How does being humble help one become more creative?
Being humble entails putting aside our assumptions, preconceptions and convictions about what the world ought to be and what our rightful place in that world ought to be. Being humble requires us to quiet our egos for the moment to listen, observe and learn from the viewpoints of others. When we do so, we discover a myriad of ideas and revelations that would have otherwise remained hidden to us.
During the first week of SPICE Class at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School, teachers Dana Tabor and Stefanie Perritt-Corso challenged their students to invent a wallet for their classmates.Â Using nothing more than duct tape, electricianâ€™s tape, cardboard, fuzzy sticks and scissors, the students created functional and attractive wallets for each other.
They first interviewed each other to determine what each wanted in a wallet. They learned to withhold their preconceptions of what the wallets should do and how they should look. They learned to quiet their egos to serve their fellow classmates, their customers.
During the 90 minute class, each student was paired with another classmate. They alternated between the roles of designer and customer. They performed many iterations of inquiry, building, seeking feedback, and refining their designs based on their customersâ€™ wishes. At the completion of the challenge each student pair presented their wallets to each other and then did a show-and-tell in front of all their fellow classmates.
What I found most gratifying from observing the students was hearing the consistent refrain they uttered during their show-and-tell which went something like this: â€śso and so wanted this featureâ€¦this lookâ€¦this decorationâ€¦and so that is what I made.â€ťÂ Often the resulting wallets from each pair of students stood in stark contrast to either other, a testament to the studentsâ€™ willingness and ability to defer to the wishes of their customer.
I asked them during the activity debriefing whether they preferred playing the role of the designer or the customer. The large majority declared that they preferred playing the designer role because that role enabled them to exercise their individual creativity. How interesting.
What they enjoyed was expressing something personal and unique about themselves â€“ a form of self assertion. Yet their very act of asserting themselves was simultaneously an act of selflessness.Â Their egos were nurtured by their ego-effacing act of serving their fellow classmates. Â Is this why the act of giving selflessly can feel so good?
So if humility is a vital quality in the creative process, then the students demonstrated a convincing start in the development of their creative talents through the first design challenge of the SPICE Class. They quieted their egos, listened to their customers, and created the wallets their customers wanted.
I give many thanks to the two teachers of the SPICE Class, Dana Tabor and Stefanie Perritt-Corso, for their enthusiastic facilitation of this design activity on January 31st, 2012.