News Column

Adobe Study Finds Aha! Moments Matter

Nov. 28, 2012

Sarah J. Pawlowski

Happy Workers

Creativity is not a skill just for writers, painters or musicians, according to a recent survey focused on the value of thinking creatively in careers beyond the arts.

The Adobe study, "Creativity and Education: Why it Matters," surveyed 1,000 full-time salaried workers, age 25 or older, with at least a four-year college degree. The majority of respondents -- 68 percent -- said creativity isn't a personality trait, but a skill that can be learned. And 71 percent said creativity should be taught as a class.

NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton offers a class once a month for its employees to enhance creativity.

"Everything we do is about creativity and innovation," said Steve Gaddis, head of Langley's Game Changing Development program.

The focus of the program is to find ways to transform future space missions by reducing cost and increasing efficiency, which Gaddis said cannot be done without creative thinking.

Gaddis said one class exercise links traditional engineering approaches to developing technologies and asking the "What ifs." The students are told to come up with a dozen or more ideas to solving the problem, no matter how outlandish, he said.

"You never know when that a-ha! moment is going to come," he said.

Area educators agree that learning creative thinking can be helpful beyond the arts.

"(Creativity) gives you a skill set you wouldn't otherwise have," said Torrie Sanders, theater manager at Thomas Nelson Community College. Sanders noted that problem-solving is a familiar exercise for her students.

In the Adobe survey, 85 percent of the participants said creative thinking is critical for problem-solving in their career.

"We turn a whole theater into a forest out of Scotland," Sanders said. "There is no manual.... Sometimes it works, and sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board."

While art classes offer one way to learn creativity, some say the skill should be taught throughout the campus.

"In the whole education process we need to make opportunities for creative outlets," said Hampton University Provost Pamela Hammond.

Hammond said creativity among nursing students was the topic of her thesis, and through her research, she found freshmen are more creative than seniors.

"We made them less creative because (nursing students) are required to follow protocols," she said.

But Hammond said even in health sciences, which are often very prescriptive, learning creativity is beneficial.

Hammond said a nursing student, for example, has to think creatively to figure out how to get a patient to take medicine or a physical therapy student will need the skill to come up with ideas to teach a person to walk.

NASA's Gaddis said he, too, sees that learning creativity can be a challenge for employees in certain fields.

"For engineers, we're taught to think very systematically, very methodically," he said. The training brings his employees outside their comfort zones.

Gaddis said he thinks it's beneficial for students to learn creativity in school, but in science and engineering fields, he understands why it's more important to focus on the skills required for the trade. He said he thinks it's up to the employers to offer, and perhaps require, employees to learn creativity.

"It's conducive to their success," he said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

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