Provoked to be creative!

When you hear the word creative, what picture comes to your mind? An artistic type – someone who draws, paints and dabbles in art? Or the eccentric type – someone who’s brilliant, slightly disheveled, unpredictable, and wild-eyed? Or is it something else? 

Creativity deserves a broader definition. Firstly, creativity is about new ideas or the use of older ideas in newer ways. Second, it’s an important part of everyday life, whether you are solving a problem at work, cooking a meal, fixing a broken shoe, or creating 5 extra minutes in your hectic morning schedule. The wiki article lays out the scope quite well

People per se can’t be labeled “creative” or otherwise. Being Creative is a, well, state of being! Some people are in that state more often than others, and almost all of us are creative at least once a year! Also see these nice mind maps outlining what blocks creativity and what supports creativity.

We’re often asked if creativity can be learned, and the answer seems to be yes. True, it’s not something you can pick up by reading a book or listening to someone explaining how it works. However, one’s capability to remain creative can be enhanced by doing some kinds of exercises and practising some kinds of thinking / being. Brainstorming is a popular method. “Provocation” is another. When we use it with children we’ve seen some really great responses, some really interesting ideas and a great deal of learning happening.

How to practice Provocation:

Begin by making a deliberately shocking statement (Provocations), where ideas that are normally taken for granted have been discarded.  For example, we could say ‘Children should not have an education’. On the face of it, it’s not a good idea. It may even be difficult to contemplate. However it might lead us to think about what we mean by education, and what its alternatives might be.

Once you have a provocative statement, suspend judgment and generate ideas. Provocations usually give good starting points for creative thinking. You could think in terms of:


  • What could be the consequences of the statement?
  • What could be the benefits?
  • Are there any circumstances under which it might be a sensible solution?
  • If this had to work, what underlying priniciples are required? 
  • How it would work moment-to-moment?
  • What would happen if a sequence of events was changed?
  • Etc.


You can use this list as a check list. The ideas generated may not always be relevant, but it often open up new ways of thinking, which in turn leads to new solutions. Read more about provocation.