Social Environments That Kill Creativity

Teresa M. Amabile

Toward the end of the last century, a boy was born to a Jewish engineer and his wife in a small German town on the Danube River. Slow and shy, this boy did so poorly in school that, when his father asked the headmaster what profession his son should adopt, the answer was simply, “It doesn’t matter. He’ll never make a success of anything.” He did make a success of something, though, but he almost seems to have done it in spite of his schooling.

As a youth, he attended a militaristic school in Munich that stressed discipline and memorization. Although he would never become famous for his views on education, his autobiography eloquently recalls the disdain he felt for such strictly controlled ...

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