Tina Seelig is among my favorite innovative thinkers and doers. I have had the pleasure to hear her speak several times and to benefit from the programs at Stanford University’s dSchool. With her latest book, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, Seelig distills years of wisdom into a single, approachable volume that provides readers with both an understanding of how creativity works and how to nourish creative thinking in and out of the classroom. inGenius offers and antidote to the fractious pessimism in which the country and education is mired by offering a mindset in which ”instead of problems you see potential, instead of obstacles you see opportunities, and instead of challenges you see a chance to create breakthrough solutions.”
Seelig demonstrates that creativity need not be elusive, something which is only innate, but rather a habit of mind that can be cultivated. She maintains that “…our brains are built for creative problem solving, and it is easy to both uncover and enhance our natural inventiveness.” While K-12 schools say that they value creativity, they tend to instead worship at the altar of logic, scientific method, rote memorization, and limited thinking. “The scientific method is clearly invaluable when you are trying to unlock the mysteries of the world. However, you need a complementary set of tools and techniques—creative thinking—when you want to invent rather than discover. ” This requires that educators pay more than lip-service to student affect. “Creativity isn’t entirely a cerebral act, but rather is augmented by strong emotions that fuel fresh ideas.”
Strong emotions are discouraged in schools. We may tell students to “follow their passions,” but we seldom allow for them to express them. We may advice students “to think outside the box” while at the same time rewarding those who “color within the lines.” A favorite t-shirt at many all girls-schools proclaims “well-behaved women seldom make history,” but if I may say so they do win their share of school awards.
Selig’s practical advice based on her experience in working with college students can enable progressive educators to chip away at the status quo and encourage students to engage in creative, even radical discourse, through the use of such tactics as:
- learning how to properly frame – or reframe – questions.
- relentlessly asking “why?”
- re-casting what it means to be a student and a teacher.
- using metaphors and analogies.
- pushing beyond the first or second ideas.
- learning how to brainstorm – for real.[1.] “Unfortunately, most people don’t extract the most out of brainstorming, because they don’t understand how different brainstorming is from a normal conversation. They think it is as easy as getting a bunch of people in a room and throwing out ideas. In fact, brainstorming is quite hard, and many of the guidelines that make it work are not intuitive or natural.” Tina Seeling
- making use of field observations.
- making your learning spaces allies for creativity. Seelig describes 6 different types of spaces: private spaces, group spaces, publishing spaces, performing space, participation spaces, data spaces, and watching spaces.
- providing frequent feedback.
- making strategic use of gaming to add interest to tasks.
- embracing and celebrating failure. “Failure is a constant companion, and success is an occasional visitor.”