Relationship between creativity and learning? LO20219

AM de Lange (
Fri, 18 Dec 1998 13:03:03 +0200

Replying to LO20130 --

Dear Organlearners,

Bruce Jones <> writes:

>This is a late post for your question. Our hospital is going
>through a systems change and we have been VERY busy
>educating the staff in the various aspects of their new job
>skills. I have also been finishing up a paper for graduate
>school. My brain is on automatic and a little fried right now.

Greetings Bruce,

I can hear the electrons screaming "we are working towards a

>Learning and creativity are not all inclusive. I can teach a class
>on Phlebotomy or CPR or the use of an instrument but I can not
>force creativity.

I like your phrase "I can not force creativity" very much. I assume
you mean "I cannot force the creativity in another person". Is this
sentence really true? I can point you to many studies on creativity in
learned journals of which almost all of them came to the same
conclusion. But then I would merely invoke the majority rule -- if the
majority says so, then it must be true! So how will find out if it is

One way to discover the truth of this sentence is to apply the
scientific method with its three phases -- observe, speculate and
falsify. Thus we have to observe the creativity of people, making sure
what we understand with the concept creativity. (Defining creativty is
already a huge problem, but let us skip it for now.) We have to
observe the change in creativity of people, for better or for worse.
The second step is to speculate how this change came about. Was the
creativity forced by an external agency, or was it the result of some
process within the person. We speculate that external forcing can
improve a person's creativity. Thus in the third step we look for data
which allows us to distinguish between external and internal forcing,
using such data for falsifying the assumption that the person's
creativity has improved. Unfortunately, what we find is a mixed
outcome -- sharp logic does not apply. Whereas the creativity of the
majority of persons has worsened by external forcing, the creativity
of some did improve. But looking at the complementary side of the
picture, we find that the creativity of the majority of pesons has
imbettered by internal forcing. Thus fuzzy logic does apply, taking
over from sharp logic. But then we have to answer the question -- why
did the creativity of a few improved by external forcing?

However, there is an additional complication. Almost in all of whom
the creativity has improved, it came as a result of learning. Now what
is the relationship between learning and creativity? The majority of
people have a view point not unlike Bruce who writes:

>The creativity aspect of learning derives its birth from the
>experience of the job and the application of any knowledge
>derived from the classroom instruction. Creativity is the
>product of finding better or more comfortable or convenient
>ways to do the job AFTER instruction. I used to tell my
>Medical Technology students that their true education
>begins with their first job. That all I am teaching them is
>the basics and how to find the information they may need
>to do whatever task is set for them.

In other words, first the instruction (training) and then "true
education" which will also result in improved creativity. But how much
of this instruction (training) was externally enforced? Far too much,
if you ask me. In such a case it means that creativity can indeed be
enforced externally through training. So, back to the scientific
method. How much improvement of creativity can be enforced externally
by training rather than be gained by internal self-learning? Here we
must be very careful to set up a training course which strictly
forbids any manifestation of creativity other than those allowed and
seeked by the course itself.

Fortunately, I do not know of any such experimental courses having
been run. I myself would never participate in such a course. Why not?
There are some subjects in which a high degree of innate creativity is
required from the student. The two in which I have much experience,
are mathematics and chemistry. I have observed in courses on these
two subjects how the suppression (by the lecturer and the system) of
the student's innate creativity made these courses an ethical hell. I
have had to help many a student to escape from this hell by showing
them how to respect their own creativity while avoid confrontation
with the lecturer's demands.

However, even when on ethical grounds we cannot run an experiment to
decide which comes first, learning or creating, we must still know
which comes first. Thus we have to observe carefully in the actually
day to day running of education, whether it is good (true) or bad
(false). In order to do this, we have to know exactly what is the
difference between creating (creativity) and learning. So, like
Socrates of old, I will profess my ignorance and ask you fellow
learners to answer the following question for me:

What is difference between creating (creativity) and learning?

Bruce, you also write:

>On the other hand, I agree with you that all creative
>endeavors teach. When putting together a presentation
>I learn, not from the final product but from the effort of
>producing that product.

I want to strech out my hand, saying "take five", to congratulate you.
But I also want to point out that you are now observing yourself,
thinking about your own experiences. Would it be any different for
students? Have we carefully observed how each student becomes a master
of some branch of knowledge, or do we merely observe how they try to
master our training?

Bruce, you strengthen your viewpoint on personal mastery by writing

>It takes creativity based on knowledge to produce a lesson
>that is effective in changing attitude, perceptions or knowledge

But in it the phrase "creativity based on knowledge" brings us back to
the question of what comes first, creating or learning. How do you
explain this phrase? One possible explanation is that since knowledge
is the product of learning, we have to understand this phrase as
"creativity based on learning". Thus it seems that learning comes
first. But should we have used the phrase "creativity depending on
knowledge", an entirely different meaning is possible. It may mean
that creativity comes first, but that its products, knowledge being
one of them, promotes creativity. How does this happen if this is the

Bruce, whatever my questions above leads to, I have great admiration
for how you have articulated the challenge of education:

>The teacher, instructor, personnel manager, corporate trainer
>or whoever does the training has the challenge of mixing
>learning with creativity in the classroom. This is the challenge
>of education, whether it be in the classroom, the boardroom
>or in the field.

This descibes for me the future challenge of Learning Organisations.
How much interaction between creativity and learning is necessary in a

>Thank you for your time and patience.

You are welcome. Thank you for keeping up the dialog on this most
important thread especially with the electrons screaming "we are
working towards a bifurcation"!

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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