Howard Gardner, the American cognitive psychologist and author of thirty books, needs no introduction. He is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is well known for his view on multiple intelligences. He discussed this theory in his renowned book, ‘Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences’ and has shared several inspiring quotes on the subject.
In his work, he challenged the prevailing idea, suggesting that intelligence is not a single capacity that humans have to varying degrees. In fact, intelligence prevails in different forms in different people. This means people can be skilled in different areas, with one person exhibiting linguistic intelligence and the other exhibiting logical-mathematical intelligence.
Taking the idea of multiple intelligences forward, Gardner presented a novel view of creativity in his book “Creating Minds,” wherein he examined extraordinary individuals with outstanding intelligence like Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Sigmund Freud, Mahatma Gandhi, and more. Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory has inspired educators and school leaders to embrace the fact that children can be intelligent in many ways. His view on creativity has provided more thoughtful insights, which we will talk about in this article today.
Howard Gardner’s perspective on creativity
Gardner’s view on creativity is unique in its own way. According to him, creativity occurs when a person comes up with something new that might seem odd at first but is acknowledged and accepted by knowledgeable people. The conclusive test is when the invention brings about a significant change in the domain it belongs to.
He also emphasizes that although creativity and intelligence are correlated, they differ from one another. Usually, creative people are perceived to think divergently, and intelligent people are perceived to think with a narrow vision, concentrating on figuring out the right answer.
So, contrary to the thought that intelligent people are equally creative, it is possible that people with high intelligence can have not-so-impressive creative skills, and others may be impressively creative but have lower intelligence.
Gardner’s examples of people with extraordinary creativity
In his book, ‘Creating Minds,’ Gardner studied the traits of seven extraordinary people known for their achievements in their domain and had one of the intelligences he talked about. He noted that creativity is domain-specific and is possible only when an individual works in a specific field or domain.
The seven personalities he examined were blessed with one or more types of intelligence, using which they could make extraordinary achievements in their respective domains. The names of the seven prominent personalities are:
- Albert Einstein with logical-mathematical intelligence
- T.S. Eliot with linguistic intelligence
- Sigmund Freud with intrapersonal intelligence
- Pablo Picasso with spatial intelligence
- Igor Stravinsky with musical intelligence
- Mahatma Gandhi with interpersonal intelligence
- Martha Graham with bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
While closely examining these seven individuals, Gardner found some significant similarities and differences. To begin with, each one rejected standard practices and was open to trying out new things. Their intelligence was not restricted to only one domain. In fact, they had more than average ability in other domains as well.
These creative individuals also needed cognitive support from those who believed their efforts would lead them to a new discovery and effective support from those who loved them and did not consider their efforts senseless. These seven creative individuals were also demanding and highly absorbed in their work for a long time.
Talking about differences, one that Gardner pointed out is that each of them exhibited differences in thinking, which was visible in their thought processes to make outstanding achievements.
Characteristics of creative individuals that set them apart
According to Howard Gardner, the definition of a creative individual is –
“A creative individual is a person who regularly solves problems, fashions products, or defines new questions in a domain in a way that is initially considered novel but that ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting.”
Howard Gardner identified three main characteristics of creative individuals who achieved breakthroughs that were not prominent in other people.
- These individuals have deep domain knowledge.
- They are open to taking risks.
- They create or invent something when it is needed and are willing to defend it if necessary.
1. Promoting creativity in schools
Gardner states that even though creativity is vital, it is not encouraged as much in an average school, though some progressive schools might promote it. The reason behind this is that creative students who do not follow traditional practices and are eager to try new things may cause disruption in the learning environment.
Hence, most educators prefer students to develop creativity outside the classroom in extracurricular classes. Because providing a creative environment for students has many benefits, Gardner suggests a few tips to promote creativity:
- Encourage children to try new things.
- Tell them it is okay to take chances, and they won’t be rejected for doing things in a different way.
- Let them know about the limitations of the chances they can take.
- Instill discipline, but allow some freedom to kids who try things differently than their peers.
- Encourage them to identify things they enjoy doing and can get better at.
2. Gardner’s view on developing creativity at an early age
Early childhood is the time when children naturally exhibit creativity. They are willing to try new things, take risks, make observations, and draw conclusions. But in order to make extraordinary achievements, children need domain-specific knowledge, which can be obtained through classroom learning.
So, according to Gardner, allowing children to explore and be creative is important in the early years. This should be followed by focusing on acquiring basic skills during the middle school years, and finally combining skills and creativity during adolescence to come up with something new.
Howard Gardner’s thoughts on creativity are indeed unique. Looking through his lens, we see that creativity is not restricted to art forms and is prevalent in every domain. He has provided us with a fresh perspective on the characteristics of creative individuals and how important it is to promote creativity in children.
Deriving from his thoughts, parents and educators must employ a strategic approach wherein they encourage kids to be creative and acquire the basic knowledge and skills they need so that they can put their creativity to proper use and bring innovative solutions to the table.
- Morgan, H. (2021). Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory and his Ideas on Promoting Creativity. In F. Reisman (Ed.), Celebrating Giants and Trailblazers: A-Z of Who’s Who in Creativity Research and Related Fields (pp.124-141). London, UK: KIE Publications.