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Quick, off the top of your head: name a book about creativity or creative practice that was written in the last half century. Name another. And another. Perhaps you cited John W. Gardner’s classic treatise Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society (1964) or Austin Kleon’s digital-age manifesto Steal Like an Artist (2012). Or maybe it was the world's most widely used instructional drawing book, Betty Edwards’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (1979) or the revolutionary program for personal renewal in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (1992).
The truth is, hundreds of such books exist and range from Roger von Oech’s mind-stretching A Whack on the Side of the Head (1983) to Richard Florida’s theoretical The Rise of the Creative Class (2002). Always compelling and most often best-selling, the existence of this vast exploratory catalog illustrates our human obsession with thinking, in general, and how we problem-solve and create, in particular.
But what actually constitutes creative thinking? How does this compare to critical thinking? What are the individual characteristics of those who are considered creative? What cognitive skills and personality traits support creative thinking? Can creativity be taught?
It’s a topic for the ages, so let’s jump in! Both Part I (Why are we not all like Einstein?) and Part II (How can we be more creative?) will feature lectures, discussions, and activities that illustrate how creative approaches and innovative thinking may be applied to myriad situations, as well as to solving problems large and small, global and personal.
Alice Larson, PhD, University of Minnesota, is a Professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences in the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The former director of the University’s Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Larson is interested in creativity as an outgrowth of her research on brain function and work with numerous postdoctoral associates, and graduate and undergraduate students.