Why Does Creativity Matter?

by Allie Schaitel, UW-Whitewater graduate and Arts Wisconsin intern summer 2016

Arts Wisconsin is the leading independent organization speaking up and working for the arts in Wisconsin, and for the power, benefit and impact of the arts, creativity and imagination and the role these play in nearly every aspect of human life.  Everyone is creative in some way, and when creativity is recognized and used in business, education, government, and more, it positively affects productivity, innovation, and ultimately- success. Creativity can manifest itself in intangible thought as well as in work that is a physical product. Creativity and creative endeavors are not reserved for a special few.  Moments of creativity do not usually arrive as ‘aha!’ moments, but as ongoing, thoughtful reinvention or reimaging. When societies promote and invest in creativity in the everyday lives of citizens, the benefits spill into civic life, educational systems, and workplaces.  When companies invest in creativity and innovation, employees are happier and more inspired.

Creativity is necessary to study because it is a vital part of the human experience and encapsulates the highest level of human performance. The research of creativity provides cues for people to become better problem solvers and to think outside the box to promote ingenuity. Creative thinkers invent, innovate, educate, problem solve, inquire, and explore. For example, Wisconsin’s GE has designed its business model around creativity and innovation. It’s tagline “Imagination At Work” says it all- new ideas and forward thinking are applauded and welcomed. GE has made sure to distinguish its culture as one that balances creativity and efficiency: “Our culture is about providing everyone who works here with opportunities to exercise their responsibility, integrity, and creativity while growing themselves, their careers, and our business.”

Scientific American reports that diversity is an issue that promotes creativity. A diverse workforce strengthens personal and group creativity.  Research has shown that when teams are constructed with a wide array of people with varying backgrounds, sexual orientations, races, and genders are more likely to bring different types of information and insight to the group. Working across mindsets and backgrounds propels people to stretch their cognitive action in ways that work well for innovation and creativity.Paint Sculpture

To ask the question of how creativity manifests and works in different ways and how the brain moves through the creative process is a fickle, yet entirely interesting one. It is the differences in the types of creativity (originality and functionality) which make defining creativity as a whole a huge and monumental undertaking. Creativity is defined as consisting both of finding genius answers to difficult problems and everyday creativity with situational problem solving. There are various ways to cultivate everyday creativity by meditation, practicing observing and describing in new ways, turning off the television, free writing, and traveling. Our brain plasticity makes it possible for measures to be personally taken for improvement; in the case of creativity, stagnation is a choice.

In the classroom, teachers can allow students to branch out in ways that make them think ‘outside the box’, so to speak. The public school curriculum, in general, is very regimented and regulated with little room for creativity. When educators avoid staunch limitations for assignments and projects, students are prompted to explore new ideas and new ways to approach a topic or idea. When teachers use alternatives to the standard textbook teaching and testing by doing hands-on learning, showing videos, playing music, and promoting discussion, students retain information and get more out of their learning experience.

Even though it is necessary to think of creativity as an element not exclusively pertaining to ‘the arts,’ it has been proven time and time again that art education starting at a young age is crucial for bolstering problem solving and critical thinking skills. Arts programs including visual arts, music, performing arts, and more show extensive benefits that spill over in all areas of life. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between participation in art programs and the enhancement of reading and language development, cognitive skills, social skills (self-confidence, empathy, tolerance), and math skills.

Unfortunately, budget cuts have been taking a toll on arts programs for years, especially in urban areas with higher poverty rates. Programs like CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education) have shown that students and schools that participate in arts programs make strides toward closing achievement gaps between high and low income students. Activities like the arts also keep students in school; students who participate in the arts are less likely to drop out and more likely to aspire to attend college. As young adults and into adulthocreativityod, people with substantial arts experiences are more likely to vote, participate in political campaigns, or being involved with civic duties.

The CPS Process (Creative Problem Solving) is a method originally developed by Alex Osborn that identifies a proven way to approach a problem through the stages clarify, ideate, develop, and implement. This process is build upon the notion that everyone has the potential to be creative and that elements of creativity can be learned and improved through engaging with “brainstorming” and the creative process on a daily basis. When the CPS Processs is used and explored, thought processes are structured outside of conventional idea generation and solutions.

Everyone can participate by actively using the CPS Process, or getting involved in creating or creativity in some way. It is also important to be involved with and support legislation and funding for organizations that support artists and support creativity in everyday life, such as Arts Wisconsin. Reports and anecdotes point towards the arts and creative endeavors as necessary aspects of education for both children and adults in schools and the workplace. The studies showing correlations between creativity and excellence are very clear and very consistent, so it’s important to perceive creativity as a vital facet of our reality as humans.

Read more about the benefits of creativity and why creativity matters here: