We must make more of the ‘Micro Bursts’ of Creative Thinking

by Matthew Worwood

I first heard about the concept of ‘Micro Moments’ from Susan Keller-Mathers, at the International Center for Studies in Creativity, she was referring to the brief moments of creativity that occur during the day and may only last for a few seconds. I’m going to call them ‘Micro Bursts of Creativity’ as I think the word burst is better associated to the little ones, but they’re certainly moments. They’re usually associated with a creative response to a question, or responding to a presented problem in a new and surprising way. Usually we notice these actions and perhaps might respond with a ‘well done’ or ‘hey did you see that… my girl just did this’… but because they’re so brief we usually let them glide by and fail to celebrate the creative thinking within the action.

Here’s a perfect example, my little boy was helping me prepare the Christmas cards. It was kind of annoying as I wanted to get through them quickly, but he’s currently in this fix of wanting to join in with adult jobs and gets very frustrated if he’s not included, so I suggested he write his name in each card, which then turned into drawing pictures. I confess I didn’t look at any of the pictures as I was too busy writing each address on the envelopes, but I noticed him looking a little puzzled after we’d got through about 10 cards. ‘Lucas, what’s the problem’ I asked, ‘I’m thinking what to draw next, I’m trying to draw a different picture in every card’. Wow, this was a really cool creativity exercise that only a three year old would invent! Through his many years of studying creativity, E. Paul Torrance identified a creativity skillset, and one of the skills identified was the ability to produce and consider many alternatives, it’s often referred to as the Fluency Principal. This would have been an excellent fluency exercise, and has similarities to activities like ‘come up with as many alternative uses for a bathtub, or a brick, or a bucket, etc. The goal of this type of exercise is to focus on quantity over quality, to resist the temptation to find the one ‘right’ idea and instead generate a variety of ideas. This is one of four principals of brainstorming and has proven to be effective in the production of innovative ideas during ideation sessions.

What’s the point of this article you might be saying… well I believe the action above has now dwindled from Lucas’s mind. He probably doesn’t realize the recognition I gave it, and certainly didn’t associate it with anything special, but when he first spelt his name I reached for my phone and immediately pushed record. If I ask my family if they’ve heard Lucas spell his name they’re all going to say ‘Yes Matthew’… if I ask them if they heard about the story above they’re going to say ‘No… and might not be that interested’… so my point is we need to value these micro bursts of creativity as much as the micro moments of academic development. I mean seriously, most kids know how to spell their name by five or six (and who cares when they started). If we want to better nurture creative thinking we need to recognize the ‘coolness’ of generating twenty-five different pictures* in the space of 5/10 minutes? I’m not even sure I could do that!

*Full disclosure, I didn’t actually take note of the pictures Lucas was drawing so he actually might have failed miserably if this was one of E. Paul Torrance’s Tests of Creativity.

Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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