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Isobel Tynan

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Fresh Ideas, Creative Thinking: Everyday Creativity 2010


 January and it’s time for the annual JMW Turner exhibition at the National Gallery (A light in the Darkness). In accordance with collector Henry Vaughan’s bequest the watercolours, which are notoriously susceptible to fading, have their radiance preserved, by only being exhibited in the first month of the year. Famously known as "the painter of light" due to his evocative, parameter-breaking homage to colour and light in nature; Turner's paintings are still available to view in all their glory.

History is full of creative giants and their legacies which make our lives today a richer place.   In arts, science, design, literature it's easy to think of those who, as Turner did, expanded and blurred the boundaries of what already existed to create something completely unique, different, value adding. Frequently their creative output has been linked to their genius, madness, inspiration or sheer talent.

In addition to this creative legacy it's important to appreciate the innate natural creative abilities inherent in everyone and expressed to greater or lesser degrees.  This concept of everyday creativity was researched and validated by Ruth Richards and colleagues at Harvard Medical School. Defining everyday creativity as expressions of originality and meaningfulness; it was contended that it wasn’t exclusive to the greats, rather that creativity is a universal ability and is accessible to everyone. However, for many of us, it’s underutilized and underdeveloped.
Richards stated "Everyday creativity is about everyone, throughout our lives, and fundamental to our very survival...With our everyday creativity, we adapt flexibly, we improvise, we try different options”.
If we think of creativity as the creation of something novel, value adding, relevant everyday creativity is expressed in a multitude of ways: it’s how we communicate and make ourselves understood when we don’t speak the same language; bed time stories we make up to tell our children, taking ingredients and creating something different from scratch. One of the upsides of imposed recessionary constraints is it compels people to reconsider what they have done previously so that they can achieve more with less.
This notion of everyday creativity is also touched on in Sir Ken Robinson’s famous Ted talk Do schools kill creativity?He contends that children are naturally highly creative and that education, over-focused on getting the right answer, is in danger of killing that creative spark.  And the best thing about everyday creativity?We can nurture, develop and build up our innate creative abilities through deliberate practice. Some of the ways we can do that: 
  • Take a break from the familiar and try something different; creativity thrives on novelty. Howard Gardner’s work on the eight multiple intelligences contends that each of us, although possessing each of the multiple intelligences, (They are social/interpersonal; Musical; Spatial; Bodily-kinaesthetic; Logical-mathematical; intrapersonal; naturalistic; verbal linguistic) generally relies on the same ones. We tend to stay within our comfort zone; choosing to experiment with different types encourages us to develop and unleash our creative powers. There's a great article on this at Lateral Action·        
  • Play and have fun; To paraphrase Roger von Oech if necessity is the mother of invention then play is the father. By not trying so hard and allowing your mind to disassociate from a problem by doing something else you come up with some interesting ideas.
  •  Move the focus from finding the one right answer to thinking divergently about a problem or challenge. Re-frame the question to get a different perspective, combine new possibilities to come up with fresh ideas.
So, instead of just marvelling at the abilities of creative legends this New Year why not also focus on uncovering and developing your own resources of creativity.

2 Responses

  1. everyday creativity

    Really enjoyed the article.

    2 quick points:

    I feel schools get blamed too much for driving out children’s creativity. While there are many teachers, and a teaching regime which can be rightly criticised, a bigger enemy, in my view, is peer pressure. As children’s scoial networks mature, the desire to conform, be one of the gang, also gets stronger and proves a blunt tool to wipe out, suppress or crush expressions of individuality.

    Secondly, on Monday (January 18th) it is ‘Blue Monday’ symbolically the most depressing day of the year – yet, by using creative, flexible thinking, it is possible to turn it into the most positive day of the year. Do check out

    Have a great Blue Monday – and don’t worry about what your mates might think of you!


  2. Thanks/Blue Monday blog

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for your feedback-interesting point about children’s social networks-I hadn’t considered that before.

    And thanks for the link to the Blue Monday blog; I had a quick look-it’s certainly got some great suggestions!



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Isobel Tynan

T&D Manager

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