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Last week, I finished the on-line course: 5 Habits of the Highly Creative Teacher, and I still keep thinking about it. It strikes me that everyone hasto be creative pretty much all day long just to live. For example, if you move through your physical environment by walking, you have to readjust your balance as you go. If you live with six cats, you have to be ready for one of them (in this case, Jones) to burst into the path of where you are about to plant your foot. What I have to do is try to keep from spilling my breakfast all over the carpet. I am convinced that cats do this, not to annoy, but to destroy. The chances of bringing down such a large beast as I am are slim, but if they succeed, they figure they will be able to feast for days on my carcass. It is, in management-speak a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for a housecat. I am reasonably sure that none of my cats have actually read any books on management theory, but they seem to grasp many of the concepts instinctively. Any way, the point is not about Jones and his ilk but about me and my ilk — namely human beings. We have to adjust our plans and our behavior constantly in response to external events. Sure, we have skills (walking, driving, talking, listening — well, okay not listening) but these are not pre-programmed sequences of actions. We may have plans but we constantly adjust these without endless committee meetings or e-mail chains. If I had had to get my spleen and liver on board with my sudden change of direction, I’d be lying on the floor dead and Jones would be feasting.

As I pointed out some time ago, when people communicate they are always designing and interpreting, not coding and decoding. People use language in endless new and creative ways all the time. Let us even imagine you are telling a joke you have told scores of times before. As you tell it, a train roars by and you either pause or raise your voice till the train goes by. This, in essence, is creativity. You are using what you know in order to create a new twist on the delivery of your joke appropriate to the circumstances.

What is also interesting is this: Almost all people are creative almost all the time BUT they do not “count” what they do as creative. They imagine themselves as in the large majority of “non-creative” people because they have been told they lack skill in writing poetry or painting. For that reason, their mental model of themselves is that they are not capable of creativity when in actuality they express themselves creatively every time they move; every time they speak.

So, here is the challenge I am wondering about. Is there a way to show people that they are actually being creative in many areas of life all the time; getting them thereby to alter their self-concept and their self-talk so that they see themselves as creative people and therefore take it as “okay” to be creative in every other area of their life as well? Would they be willing to run full tilt at a weighty problem and try to time their actions so as to topple that problem? If my cat can, can you?