Creativity as a Life Skill: Gerard Puccio at TEDxGramercy

[Applause] imagine we've all been endowed with this gift of imagination and I'm going to ask you to use your imagination to picture in your mind's eye a tiger I'm gonna give you a little help Tigers have colorful stripes for camouflage on average Tigers grow to about 11 feet weighing more than 600 pounds of all cats that exist in the world today they have the longest canine teeth about two and a half inches long now I'd like you to imagine that you've just come face-to-face with a very unhappy tiger what do you do are you fast enough to outrun the tiger I doubt it very much are you strong enough to out wrestle the tiger I doubt that – why did I ask you to think about a tiger well it could be because I teach at Buffalo State and Buffalo State College our mascot happens to be a Bengal tiger but that's not it I could tell you that one of the most enjoyable Reed's I've had in the last year was the Life of Pi which has been released as a major motion picture and if you are familiar with that then you know one of the characters in the book is a tiger but that's not it Tigers first appeared two million years ago the homogeneous humans appeared two and a half million years ago think about it look at yourself how on earth did we ever survive given threats like that in our environment how is that possible here's one answer conformity psychological research done in the 1950s and 60s shows that humans have what's called a conformity bias we tend to do what other people do it's the way we're wired I'll give you a visual demonstration of that a YouTube video of an old TV program many of you probably won't remember it I remember from my childhood called candid camera the hidden camera if you're familiar with like disaster date MTV it's kind of like the precursor to disaster date so in this scene from candid camera there are three actors on an elevator facing the back of the elevator and then a fourth person comes in who unknowingly is being videoed he's not part of the program let's see what happens I would try it once again here's the candid subject it comes the candid camera staff three of them at least and this man has apparently been in Group [Applause] so it makes you wonder when you see something like that how on earth did we survive well there's an evolutionary advantage to conformity in fact there are three the first is conformity allows for collaboration you want to take down a great big woolly mammoth get some friends it also helps in aiding with learning by observing others we can see them test ideas and then we take what's successful and we use those are elves and the third is it creates culture we have shared values and norms but if all we ever did was conform then we wouldn't have growth we would never try anything new let me try this out with you physical analogy if you're holding something sharp please put it down and fold your arms in front of you as you would naturally note which forearm you have on top I have my left forearm on top when I asked you to put your arms together how did that feel comfortable right did you have to think about it probably not take your arms up this time and weave them together so the opposite forearm ends up on top some of you're trying to figure it out same arms the first time you folded your arms that's what conformity feels like it's comfortable and you don't have to think you just follow but if that's all you ever did you would never grow eventually because conditions change we have to try new things conformity has been talked about in terms of its role in evolution but I want to suggest to you today that there's another part of that equation and that's creativity so while conformity is necessary for evolution I would suggest that it's not sufficient that it also requires creativity and let me see if I can make a case by looking at human history and it's probably likely that the seeds for creativity began even before humans emerged in Africa probably with our ancestors who used sticks for tools but let's stick with human history the first tool invented created manufactured by humans Homo habilis occurred 2.5 million years ago it's called the flake tool it was a rock that was sharpened at one edge that could be used for splitting nuts and fruit that lasted almost 1.4 million years now if all we ever did was conform we'd still be using that tool today but something happened someone imagined another possibility and that led to an innovation in stone tools called the hand axe it's a symmetrical tool that can be held easily in the palm of the hand which made striking much easier that lasted about 600,000 years and then something interesting happened about 40,000 years ago there was something archaeologists call the creative explosion in Africa Homo sapiens emerged the anatomically modern human Homo sapiens took imagination and went beyond functional use of imagination and they applied it to diverse areas for example at this time we went from thrusting weapons which means you have to be close to your prey to throwing weapons body decorations emerged art emerged for the first time cave paintings burial rituals the production of clothing purpose-built shelter and so forth what I suggest to you as a result of this human history demonstrates that you were born to be creative it's a natural part of who you are but it doesn't have to stop there we don't have to wait for our creativity to occur to magically appear what we know through research is that you can take what's innate and you can develop it further we can engage in what's called deliberate creativity creativity is like any other skill like all abilities what does that mean we all have it you've been born with it we're not all the same so we vary in the degree of craveability that we have but what we know is that through deliberate practice through training and through learning you can enhance your creative thinking in fact that's the reason why we exist at Buffalo State the founding faculty members of our department conducted an empirical study students who went through a creativity course when compared to a control group showed significant cognitive gains so what is this creative cognition what is this innate set of thinking skills that we're all born with the two skills that we're all born with is an ability to engage in divert in thinking and convergent thinking and some scholars believe about 40,000 years ago one of the reasons why we had a creative explosion is that the mind developed evolved in such a way that Homo sapiens could begin to control their thinking and they could shift that's called contextual focus they could shift from divergent to converge and thinking divergent thinking is the ability to generate many varied and original options it's the creation of variation convergent thinking is the selection development of the most promising options now isn't an interesting sounds a lot like evolution doesn't it were the two fundamental properties of evolution the creation of variation and the selective retention of those novel variations which enhance the ability to survive so the same thought process seems to parallel the process of evolution this is what we all have innately but although we have this innate skill we don't often use this skill this gift if you will to the best of our ability so let me talk a little bit about deliberate creativity so we can all engage in divergent thinking we can all engage in converse and thinking what often happens well we have an idea this novel idea sometimes the next thought that enters our mind is what a reason why it won't work it's too risky so and so will criticize me here's another example that may make it easier to to recognize this ineffective thought process imagine a meeting someone's called a meeting there's a problem that has to be solved the person who called the meeting says right we've got this tuffnut of a problem anybody have any ideas someone shares an idea what's often the next comment in that meeting yeah I won't work we don't have the budget for it that's crazy how about this one we've tried that before what happens to the creativity they get sucked out of the room right and what happens is we stick with the tried and true this area of familiarity really not that divergent in our thought process we conform to what's known so although we have this innate skill sometimes we don't use it effectively can we deliberately enhance this skill of creative thinking well two tips for you first of all learn how to suspend your judgment to defer judgment how often have you quickly criticized an idea only to find out later it really worked if you move quickly to convergence to judge fast you may limit your ability to see new possibilities second tip go for quantity this is well documented Dean Simonton creativity researcher who looked at eminently creative people found that one of the main differences between eminently creative people and ordinarily people like myself is that eminently creative people generate many more ideas Picasso had 20,000 works of art Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets 37 plays Edison George Washington Carver well-known inventors had many invention ideas of which a few revolutionized the world I learned recently by listening to NPR that Hemingway wrote 40 different endings to his book for Whom the Bell Tolls before he chose which one to go with line is Paul Linus Pauling the Nobel laureate said it best the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas so if you want to be deliberately more creative take advantage of what nature has given you learn to suspend your judgment don't jump to conclusions too quickly and learn to generate many ideas why is this important historically hopefully I've made the case for how creativity has been part of our evolution but that's historically I would say today creativity and creative problem-solving has never been more important the Flake tool that I shared with you earlier lasted for how long one point four million years today manufactured products go through fundamental redesign every five to ten years in the area of technology it's every six to twelve months we can't afford to wait a million years for the next good idea right we can't afford to wait for the creativity news to give us the breakthrough we have to find ways to be deliberately creative to accelerate what nature and evolution has given us a global study completed recently in fact this year by Adobe conducted around the world 80% of those who were surveyed said that creativity is important to economic growth when asked about their own creativity one out of four surveyed one out of four said that they were living up to their creative potential when asked about their creativity experiences especially their educational experiences 59% said that school stifled their creativity and the us because we like to lead the world the number was higher it was 62% so what's happening here's one reason for why schools stifle creativity this comes from Mark Ronco a creativity researcher he says that most educational experiences or most educational efforts focus on convergent thinking remember divergent and convergent thinking finding the single right answer wouldn't it be nice if life was that simple if every problem we came up to had only one single right answer but it's not and he says therefore these educational experiences may do very little if anything for creative potential I would go a little further and suggest that in an era of standardization and accountability in schools perhaps what we're teaching children to do is to be good conformist instead of teaching them how to be independent thinkers well let's make this a little more personal how about you and your creativity think about the degree to which you balance conformity and creativity in your own lives do you engage in flexible thinking do you engage in flexible behavior do you try new things are you open minded you may never I hope have to wrestle a tiger but life is complex and I am sure you will have to wrestle with tenacious problems JP Guilford one of the pioneers in the field of creativity said to live is to have problems and to solve problems is to grow creatively remember evolution may not have made you particularly strong or particularly fast but evolution has given you the gift of a creative mind if you deliberately use it if you deliberately develop it I guarantee you you will be more successful in dealing with life's complexities thank you you

40 thoughts on “Creativity as a Life Skill: Gerard Puccio at TEDxGramercy”

  1. He's a great presenter but it's a little hard to take him serious when he uses the evolutionary icon of the progress of man from Chimp to Human. That image is so wildly inaccurate it's deceitful. It would be like showing a human head with bumps and talking about how phrenology is a real science. I'm okay with making evolutionary statements, that's fine just please don't use things that have been discredited for decades. Tedx is an awesome organization, I love their videos, but they need to have some scientific standards.

  2. I took Dr. Puccio's course at Buff State and still use the principles in my classes almost 20 years later. His lessons on brainstorming were immensely valuable. It was also the first time I came to realize that I was thinking very differently from my peers. I was able to see and understand my thought process for the first time and it was revelatory. I no longer assume people see things "my" way. A good lesson for anyone.

  3. I am extremely creatively driven. I love creative hobbies, I love problem solving, I love when I come up with stuff people say "I would never have thought of that" and "where do you get this stuff?" I used to be terrified of being different and stand out from the crowd because I was extremely well aware that I was different so I did my best to disappear in the crowd. I am a daydreamer, and being different is what comes natural. I love trying new things and live by that Life is all about gathering as many life experiences as possible.

  4. Be creative ,do some critical thinking , try this – The Earth is Flat !
    Start here – '200 proofs the Earth is not a spinning Ball '………by Eric Dubay .

  5. Tigers didn't just 'appear', nor did humans…we evolved. Tigers existed long before they 'appeared' 2 million years ago, they just existed in varied forms of evolution.

  6. Citing examples from our evolutionary process, Gerard Puccio gives wonderful insights about creativity. To put it in simple terms, we can say "Think Different to develop your Creative skills.

  7. "perhaps schools are teaching us to be good conformists"- NO SHIT SHERLOCK. the system sucks donkey. thank god for the internet! save the children!

  8. In a succinctly simple, yet profound and compelling presentation, Dr. Puccio asserts that we are all creative. To be human is to be creative. It is part of our DNA and has been essential to our evolution as a species to this point. The same is true of our future — we will create the evolutions we become. I recommend this TEDx talk highly.

  9. The recent Time survey showed that Americans think creativity is more important than intelligence. This video shows you how to be more creative. What could be better…

  10. If only we were to embrace the idea that each of us is capable of creatively thinking, we could begin to approach the problems of the world as solvable challenges. What a wonderful world this could be! We need to encourage one another to risk, to embrace new ideas, and to act upon our discoveries. Thanks to Gerard and others like him we have the leadership and inspiration to do so.

  11. What a great reminder to all of us. There is so much more than meets the eye about creativity, and many people still relegate possession of creativity to a specific talent or classification of individuals.

  12. Kudo for the insightful proposal of conformity & creativity as 2 key factors in survival & evolution. Yes, creativity is recognized as a crucial skill in our changing world. Meanwhile, the complexity of today’s challenges demands the collaboration of a broad range of people with diverse skills and expertises. How to balance conformity & creativity to foster creative collaboration? What might be the shared values and norms so to make creativity comfortable & sustain creative collaboration?

  13. I love the notion of suspending judgment. What a great way to enhance "deliberate" creativity, and how important that is to the evolution of society. Thanks for this important talk!

  14. The message that "evolution has given you the gift of a creative mind" is fantastically empowering; grounding it in the study and research of creativity makes it even more persuasive — and important. This talk is one of my go-to resources when speaking with others about the universality of our creative potential, and the tremendous benefits of engaging deliberately with it.

  15. Love this talk. Get something new each time I watch. Here's my most recent insight: Lately, group creativity has come under attack. However, it’s actually because of our innate propensity for conformity, that a group of average divergent thinkers, if facilitated properly, can out-perform a lone above-average divergent thinker in generating a more diverse set of options, thereby increasing the potential of an innovative and effective solution. Funny how conformity and creativity work together.

  16. I found Dr. Puccio's talk to be as relevant today as when I was first introduced to the ICSC, even more so now in my work as an educator and educational administrator. The message is clear, simple, but intriguing and deep. To truly appreciate it takes some reflective thought, and for those who struggle to appreciate the message, perhaps some creative thinking. That in and of itself is a lesson in deferring judgment. Kudos Dr. Puccio for a terrific address!

  17. "If all we ever did was conform, we wouldn't have growth. We would never try anything new." I love this comment. It has so much deep meaning. Hail to the folks seeking wild and unusual ideas!

  18. I appreciated the recognition of the creative process seen through a universal lens ,as a process available and used in all facets of life,throughout the ages. Viewing areas of study from a broad range allows us to uncover innovative perspectives.

  19. i find that my greatest growth, greatest stretch as an individual only happens when I extend myself outside of my comfort zone. that may be because I rarely if ever, choose the easy route. I prefer the challenge and the possibility of where I will be/go as a person on the more challenging journey – thinking outside of my comfort zone. and, my greatest, most successful achievements have been during those times – not within my comfort zone 🙂

  20. Puccio's talk provides an important link to the universal human process of creativity and evolution. It is this kind of scholarly, well thought out, work that will move the creativity field forward. This is not the usual creativity, innovation and change "pep talk". This piece has depth.

  21. Giving a foundation to the essential human creative process fantastic. This line of reasoning opens the door not only to creativity as an essential life skill but but a whole world of questions about humans potential. As a good TED talk should gives much food for thought.

  22. Thanks, Dr. Puccio. Sharing your knowledge and skills with our class more than 20 years ago have enabled me to complete my career as a successful educator. Even in everyday activities, the tools and techniques obtained at BSC are so integrated into my behavior that I often chuckle at the basis for my actions! Thank you for making my living enjoyable and understandable. Class of '95.

  23. There is a great talk by Yale's Dr. Judson Brewer on meditation and how to get out of your own way at TEDx RockCreekPark. You should check it out!!

  24. An excellent presentation of how easy Prof Gerard Puccio talks about deliberate creativity. Thanks for the sharing.

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