We hear a lot about creativity and innovation. At Brackitz, we think a lot about what creativity is because we work to make building toys open-ended that lend themselves to children's creativity not strictly building pre-defined, creativity-squashing models. And, of course, we are constantly creating new products.
Merriam-Webster defines creativity (ability to create) as "the ability to make new things or think of new ideas". We prefer the Wikipedia definition, “a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed”. Synonyms include inventiveness, innovation, imagination and so on. It is the last part—“new and somehow valuable”--of this definition that is particularly important for kids, and for adults. It is valuable for kids because they get the sense that they created something worthwhile, something to be proud of. It might be a tower taller than themselves or it might be a newly invented contraption.
Kids want to be a significant part of the world. In the adult world, there will be value because it resulted in some efficiency or new product or new business process. We can all readily think of ways to improve our own business as well as improve others as we collide with poor products and services.
When we think of children, creativity is universally valued and at young ages, kids are heavily engaged in creative activities at home and pre-school. As professional adults, the value of creativity shifts somewhat. We admire creative people, but this characteristic often seems to take a backseat to those that manage the money side of business. Yet, innovation (creativity) is regularly touted as the path to business and national growth on the one hand. On the other hand the key performance indicators (KPIs) usually (not everywhere of course) focus on sales growth, increased gross margin and rarely focus on growth AND promotion of new, valuable ideas.
In the years between elementary school and professional jobs, we have high school and college. As the parent of a very creative high school freshman, I am stunned by the drop-off in creative pursuits which are replaced with a lot of learning, testing and the resulting non-creative concept called ’stress'. By creative pursuits, I don’t just mean art, theater, and subjects that are inherently considered creative. I mean the entire approach to learning and using what we learn. It is this last part —using what we learn—that is hard to find. Indeed, my child is excited about the class that uses what they learn rather than the more flat "just learn" approach. Could we not engage our students and young professionals in the process of creating original ideas based on what they learn? Could that not be an actual “measure”? It is not a measure of right or wrong it a measure of genuine intent to create something new and valuable. It should not matter if any given idea is valuable but that students (and professionals) try and learn how to do it better.
Sir Ken Robinson is a creativity expert who challenges the way we are educating our children. You can hear him on a popular Ted Talk.
Many of his points could also apply to professional pursuits in business or government. It is a staggering thought process to consider what our country and world might be like if we could nurture more creativity. Sure, we might have more heroes like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but more importantly, we could have millions of more small creative influences affecting aspects of everyday life and the self-fulfillment of expressing our creativity. In this way, all organizations are filled with creative heroes that can bring about value through new ideas small and large.