Academic journal article The International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving

An Interview with Arthur Cropley

Academic journal article The International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving

An Interview with Arthur Cropley

Article excerpt

1) Arthur, you have been involved with creativity, giftedness, and lifelong learning, well, a long time. How do you maintain your interest and zest?

I myself am amazed that I have published so much since retiring in 1998--more than in any similar period before retirement. I have also had my most successful book since my very first one in 1967, and have recently established a fruitful relationship with Cambridge University Press. Retirement has turned into a golden age, and I am very grateful to my last employer, the State of Hamburg, for supporting me so generously in my late burst of activity by means of a generous pension. All of this may be partly attributable to the fact that I no longer have to plan and conduct classes and grade assignments, attend faculty meetings, prepare applications for grants, etc. I see clearly now that one of the main functions of universities is to hinder faculty members' scholarly productivity. Apart from the physical conditions just touched upon (time, freedom from stultifying bureaucracy) there are two main factors in my continued activity in the area of creativity theory and research, despite the fact that I am beginning to approach the age of 80:

(1) It is true that research and theorizing about creativity as the concept is understood in psychological discussions has evolved over the 50 years since my first publication, but I have felt for a long time that thinking about creativity is still mainly focused on incestuous questions such as "What is creativity?" or "How can creativity be fostered?" I have become interested in the question of how creativity research and theory can be applied to issues and problems other than understanding creativity itself. This led to an interest in creativity theory not as a goal or result of research but as a tool for understanding other issues such as: How can the mental vitality of the elderly be fostered? How can children be taught, let us say mathematics, more effectively (and enjoyably)? Then branching out further: How can crime be understood in a novel way? How can the interaction between structures and functions within organizations and the entrepreneurship of individual employees be conceptualized, and innovation promoted? My interest now is not in understanding creativity better but in understanding, for example, crime better, using creativity theory as the lens through which to examine the object of interest.

(2) Immediately upon retiring I began a collaboration with my son, David, now associate professor of engineering innovation at the University of South Australia. We started by teaching a second-year engineering class using what we regarded as creativity-based methods, with the final grade partly dependent upon building a wheeled vehicle powered by the energy stored in a mousetrap, the grade being based on the innovativeness of the vehicle. An engineering professor and engineering students had little interest in theory about the creative process or the creative personality, but cared mainly about the product: First of all, does it do the job? Then, is it creative and how do you know it is? This led me to focus on products and especially on being able to say in a concrete and practical way what makes a creative engineering product creative. This led, in turn, to a series of papers on "functional" creativity and to the development of a simple, practical instrument for diagnosing products. We have since extended the idea of diagnosing products to diagnosing organizations.

These two developments in my thinking have opened up interesting new fields for me which made slowing down impossible.

2) Let's talk creative thinking first- how are the schools doing and WHAT is the educational system doing to creativity?

I am extremely disappointed in the schools. Teachers constantly tell me that what I have to say about creativity is all old hat and that they go to great lengths to foster creativity. …

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