Apple. Facebook. Google. Netflix. Biogen. Dropbox. Uber. Companies that share four characteristics: they are rule-breakers and fearless experimenters; they rely on the continual creation of new technologies; they are growing rapidly; and they are having a major impact on our lives. Little wonder, then, that in recent surveys, CEOs of major global companies selected creativity as the most important leadership quality for success in the 21st century.
And so too for New Zealand. If we want to create a modern economy, preserve our natural environment, deal with the challenges of an ageing population and have a culturally rich society, we must learn to be more creative. Our traditional ‘number 8 wire’ philosophy will not be sufficient in today’s world. Rather, we must prepare our young people to occupy roles that don’t yet exist and solve problems we don’t yet know we have.
Creativity often occurs at the intersection of traditional disciplines. For example, double Oscar winner Associate Professor Mark Sagar of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute has melded art and science – facial animation and human/computer interaction – to create Baby X, an interactive animated virtual infant with artificial intelligence. This work is opening up a world of possibilities in developing relationships between humans and machines, with potential applications in industrial design, behavioural science and medical technology.
In another cross-disciplinary study, dance is being explored as a way to help delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s or slow the progress of these diseases. Early results are encouraging, which is good news given that one in 20 New Zealanders over 65 and one in five over 80 suffer from dementia, with those numbers expected to triple by 2050. If we could employ dance and other types of art activity to help in slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by two or even five years, this would decrease the prevalence by 20 or 50 percent, respectively. A greater proportion of the elderly would live a longer life, free of the tragic consequences of these diseases.
Creativity of this kind is not just a happy accident – it can be learned. Dr Te Oti Rakena of the University’s School of Music is developing a pilot of the ‘Singing Playgrounds’ programme to be introduced in South Auckland schools. The programme is used across the UK, where it has been shown to help children develop creative thinking skills, problem-solving and working together, confidence, empathy and other important skills for good citizenship. It is credited with transforming the entire learning culture of schools.
The University of Auckland is seeking to extend creative learning through its Creative Thinking Project, which draws on disciplines as diverse as neuroscience, dance, education and fine arts, to explore creative thinking and the creative process.
A Creative Fellows Programme has been established to encourage public interest and discussion of creativity, with a view to making our country a more creative society.
We need to develop creativity in all our students, and in our community, so as to prepare New Zealand for the transformations that will be required by a future none of us can predict.
“People often think that creativity is a special talent that belongs to just a few people. I believe that we can all be creative – and must be for New Zealand’s future.” Robert Gardiner, CNZM, Creative Thinking Project's Founding Donor
Make a donation to the Creative Thinking Project, and help us achieve our vision of putting creative thinking at the centre of education, alongside literacy and numeracy, and at the centre of business and society.
To find out others ways you can help, contact Amy Malcolm.
Amy Malcolm | Director of the Creative Thinking Project
PH: DDI : + 64 923 4909 ext. 84909| Ext: 83567 | M: 021 02640520