Right now, among strained economic and market conditions, brutal competition and the 21st century insanity-inducing business ultimatum that demands that your organization perennially “do more with less,” your business is pleading for all the help it can get. A decade of increasing productivity and reducing incremental costs can only get you so far. Any significant new gains will most likely come from innovation, transmutation and creative origination! Think in terms of Intel and the company’s computer processors. There’s only so much power and capability you can crunch onto a silicon chip before you run out of land. The next big leap will likely involve a creative reimagining of the chip itself . . . wildly innovative architecture, new materials or a strange combination of existing technologies giving birth to a radical shift of great magnitude. It will happen, but the question is, will Intel get there first? Who (or what) are you and your shop racing against?
EDUCATED OUT OF OUR CREATIVITY?
To discuss our capabilities as creative thinkers and how we may have been convinced that we’re not, we should start with a little history about our public education system and the schooling we all most likely received. Public school systems didn’t really develop into their own until the 19th century when industrialism was reinventing America. The changes in nearly all facets of everyday life were nothing less than revolutionary.
It is no coincidence that public schools became suddenly responsible for turning children with farming backgrounds into a useful working class with the kind of skills valued by the leaders of industry. Knowing your way around a chicken or a corn field was suddenly not as useful as reading a ruler or following written instructions. Literacy and basic math skills became increasingly important as schools honed their subjects. Any plans to form a school curriculum focused on poetry, square dancing and “jazz hands” were forgotten as another innovation, the old-timey corporate lobbyist, began slithering around Capitol Hill; urging the government to teach the country’s children how to clock-in and respectfully take their positions as parts in a speeding industrial wheel.
With math and science seeming to top the bill today, other subjects (ones traditionally considered “creative”) receive fewer dollars. Federal mandates sometimes force curriculums to follow narrow guidelines that bore the students and tie the hands of gifted teachers who want to teach kids how to think creatively. The best teachers can go mad simply acting as supply conduits of approved facts for students to memorize and then accurately regurgitate for top scores on future standardized tests. For some, it becomes a self-perpetuating system that limits a student’s mind, stifles expression and prevents the development of what our culture needs most — unique perspectives and intelligent solutions.