ASPEN, Colo.—Tom Kelley is an innovation consultant. He is also the author of a recent best-selling book on creativity. So when Kelley told his audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival—hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic—today to think back to kindergarten in order to understand how to harness creativity, they thought back to kindergarten.
(I thought about the couple things I remember from kindergarten, but I don't really have enough contiguous memories to just hang out in them. So I imagined what other people's kindergartens were like, which killed the time. Boy, some nice kindergartens.)
Kelley explained that his creativity-consultant predecessor Gordon MacKenzie—who was something of a legend in the world of greeting-card writing at Hallmark in the 1980s, where he operated as the company's Creative Paradox, a title he created—used to go around and speak at schools. He would ask each grade to raise their hands, "Any artists here?"
And in kindergarten, everybody was an artist. Not just an artist, but a two-hands artist: "Me! Me! Me! I'm an artist!"
By the first grade, it was still 100 percent, but it was with one hand. Then it progressed. When MacKenzie talked to the sixth-graders, he would get two or three people raising their hands, nervously looking around like everyone was going to think they were weird.