The Bronson and Merryman article on the crisis in creativity which originally ran in Newsweek is a must-read. The authors blend longitudinal studies (drawing upon the seminal Torrence Test of Creative Thinking) with recent findings on brain science to make their case for a renewed attention on deliberate creativity. There’s much to note in what they say.
But here’s a bit that’s overlooked, and which is absolutely essential in cultivating creativity: deferral of judgment. Without this, creative thinking cannot take hold. E. Paul Torrance, the creator of the Torrance Test for Creative Thinking, knew this to be true. Deferring judgment is one of the ground rules for effective divergent thinking; it helps keep us open to the ideas that are truly novel and useful.
In the Newsweek article, authors Bronson and Merryman allude to deferral of judgment obliquely. They refer to “a populace…receptive to the ideas of others,” and to teachers who are “tolerant of unconventional answers,” but they don’t call it out by name. Which is a shame, because premature judgment and pre-judgment are insidious, ever-present challenges to the flourishing of creativity.
Think your idea’s bad before you’ve even really started? Afraid to make the big mistakes that can lead to big breakthroughs? Need to have the innovative response yesterday? Then the chances are your judgement is flying high.
Obviously, we do need to make judgments, we do need to make decisions about the quality, novelty and appropriateness of what we’ve created.Â But please, defer them! Don’t try to diverge (generate ideas) and converge (evaluate and select them) at the same time. As Alex Osborn, another giant in the field of creativity, famously observed, this is akin to driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. You won’t get far.
In its best sense, what the Newsweek article suggests is not a contest, but an invitation to discover (and rediscover) your own creativity â€” best engaged in when the judging mind is made to wait, at least for a little while.