Unlocking Creative Potential
A story is told about a visiting efficiency expert who reported that one of the Ford Motor Company’s well-paid employees sat with his feet propped up on the desk and appeared to be daydreaming most of the time. Henry Ford reputedly replied that that was exactly how the employee looked when he had an idea that saved the company more than enough money to cover his salary in the years to come.
Valuing creative thought as Ford apparently did is a prerequisite to understanding it. Warnock (1977) says that being more creative is analogous to being more healthy. We do not ask, “Why become more healthy?” because being healthy is simply good. The same holds true for creativity: Once we understand it, we know that it is an end in itself, just like being healthy.
Unlocking creative potential largely depends on two sets of internal psychological conditions: psychological safety and psychological freedom (Rogers, 1991).
Psychological safety is external; it depends on a low-risk environment. Children feel psychologically safe when significant others accept them as having unconditional worth, avoid external evaluation, and identify and empathize with the child. Consider how this mother provides psychological safety for her preschool son Lance’s behavior:
Lance [age 5] loves farming and he inherited a lot of toy farm equipment that used to belong to his dad and big brothers. One day he was playing farmer and took his toy manure spreader into the kitchen, filled it up with coffee grounds, and began spreading “manure” on his land, which just happens to be the kitchen floor!
Lance’s mother knew that he was completely wrapped up in his farm fantasy and that his intentions were good, even if the outcomes were messy. She did insist that Lance help her clean up the coffee grounds, yet she did not punish him or make him feel ashamed of his desire to really “test out” his farm equipment. When adults respond sensitively to children’s behavior, they contribute to the child’s feelings of psychological safety.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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