Cultivating Creativity: Start by Un-learning

Has the phrase “why didn’t I think of that” crossed your lips when introduced to a new business, product or service? That’s what I think every time I see a Bite Squad car drive by, utilize online clinics, like Virtuwell, and use most of the apps on my phone.

Why didn’t we think of those things?

Most of us have encountered a problem that would be solved by any one of those ideas. New and innovative ideas are being put into practice from breakthrough medical devices to services that make our lives easier. How can we be more creative and be the person coming up with the good ideas?

Much of the research on creativity and innovation points to the need to “un-learn.” We have learned through experience how things work. We know in order to get food from a sit-down restaurant, it requires trip to the restaurant. Bite Squad realized that wasn’t necessary. They started delivering food from various local restaurants that didn’t have the capacity to offer their own delivery service. Similarly, how many times have you had to wait to go to the local clinic until they opened, sat with a bunch of other sick people in the waiting room while feeling terrible and proceeded to visit the pharmacy to wait for a prescription? The Health Partner’s Virtuwell service allows you to log-in from anywhere at any time, receive a diagnosis for common problems and, if needed, have a prescription ordered from your preferred pharmacy. All you have to do is pick it up. They realized for some ailments, it doesn’t really require an in-person visit.

An interesting look into the effectiveness of un-learning is observing how kids come up with new ideas. George Land studied a group of 1,600 5-year olds using a creativity tests created by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists. The same group was re-tested at age 10 and 15. The results showed that 98% tested at the level of creative genius as 5 year olds, the number dropped to 32% as 10 year olds, and only 10% at age 15. Similarly, 200,000 adults were given the same test with only two percent testing at the genius level.

A neat example of this being put into practice is the E-Z Baby Saver. Andrew Pelham, a fifth grader in Nashville heard the scary stories of parents forgetting about their babies in the back of hot cars and decided to do something to fix that. As adults, most of us would try to come up with some high tech way to solve the problem. Andrew was given rubber bands and duck tape but came up with a creative and low-cost way to solve this problem.

Do you have other examples of how creativity can be fostered? If so, we’d like to hear about them. Then, go out and un-learn!