play into that bond with nature that many consumers have or desire.
It’s a smart move. Nature inspired the great Romantic artists, helping form the movement’s principles of harmony, balance and free-flowing style. As an industry of creatives, who are we to ignore that which helped create some of the greatest art humanity has ever produced, and which created humanity itself?
Children understand that to be creative, we need to be free, happy and uninhibited in our imagination. As adults, we must recapture that spirit. And that means embracing the things that make us feel alive, and rejecting the barriers that stifle us. Only then can we rediscover the creative genius of our inner child.
Laura Jones is strategy director at Exposure Digital