The American Public Education System was directly imported from Prussia (modern day Germany). This model of "free and compulsory" education was designed by the Prussian Emperor, in order to generate obedient workers and soldiers who would not question his authority#.
It was designed not to over-educate and was imported into an early culture of hard working people, mostly immigrants, who came to the new land in search of opportunity and a better life.
That may have worked for the industrial economy, although it is debatable how well; it's not going to do today. Sir Ken Robinson reminds us in his latest TEDEd Talk that one of the roles of education is to awaken and develop the powers of creativity. Instead, what we have is a culture of standardization#.
Watch the full talk -- Sir Ken Robinson is an exceptional communicator, a clear thinker, and a good speaker who does get irony.
I spent my early career in child development and I have seen this over and over again: Children start the first grade with their hands up, eager to participate and get involved, and end up hiding in the back rows near graduation with their diversity, creativity, and curiosity beaten out of them. Those who succeed, generally are labeled as misfits.
Lucky for me, I am the product of a culture of learning and discovery -- my mother was as curious and creative as I was and found the Montessori method a good construct to get us started. She is still a formidable explorer and doer.
I continue to be curious about creativity and inventiveness and am keen on providing and environment that stimulates independent thought. In the early days of this blog, three main questions led me to a deeper exploration on generating ideas, building confidence while validating them, and executing ideas:
- Where do ideas come from?
- Why didn't you think of that?
- How do you refine ideas?
Building on those thoughts, creativity, when properly harnessed through execution, leads to innovation. Creativity happens by design, and we need to make room for it in our culture, facilitating the process of creating impact and enabling growth of the renewable kind, if we hope to expand opportunity to everyone.
It is in times of uncertainty and chaos, when what used to work doesn't work anymore, that new paths are forged. Creativity and curiosity are the fuel to a new path forward; commerce and creativity are inextricably linked.
Applying creativity to commerce allows organizations to trade themselves into strength, resilience, and endurance. Momentum depends on creativity, and creativity involves working with others -- a most appropriate construct for the age of collaboration and co-creation.
Why is it then, that we continue to say one thing and do another? Why are companies bad at spotting creative ideas?#
Bosses don't value creativity#, and unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.
It's a matter of priorities and execution. As Sir Robinson says, one can be engaged in a task of teaching, yet if no one is learning... something is amiss.
Creativity enables a culture of innovation: One has to create risk to unlock value and organizations with a strong culture of openness and curiosity are environments where innovation thrives.
That is institutional culture.
Steven Pressfield reminds us#: there’s such a thing as individual culture as well. A personal culture unique to one individual. Personal culture is what you and I have to have, and if we don’t have it, we have to acquire it. As artists and entrepreneurs we must design, construct, and perpetuate an interior culture that is as vivid, unique, and self-empowering as that of the corporations and institutions we work with and compete against.
More on creativity:
[image courtesy Hugh MacLeod, Gapingvoid - a firm that helps organizations rediscover why culture and values are key to sustainable business, and how visual communications are crucial to culture change]
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.