Lego Blocks


Ex-cons get creative because of scarcity. When you have very little time, money, materials, freedom, etc., you have to think really hard to figure out how to accomplish just about everything. It gets those creative juices flowing. My favorite example of this is the prison cookbook. They have to be creative when selecting edible food, some way to prepare it, some way to cook it, perhaps storing/hiding some for later (prison hooch for example takes time to ferment), and many other challenges you and I never have to deal with.

Entrepreneurs have scarcity too. They have to figure out how to bootstrap their business with limited funds, limited visibility, no existing customer base, perhaps no facilities for manufacturing or production, and more. And limited time if the founders are keeping their day jobs.

But scarcity is not the only factor that can ignite creativity. Skills such as resourcefulness, alertness, opportunism, and imagination can be taught through other means. Practice may not make you perfect, but it can make you pretty good.

Greg Satell has some good ideas for how to use edugames to enhance creativity in kids at school. He cites several examples of how games prime divergent thinking and creative thinking modes. This agrees with a lot of the research we have talked about here before on priming and a growth mindset.

What seemed like child’s play to most academics was actually the best way to imagine possibilities and see how their ideas reflected diverse—and often confusing—empirical clues. Today, a growing contingent of academics believes that games can have the same effect on how children learn and a company called Kidaptive is determined to prove them right. – See more at:

My Take

What makes this different is the contrast he makes between empirical lab work and convergent thinking versus conceptual ideation and divergent thinking. He uses the discovery of benzene and the double helix structure of DNA as examples.

I agree. I highlight three kinds of thinking when I teach the philosophy of science and epistemology for my research methods course. It is by triangulating different epistemological modes that true innovative thinking is possible. Rather than promoting any one mode at the expense of another (which seems to be too common), the more creative path is to recognize that all modes have value and we can be most creative when we combine them together. In the K-6 context, we want to find ways to teach students all three modes and engage them in all three at different times so they understand the differences and the value of each one. Spend some cool time in a chemistry lab learning empirical thinking but also debate ideas using logic and conceptual thinking.

Your Turn

    Three questions today:

  1. Do you have a personal preference for empirical/data-driven methods or conceptual/logic-driven methods for learning and creativity?
  2. Do you see the value of teaching epistemology (that these are different ways of thinking, not just different assignments) in K-6 education?
  3. I mentioned earlier that I teach three epistemologies. Can you guess the third?

Image Credit:Alan Chia

4 thoughts on “Creativity”

  1. I especially like the premise that
    entrepreneurs = convicts

    1) different strokes for different folks
    2) epistemology – Yes
    3) Why didn’t you identify the third? The web is not really a coyness-inducing environment

  2. 1. No. This looks like a trick question.
    2. I had to look up K-6. It’s also a Kansas highway, a mountain, various weaponry. OK it’s primary school. I don’t really understand the question, but I was brought up on Piaget so maybe you can you work out my answer
    3. Still on Piaget, probably social knowledge

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