What’s your answer to the question asked in the image above?

I recently drew (with chalk) the image above on a piece of tar where people I knew would see it (mostly adults and teenagers). I then asked them what their answers were, and the vast majority replied with ‘it’s a chalk circle that’s been filled in‘.

There’s nothing wrong with that answer at all. It’s completely accurate, and if it had been a question asked in a school test, they’d probably expect to get a mark for it. However it’s one answer of tens if not hundreds of possibilities, and completely devoid of any creativity:

  • Oh dear. The sun fell from the sky
  • A placeholder for a future pothole
  • The top of a pole
  • A puddle of water
  • The entrance to a secret underground world
  • The sky is leaking
  • The shadow of a tiny asteroid
  • The teardrop of a very sad giant
  • A square that’s lost all its sides

Somewhere along the education continuum we move children from fantastical thinking, where almost all answers are celebrated, to a worldview where only one answer is correct, and you must work as hard as you can to find it, in order to receive a reward. In that process our imagination is dulled and our creativity is squashed.

After spending eons teaching children to find the only one correct answer, in spite of the hundreds your imagination is capable of serving up, the irony is that we now need creativity more than ever before. In a World Economic Forum report, it is suggested that creativity is the second most important skill deemed to be important to workers by companies around the world:

Analytical thinking is considered to be a core skill by more companies than any other skill, making up, on average, 9.1% of the core skills reported by companies.

Creative thinking comes second, ahead of three self-efficacy skills – resilience, flexibility and agility; motivation and self-awareness; and curiosity and lifelong learning – which recognize the importance of workers’ ability to adapt to disrupted workplaces.

While education departments around the world work out how to undo the direction they’re currently taking, to prepare children to grow into adults who have the most needed skills into the future, I’m going to continue to build mini and temporary playgrounds for children, teens and adults to engage with. My hope is that they contribute to people unleashing their imagination on the world, with the most fantastical ideas and solutions.

P.S. When I gave this post the title ‘A Great Example of How We’ve Taught Children to Think’, I really meant, it’s how we’ve been taught to think. Don’t make the mistake of not recognising that as adults we’re very sadly trapped in a lack of creative thinking ability as well