The Sources of Innovation & Creativity

The more I delve into this topic, the more questions I am left with.  I’ve read strategies, I’ve watched videos, I’ve thought about how to become more innovative myself… but I still don’t feel like i’m even close to understanding it.  However, when doing more research, it is clear that there IS no set and clear answers for this topic.  Karlyn Adams (2005) sought to explain and consolidate the research on this topic.  I have chosen two of her questions, and will briefly summarize her results:

What are the sources of creativity and innovation in individuals?

There is no set answer to this question, but instead just a variety of perspectives.

  • Cognitive Psychology: Creativity arises through the confluence of the following three components: knowledge (all the relevant understanding
    an individual brings to bear on a creative effort), Creative thinking (relates to how people approach problems and depends on personality and thinking/working style), and motivation (a key to creative production, and the most important motivators are intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself)
  •   Some key aspects of creative thinking are: comfort in disagreeing with others and trying solutions that depart from the status quo, combining knowledge from previously disparage fields, ability to persevere through difficult problems and dry spells, and ability to step away from an effort and return later with a fresh perspective.
  • Sternberg promotes a “triarchic theory”: three main aspects of intelligence that are key for creativity: synthetic, analytical, and practical.
“Students need to believe that creativity is determined by motivation and effort to a significant degree.  They need to understand that creative products are seldom produced without intent and effort, that there is considerable evidence to support the belief that most people have potential they never realize and that persistent effort to develop that potential is likely to be successful.  Students need to know too that… truly outstanding creative works in science and art have often taken many years- sometimes the better part of a lifetime- to produce… they need to understand that if one really wants to be creative in a substantive way, one must be prepared to work at it,” (Nickerson, p. 416)

I think the above quote most clearly gives evidence to the fact that creativity is not simply something you are born with (as perhaps we or our students may reason), but rather that it includes motivation, problems solving skills, and expertise.

What do we know about curricula and pedagogical techniques that have proven effective in promoting innovation and creativity through formal and informal education?

  • Raymond Nickerson: Raymond did research about different ways to enhance creativity.  Although he did not find specific strategies, he did find that classroom instruction can have a positive impact on creative abilities.
  • Brainstorming: this was originally suggested in 1957, but is found to be one of the most successful ways to enhance creativity.  This involves spending 15-20 minutes alone thinking of ideas, then working with a group, and then discussing why each idea would or wouldnt work.
  • Rules should be given with good reason, but classrooms that are too controlling may reduce intrinsic motivation.
  • Focus grading and evaluation on “what did you learn” nad not “how did you do” and let children participate in evaluating their own work. Help students understand that they can learn from failure, and not fear it.
  • Allow opportunities for choice, because they will be more motivated to work on projects they have chosen for themselves.
“The standards tool we’ve relied on for so long in parenting and teaching- evaluation, reward, competition, and restriction of choice- can in fact destroy creativity… we must perform a balancing act.  We must use enough constraint to give children a sense of predictability, but not so much that children feel the only reason they’re doing something is because they have to … the trick is to set limits in a way that maintain their intrinsic motivation,” (Amabile)

The strategies (only some of which are written about here) listed in this article again point to the vast switch and change needed in our education system today, if we truly want to innovate to meet the needs of the future.


Adams, K. (2005).  The Sources of Innovation and Creativity. National Center on Education adn the Economy for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.  Accessed from:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s