Study Shows We are Born Creative Geniuses but the "Education" System Dumbs Us Down

Most of us have watched Sir Ken Robinson’s 2007 TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity”. There’s a reason that it’s one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time. This wasn’t the first time that Robinson had talked about the negative effect that education has on creativity, and he’s also not the only one to have noticed this trend.

When you are thinking of organizations that have been looking towards the future of work, NASA should have been near the top of your list in 1992. They were already looking for a way to “effectively measure the creative potential of their rocket scientists and engineers” and they had Dr. George Land and Dr. Beth Jarman develop a test designed to identify the capacity for divergent thinking and creativity.

“They wanted to explore and try to understand the true source of creativity better.”

– Study Shows We Are Born Creative Geniuses But The ‘Education’ System Dumbs Us Down

Land and Jarman were curious to see what test results would look like if they tested a more diverse group of people, and a younger group of people. So they went and found 1,600 children between 4-5 years old and tested them.

“98% of them scored at genius level”

– Study Shows We Are Born Creative Geniuses But The ‘Education’ System Dumbs Us Down

98% of pre-schoolers were considered creative geniuses. This was a surprisingly high number, so they started testing the same group of children as they grew up. By grade school, only 30% of the children were considered creative geniuses. By high school, it was only 12%. This was not a good sign.

They conducted the same test on a group of adults, and the results were STILL trending down. Less than 2% of the adults tested in studies were creative geniuses.

Less than 2%.

So Ken Robinson had a really good observation. By the time we finish school, we’re probably much less creative than we were going in. The really bad news is that creativity is one of the most in-demand 21st Century skills. We know that in order to keep up with the future of work, we all need to be able to come up with new solutions to new problems, and we can’t do that if we don’t have creative geniuses leading the charge.

Educating for the future of work means that we can’t do things the way that they have always been done.

You can watch Dr. George Land’s 2011 TedX Talk below, and read a brief analysis of the creative genius study here.