Creating is the Highest Form of Learning
Why Creative People Struggle to Create
Human beings require thought in order to create. This has been a core component of education theory since the early 1950s, when Dr. Benjamin Bloom and his team of researchers first published their landmark work detailing the six levels of educational understanding. Teachers around the world have used this taxonomy (taxonomy = the science of classification) for decades to inform how they construct and present lesson plans on subjects ranging from the arts and humanities to biology and physics.
Modern educational psychology has owned the science of learning for decades, but if we look at the modern chart of Dr. Bloom’s original taxonomy we see that the pinnacle of learning, of understanding a concept, is creation. To be able to synthesize and process information and create new products, processes or procedures is the summit of the educational psychology mountain:
“So,” you may be asking, “how do we begin to climb your nice, theoretical mountain?”
You have to learn to create.
I’ve been thinking, and reading, a lot about creativity lately, and I’ve noticed that a lot of what’s being written these days about creativity is written from the perspective that creation is a spontaneous, or innate, ability. Creativity, as a personality trait, is what everybody wants to talk about. I’m going to talk about something different. Here’s the secret that I’ve discovered from researching educational theory:
Creativity and Creating are two completely separate things.
Creativity is a personality trait, one which I believe each person possesses in some greater or lesser degree. It’s fundamentally another lense through which to view the world. The creative mindset can fashion and inspire new ways of thinking and doing. Creativity is a talent that can be enhanced, trained, and applied in a myriad of ways.
Creating, on the other hand, is a process. It is a learned behavior. As we saw in the graphic above, creating is actually the end result of a long, long process of education. Education, learning, thinking, and analyzing are all essential parts (along with the innate creative ability that each human being possesses in differing degrees) of creating. Creating requires knowledge, learning and application. The most naturally creative-minded people must still learn in order to create.
This is good news for humanity! It means that, like any process, creating requires a composite set of skills that go far beyond innate creative talent. Creating, the process of taking elements of one thing and combining them in new ways to make a new thing, whether we’re talking about paint and canvas coming together to make art, or ideas and processes coming together to make new theories, constructs, and mental frameworks, is NOT exclusively the realm of the savants, the geniuses, and the “chosen few” among us. Anybody can learn to enhance their natural creativity and anybody can learn to create.
Applying the Taxonomy In Daily Practice
As seen above, Bloom’s classic taxonomy is a pyramid of learning. It is a layered approach to thought and education. One of the most detrimental misunderstandings in society these days regarding creativity is that it exists in a vacuum, apart from all other forms of mental stimulation and growth. As seen in the graphic above, Creating is merely the pinnacle of learning and thinking, not some isolated “off-by-itself” idea that lacks any sort of foundation.
On the contrary, the foundation of creating is education!
The more we learn, the better equipped we will be to create. The more we create, the more learning we will amass. This taxonomy, as applied by education scientists, is intended to be cyclical, not linear. Studying and understanding new things will only increase the disciplines to which we can apply our innate creativity. Fundamentally, the most “creative” people — I.e., those who create the most — are those who have achieved that pinnacle through the deepest learning. Education enhances creative ability, period. Creation itself is the highest form of learning, and understanding that fact will change how we approach discovery and education in daily life. We should not be too rushed, too focused on creation. Too much of what passes for creation these days is merely repurposing of old ideas, or products. As creators, you must resist the urge to endlessly produce. The creative process must include time for learning, for reflection, for absorption of new knowledge. In order to make creative thought a daily practice, you must make time to learn daily.
Conclusion: Establish a Daily Creative Routine
Routine is one of the most important force-multipliers of success. Routine, good habit-building, is the foundation of many a million-dollar fortune. As creators, routine must be an established part of your life, as well. Specifically, a creative routine.
Regardless of the myriad of options that you have to chose from, creative routine, including time for learning, for metacognitive understanding, and for practice, must be an integral part of your daily life. Creating new things is a key part of the human experience, as is designing the meaningful ways to use and enjoy those new things. Each day, we must aspire to create something. To shape a small piece of the world in a new way. Your ability to create depends directly on the time and effort you put into learning, into practicing, and into enhancing your own metacognitive understanding of your thought processes. Learning is truly the unending source of real, lasting creative thought.