Think Like a Child: Divergently
Matthew Jervis is a designer, entrepreneur, and founder of Make It Creativity, a company that fosters creativity through workshops for children and adult professionals. His well conceived educational experiences are introducing the creative process to people of all ages and professions. A single-parent, he lives in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley, CA with his two children.
About four years ago Jervis changed course. He left the world of advertising and commercial design to devote his career to teaching creativity through writing, online classes, and workshops. Much of his work focuses on children.
Jervis begins most classes and workshops by telling people that most big problems are actually just a bunch of small problems tied up in a knot. They look scary, but they really aren’t if you deconstruct them. Problem solving begins by focusing on what you can change, not what you cannot. When you deconstruct the “challenge,” the best opportunities reveal themselves. That is when real change happens.
Teaching in His Blood
“As a designer and an art director I was referred to as ‘creative,’ but I rarely felt creative. Amazing and fulfilling projects were few and far between because mostly I was hired to fulfill other people’s vision. For many years, this was enough for me but eventually I lost the patience required to talk people into buying into my ideas.”
Jervis comes from long line of teachers so he long knew teaching was in his blood. “Once I gave in and began teaching and writing about the creative process, I knew I had found my calling.”
And his inner child. His introduction to the profession began as a parent-volunteer for his son’s kindergarten class. “The work with my son’s class brought me immediate gratification. I was good at it.” His role soon expanded to leading form school enrichment workshops at his son’s school. Word got out about his classes and before he knew it, other schools were asking him to lead creative courses.
“The way I see it, as soon as we’re old enough to engage, society tells us what we need to do and how to think. That’s when the damage begins. As early as two or three, we begin seeking approval and give what we think others want to see or hear. We begin behaving, start editing ourselves, stop exploring and, instead, start seeking solid single solutions rather than creative options. By the time we hit middle school, peer pressure seals it.” — Matthew Jervis
Follow Your Heart
The success of his classes, workshops, and now a new book, has affirmed Jervis’ decision to leave the commercial world and apply his talent and skills to teaching and discovery. They have also helped him understand that many dubious past experiences led him to his present state of professional and personal fulfillment.
“I started playing and touring in punk bands right out of high school. Then I worked in the music industry. Then I became an art director. I always followed my heart, doing many crazy things over the years without a clear idea of where it would lead me. But here I am. And now it all makes sense! I could not be who I am today unless I had done all the things I did in the past.”
“Creative expression connects us. It’s human. And the human experience has always required problem solving and negotiation,” says Jervis. He reminds adult students that creativity is not an isolated endeavor practiced by an elite group of men and women who work for powerful studios and agencies. “We all struggle. We all solve problems. We all negotiate. The key to a happier life is our willingness to seek new methods and practices that bring to us constant innovation and growth.”
Jervis often quotes one of Picasso’s most famous observations: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Says Jervis, “A child’s capacity to innovate never ceases to amaze me. They think divergently and form ideas without editing or limiting their thoughts.”
For those who have never thought of themselves as a “creative” person, his classes and exercises help them discover that they, too, are creative thinkers. When we give ourselves the permission to think without limitations and prejudice, we are more likely to solve problems in new and innovative ways.
“The first rule in innovating as adults, is that every thought, every idea has value and is important. For kids that comes naturally. They don’t need permission or graphs about design thinking. As we get older we need rules to remind ourselves! We need permission, we need graphs about design thinking, and we need to host workshops by Matthew Jervis!”
Paint Like a Child
Jervis says being a single parent has inspired his work and helped make him a successful entrepreneur. “Being a single dad has made me both a better parent more understanding of what it takes to be a better parent-partner. Being the only one in charge can be stressful, but it also brought renewed passion to my work as a designer and educator. I have learned when to just let things go – to trust that all things will work themselves out.”
When his latest book, How To Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids, came out this summer many told him that they had read it, understood it, and found it very helpful in their parenting and professional lives. “The reaction to the book has been one of the most uplifting and encouraging moments in my career. It is a reaffirmation that my creative work today really connects with others in ways that brings value to the lives of their families. Nothing could be more gratifying.”
“Kids don’t care. Kids have ideas and thoughts about everything. They don’t care if they’re not experienced. Through my work, I want to remind adults that it doesn’t have to take a lifetime to learn to paint like a child. I’m helping adults give themselves permission to be curious. When I go to my classes working with kids, they teach me! I just keep my eyes and ears open, while taking copious notes for my next adult workshop.”
Here’s a creative solution that might help us solve many pressing problems: Elect Matt Jervis for President. Or at least invite him to lead the Congress in a workshop.