Creativity & Innovation Overview
Type: Overview Duration: 0 minutes Grade Levels: Staff
At EdgeMakers we use the terms creativity and innovation combined to encourage clarity. Creativity is the universal human ability to generate new ideas. New ideas may be novel, but they may not always be useful. Innovation is the larger concept; it is the overall process by which ideas are generated, developed, and then converted into value. We view innovation as an umbrella concept that delineates the EdgeMaking process as a whole. Creativity is necessary for generating innovative ideas, but actually realizing the value of a creative idea requires executive, personal and entrepreneurial skills as well. This notion of innovation is expressed in our core EdgeMaker model of Plant, Grow, and Harvest. “Plant” refers to the germination of seeds that then grow if conditions are right to yield a harvest that has value for someone. It all begins with ideas. Understanding creativity and innovation provides a foundation for the courses on design thinking, storytelling and changemaking, digital fluency, character and collaboration, and entrepreneurs and startups that follow in the EdgeMakers curriculum. For example, central to the entrepreneur's role is the desire to create something: a new organization, new insights into the market, new organizational cultures, new ways of making things, new products or services, and new ways of managing. Understanding the role of ideation in galvanizing the design process is equally important, and seeing creativity and innovation in terms of character strengths provides vital clues as to why they are fundamental skills of 21st century citizenship. Creativity and innovation are also about making the world better. They are fundamentally important capabilities that enable global civil society to address the kind of daunting challenges – the so-called Wicked Problems – that face us at this moment in history. As Apple founder Steve Jobs famously said, “We have no choice, we have to innovate our way out of here.” Consider the following question: If innovation is the big answer you seek, what is the question that you’re trying to solve for? From an EdgeMaking perspective, innovation is always the answer to a question, and as such, has to have a purpose; otherwise it’s merely a kind of hygiene or “good practice” like brushing your teeth. What we are looking for is purposeful innovation directed at addressing significant issues. That is where innovation — and EdgeMaking — really come alive. In order to embark on the journey of innovation, one requires zeal and purpose. So the notion of a cause or the prospect of a noble achievement is fundamental to encouraging the innovation process. Students come to the subject of creativity with all kinds of preconceptions. They may view it as the proverbial light bulb or bolt of lightning going off over the head of the creative person, or something fundamentally outside of their conscious control. In fact, experience shows that creativity is a tunable skill that can be practiced and developed. It is a set of capabilities that can be focused to achieve results, and it operates at multiple levels: at the level of the individual; at the level of what occurs in between people, through what happens in teams and organizations; and finally in societies as a whole. Students may also approach this study with the preconception that they are not creative. But all humans are creative. We can’t help it; it’s the way our brains are wired. We’re constantly generating new ideas, whether in the form of brainstorms, random thoughts that pop into our heads while we’re taking a shower or daydreaming. Of course, this does not mean that a new idea will be valuable; merely that it has a certain novelty. It is important to correct the perception that only some people are creative and to distinguish creativity from talent. All people are creative, but not everyone is talented in the same ways as Leonardo da Vinci or the Beatles. The notion of creativity-oriented empowerment is key because when one believes that everyone is creative, there is always the potential for generating valuable, new, creative results. Thus, the overarching goal of the EdgeMakers Creativity and Innovation course is to help students develop their creative voice and also to apply their newfound skills to focus creativity on purposeful activity. Overall, the EdgeMakers curriculum has a focus on activism in the sense of engagement with important societal challenges that require creativity and innovation for their resolution. Creativity without purpose is just variety – interesting in and of itself, but without much significance beyond. As Picasso said, “Art washes the soul from the dust of everyday life.” We believe that creativity really comes alive when it serves a purpose, and in so doing becomes truly transformational.