Creativity – Can it Be Learned?

The following is from memory of part of a class I taught 20 plus years ago. There were two pioneers in the development of creative thinking as a science (or an art). One was a Dr. Parnes, and the other was Dr. Osborne. Many of their students also wrote reports which were available. Both of these men ran hundreds of various individual and group tests about individual ideation and the art of group brainstorming. I read everything I could find about their work and testing over about a one year period and then spent one long week narrowing them down into what I thought would be an applicable approach for exchange real estate brokers to use in plying their trade.

For various subject matters they broke creative thinking into three to eleven steps. At the time I knew the real estate exchange business extremely well and I broke it into five steps for our marketplace. It was my feeling that this division gave our brokerage fraternity the best chance at arriving at a correct solution to unlock complicated real estate problems. It almost always boiled down to a people problem rather than a real estate problem.

In the classes I taught I usually broke the class into four groups (10 to 20 students each). Each group had the general outline of a real estate owner with a problem and then in approximately ½ hour they were to come up with one or more creative solutions for solving the problem. They were to follow exactly the five steps so they could mechanically get to the creative solutions. These solutions have to appear if you follow the steps. Many of these problems were real and from situations that were live. These group solutions were then shared with the class and we tracked how the minds had worked in coming up with the solutions.

Creative thinking is a mechanical process if you follow the steps.

In 100 plus classes I must have supervised a sampling of maybe 500 plus creative brainstorming solutions. In addition, my business life at the time was spent in the milieu of the exchange business where individual ideation and brainstorming were used every day.

The answer then to the query at the beginning of this article “Creativity – can it be learned?” is yes.

Dr. Parnes and Dr. Osborne both say that creativity can be learned by anyone at any age. My experience validates this, no question.

I ran dozen of tests with my children and their friends and it worked. I have had students with many years under their belts and it works. The S.E.C. group is the proof positive. I, like many S.E.C.’s, use this thinking process in my daily routine.

To end let me leave you with a beginning. The absolute key to any creative thinking process whether it be individual or group is as follows. Dr. Parnes made the statement, which at first blush looks like it might be overdoing it a little bit. However, I 100% percent agree with it now. He said that the first step in individual ideation or group brainstorming is the most important, and that step is “Defining the Problem.” His statement was that he required his students to come up with 77 definitions before any other steps were taken.

Think of it this way: the solution to a problem is based within the definition of the problem. I absolutely guarantee you that if you define the problem incorrectly, you will try to solve the wrong problem. You won’t get the deal done. Granted, the solution is sometimes a moving target, as a client’s motivation changes as time passes, and as counseling sets in, so you can still move to a solution. But if you define it right you will go right at the solution and save countless hours of going down a wrong trail. You get your job done.

Comments are closed.