Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative

All technologies are neutral. What counts is who uses them and what they use them for. Any material, any tool in the hands of an artist, can result in a work of art.

A person’s native tongue influences the way he or she perceives music. The same succession of notes may sound different depending on the language the listener learned growing up.”12 As evidence, speakers of tonal languages including Mandarin are more likely than Westerners to have perfect pitch. In one study, 92 percent of Mandarin speakers who began the music lessons at or before the age of five had perfect pitch compared to 8 percent of English speakers with comparable music training.

Being in your element is not only about aptitude, it’s about passion: it is about loving what you do.

Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.

Classical education was based on the seven liberal arts or sciences: grammar, the formal structures of language; rhetoric, composition and presentation of argument; dialectic, formal logic; arithmetic; geometry; music; astronomy.14 For centuries, the classics dominated the very idea of being educated and attempts at reform were resisted.

Declining birth rates mean that employers are going to have to become more creative if they want to access the knowledge workers they need. And that means abandoning the lazy prejudice of age discrimination.

Education is not a linear process of preparation for the future: it is about cultivating the talents and sensibilities through which we can live our best lives in the present and create the best futures for us all.

Employers say they want people who can think creatively, who can innovate, who can communicate well, work in teams and are adaptable and self-confident.

I asked a professor of nanotechnology what they use to measure the unthinkable small distances of nanospace? He said it was the nanometre. This didn't help me very much. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre. I understood the idea but couldn't visualise what it meant. I said, "What is it roughly?" He thought for a moment and said, "A nanometre is roughly the distance that a man's beard grows in one second". I had never thought about what beards do in a second but they must do something. It takes them all day to grow about a milllimetre. They don't leap out of your face at eight o'clock in the morning. Beards are slow, languid things and our language reflects this. We do not say "as quick as a beard" or "as fast as a bristle". We now have a way of grasping of how slow they are - about a nanometre a second.

I believe profoundly that we don’t grow into creativity; we grow out of it. Often we are educated out of it.

If all you had was academic ability, you wouldn't have been able to get out of bed this morning. In fact, there wouldn't have been a bad to get out of. No one could have made one. You could have written about possibility of one, but not have constructed it.

If all you had was academic ability, you wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed this morning. In fact there wouldn’t have been a bed to get out of. No one could have made one. You could have written about the possibility of one, but not have constructed it. Don’t mistake me, I think that academic work - and the disciplines and abilities it can promote - are absolutely vital in education, and to the full development of human intelligence and capacity. But they are not the whole of them. Yet our education systems are completely preoccupied with these abilities to the virtual exclusion of many others that are equally vital - capacities that becoming more important every day.

Like a lot of common sense, they may seem obvious but they are wrong. The creative capacities of generations of people have been sacrificed needlessly to an academic illusion.

Now, more than ever, human communities depend on a diversity of talents; not on a singular conception of ability.

Our ideas can enslave or liberate us.

Our schools have a doubly hard task, not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Producing works of art doesn't often count as appropriate intellectual work in an arts department: yet the equivalent in a science department, doing physics or chemistry, does. So why is it that in universities writing about novels is thought to be a higher intellectual calling than writing novels; or rather, if writing novels is not thought to be intellectually valid, why is writing about them?

The human world is created out of our minds as much as from the natural environment.

The impossible yesterday is routine today. Wait until tomorrow.

The problem is that too often, and in too many ways, current systems of mass education are a catastrophe in themselves. Far from looking to the future, too often they are facing stubbornly towards the past.

There are three related ideas, which I will elaborate as we go on. They are imagination, which is the process of bringing to mind things that are not present to our senses; creativity, which is the process of developing original ideas that have value, and innovation, which is the process of putting new ideas into practice.

There is a “continual dance between intellect and emotions, feeling and reason, which is essential to the proper functioning and maintenance of both.”15 In a sense we do have two different ways of knowing the world and interacting with it, the rational and the emotional. This distinction roughly approximates to the folk distinction between heart and head; “knowing something is right in your heart is a different order of conviction, somehow a deeper kind of certainty, than thinking so with your rational mind.”16 There is a steady gradient in the ratio of rational to emotional control over the mind; the more intense the feeling, the more dominant the emotional mind becomes and more ineffectual the rational.

The task of education is not to teach subjects: it is to teach students.

We build our own cultures not only on the achievements of those that have come before but on their ruins.

What we become as our lives evolve depends on the quality of our experiences here and now.