Dimensions of Creativity: Flexibility


Flexibility: ability to look at something from a different angle or point of view, shifting to an opposing viewpoint, angle, direction, chronology, modality, putting yourself “in someone else’s shoes."
(Flexibility may or may not lead to ORIGINALITY.)

Flexible thinkers are able to "play devil's advocate," flip to alternate sides of an argument, and ultimately build better reasoning because they can see where an opponent is coming from. Flexible thinkers are willing to add an "odd" angle on knowledge, such as asking what the dish would say to the spoon. Often these varied perspectives can lead to humor and/or original ideas.

Why does flexibility matter?

Flexibility is important:

  • to understand more than one perspective on an issue
  • not to miss out on whole areas of possibility
  • to promote interpersonal understanding
  • it often leads to original ideas and solutions
  • to be able to interpret data in many different ways (forming and checking hypotheses)
  • to vary hypotheses for scientific method

Flexibility Builders

Asking questions and designing projects where students must shift perspective will prompt them to be more flexible in their approach. Modeling such shifts out loud is also important, especially as students reach upper grades and have learned to give the expected answers in school. You may need to suggest the specific perspective shifts until students are able to suggest a new angle of their own. Give them choices of a shift in point of view or time/place. Sometimes concrete shifts in location, time period, or senses are easier to envision than shifts in opinions/values. Some flexibility examples:

  • Social studies: how would the Boston Tea party SOUND, how a redcoat might see the Boston Tea party, things a colonist might say about the British
  • Environmental studies: beneficial things about fossil fuels, negative things about fossil fuels, new things to do with grass clippings
  • Math: seeing 24 as... (the game 24 builds this kind of number sense flexibility)
  • Science: considering different possible causes for the same phenomenon, making alternate hypotheses in designing an experiment, scientific concepts explained from the point of view of an inanimate or nonverbal object or creature
  • Art: cubism and other styles, moving the paper under the pencil to "draw" instead of moving the pencil, physically looking from an odd angle
  • L.A./Reading : retell a story/ novel/scene from a different character’s point of view, debate/advocate/write from a position you firmly disagree with

Flexibility tools on the web: any could be used to show alternate points of view/perspectives

  • word cloud tools (see fluency tools) alternate ways to say the same thing
  • Thinglink (review) adds written and audio comments to uploaded images/slides
  • Blog tools (learn about blogging)
  • Twitter (explained) 140 character microblogging - like status updates on Facebook
  • GoSoapBox (review) or any other chat tools
  • Mystery Animal (review) uses 20 questions to find out if you can guess the animal (hypothesis testing); builds verbal flexibility
  • Blabberize (review) make an uploaded image "talk" with a moving mouth
  • Comic makers (see many reviews)
  • Szoter (review) add voice bubbles to images
  • Adobe Spark for Education (review) make online posters
  • and many more. See idea sharing for specific activities/projects or to add your own ideas