Preserving creativity

Humans have evolved over millions of years to become the planet’s preeminent learning species.  It is our brains that give us our superiority, not our muscles.  We do best those things which we have worked out for ourselves.  We are suspicious of those who tell us what to do for fear that this might suit their interest more than our own.

Much of the country’s present social and economic distress results from an overdose of prescription.  Too much telling us how to think, as if we can’t think for ourselves, destroys our humanity and eventually weakens our confidence.

There is a subtle difference between managing organic and inorganic processes.  The efficiency of an inorganic process, such as a production line in a factory, is similar to measuring an athlete’s effectiveness in putting the shot.  The athlete bends down, picks up the shot, weighs it and carefully calculates the angle and velocity needed to land it in the previously defined spot.  The more skilful the shot-putter the greater the accuracy.

Managing an organic process like a school, hospital or even parliament itself, is like picking up a pigeon rather than a lead shot.  The skilful shot-putter does all the right calculations but, half way into its trajectory, the pigeon decides to flap its wings and go somewhere else.  The shot-putter is given one more chance.  Fearing relegation if he misses a second time, he decides to tie the pigeon’s wings and legs together.  His pitch is as good as the first time, and the pigeon lands exactly where he was told to put it.  He gets full marks for accuracy.  But the pigeon was killed on impact as it had no way of de-accelerating.  Just doing what someone else tells you to do – “because it will get you good marks” – may well destroy your ability to do the sensible thing.

We humans have infinitely bigger and more complex brains than pigeons.  Constrained to follow an over-prescriptive curriculum kills a pupil’s creativity while telling a newly qualified teacher that there is only one way to teach causes the most creative of young teachers to flee the profession… and it’s all because we are thinking beings.

See “No smoke without fire” in Executive Summary of Briefing Paper