I’m excited to report that my book Group Genius has just been published in Italian! The title is:
La forza del gruppo: Il potere creativo della collaborazione
Published by Saggi Giunti, of Florence and Milan, in 2012.
I found out this week when an unexpected package arrived from Italy. To my surprise, I discovered that the package contained eight copies of La forza del gruppo. I’m honored; Giunti has also published translations of many other American psychologists, including Martin Seligman, Donald Norman, and Paul Ekman.
Too bad I don’t know seven people who read Italian, to share them with…
I’ve just spent two stimulating days with a small group of architects, university professors, and creativity researchers, at a beautiful old lakeside estate called Marigold Lodge, in Western Michigan. Our goal: To collect everything we know about how to design spaces that maximize learning and foster creativity. With funding from the Sloan Foundation and from the legendary furniture company Herman Miller (which now owns Marigold Lodge), our task is to write a report that will advise university administrations and architecture firms, to guide how new university buildings are designed.
The good news: Very quickly, we came to a consensus. Our group includes artists, furniture designers, architects, musicians, and psychologists. And even with all of that diversity, we agreed on the underlying features of creative learning spaces:
- Spaces that are flexible, adaptable, and reconfigurable by the users: students and faculty
- Shared spaces that foster connections and conversations, both planned and unplanned. This means rethinking hallways, lobbies, and stairways, so that they aren’t just places to pass through, but places where collaboration and learning happens
- Spaces that inspire
- Spaces that make it easy to create things–with materials, sketches, whiteboards–wherever you are, without having to go to some other space to be creative
Jeanne Narum, the lead organizer of this meeting, and Principal of the Learning Spaces Collaboratory, showed us a series of case studies of recent university buildings that show us this current consensus (check out the links here).
The bad news: A lot of universities are still creating new buildings that don’t look anything like this. Instead of shared space and room for collaboration, they have long hallways with separate offices for each professor. (My own office is in such a building; check out my 2008 post “The Architecture of Solitude.”)
After three days with this amazing group of experts, I’m optimistic. But on many campuses, designing for creativity and collaboration will require a culture shift, among the faculty and the students. They need to be convinced that these spaces will make their work life more fulfilling, enhance their learning, and increase the quality of their research.
In my recent blog post about the Apple logo experiment, I made the claim that “divergent thinking” tests of creativity were not reliable. In response, I received a collegial but politely critical email from Bonnie Cramond, Director of the Torrance Center at the University of Georgia. The center is named for legendary creativity researcher Paul Torrance, who is primarily known today as the developer of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, or TTCT. As I wrote in my 2012 book Explaining Creativity, the TTCT is the most thoroughly developed and most widely used test of creativity, and it’s largely based on divergent thinking tasks. After reviewing many research articles about the TTCT, I concluded that it does not meet the levels of reliability and validity that psychologists expect from tests of human abilities. For example, there are several studies that fail to find a relationship between TTCT scores and real-world creativity–suggesting that whatever it is measuring, the TTCT might not be a “valid” measure of creativity.
Professor Cramond rejects this conclusion. And she can point to different studies that find a predictive relationship between TTCT scores and real-world creativity. Regarding reliability, in our email exchange, she argued that you can manipulate the outcome of any test by modifying the instructions–even IQ tests. As an example, she referred to the famous “Mozart effect” study (from 1993) that found that when college students listen to Mozart, and take a test of spatio-temporal reasoning a few minutes afterward, their scores go up. (The test that was used was one of the components of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, but it was not the complete IQ test.)
It would be wonderful if educators and schools had a good measure of creative potential. Professor Cramond and I agree that the TTCT is the best one we have. Have you used the TTCT? What is your experience? Are you a fan, or are you skeptical?