As a kid I often found myself trying to get out of work…. well, that’s not exactly true. It just seemed that way. Like many kids, I often tried to look for the easy way out of things. It wasn’t that I was lazy. It’s that I had other interests than putting away my clothes, cleaning my room or mowing the lawn. I tried all sorts of create approaches that (now that I have my own kids) were not unique to me, they just seemed unique at the time. As I tried to convince my parents that it was more convenient to just keep all of my clothes in a laundry basket on my floor because it was “easier to find them”, I remember thinking that there had to be easier ways to get some of this stuff done. Now, let’s be clear…. it didn’t work. I always ended up putting my clothes away and dutifully returning the laundry basket to the laundry room in our basement. But the idea remains. There are things that we do in our daily lives that just seem ridiculously inefficient and that have GIANT pain points.
In schools this is especially true. We are all subject to initiative fatigue and some of the processes that we go through seem incredibly archaic, especially in the digital age. However, in order to get some of these things out of the way, we have to be creative in our approach and in our thinking. Teachers are masters at this when they are allowed to be. Each and every day they approach students differently based on their needs (which change from one day to the next). Whether they like to admit it or not, they are creative individually and in groups and they can come up with some amazing solutions… but only when they are allowed the freedom and have the support to do so.
That’s why I was so excited when I ran across the book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelley. Based on their work with IDEO and the Stanford d.School, these two brothers write about creativity as something that we all have but many times we just don’t think of ourselves in that way. We may lack the confidence to consider ourselves creative (at least outwardly). They discuss it as a choice and a mindset and that if we allow ourselves to look at things in new ways, it’s hard to say what we will actually accomplish.
There are lots of pieces that could be pulled from this book, too many really. But here are a few things that intrigued me. Some are taken directly, some are paraphrased.
- In a research study, 1/3 of respondents could recall a “creativity scar” of a time when someone (coach, teacher, parent, peer) told them they weren’t talented causing them to lose confidence in their own creativity. p.55
- Another research study found that all of the creative people that he studied decided to be creative. p.75 When we choose creativity, it’s part of who we are and will become.
- Many organizations search for “best practices” for their industry. In many cases, this means taking what has worked for someone else and attempting to copy and paste it into their own organization without questioning their current ways of doing things or seeking new insights. p.86 We hear about best practices a lot in education and I think, for the most part, we do a good job thinking through how it fits in our local system. However, when we rely on those “best practices” and try to guarantee that for every building/student/teacher, we miss out on the personalization and creativity that could come with the struggle of figuring things out.
- “Soft landings” are important for those who want to take risks. p.120 How can we give teachers the ability to take risks and support them, even if something might not work? How do we create a culture of creativity and help teachers (and students) nurture their creative confidence when there is so much internal and external pressure to perform, show growth and do well on a single assessment.
There are many more pieces that I could pull out but this isn’t a book review, rather a reflection and recommendation. Chapter 7 is entitled Move and includes a series of Creativity Challenges to get readers started. The authors talk about this in terms of taking action. You can sit and admire the problem or challenge that you’re facing all you want. You can complain, plan, and ponder for as long as you want but without action, nothing moves forward.
As a district administrator, I often think about the way that my leadership may foster or squash innovation and creativity. I question how my decisions ultimately impact the work of the teachers in my district. Am I building creative confidence? I like to think so but it’s not about me alone. It’s about teachers, principals, librarians, and students working together to expand what it means to be a student in the digital age. I encourage anyone reading this to think about the role of creativity in your work. How can you foster your own and build upon the creative confidence that you have individually and that your organization has as a whole?
Some other books that I’ve recently read on the topic of creativity.