Kyra Choucroun

Researcher and Producer, SustainAbility Ltd


This conversation is closed.

How do you foster a culture of creativity and innovation?

How can creativity be encouraged as a regular and reliable part of everyday life? If you are running a company or an organisation or a school, how do you make creativity systematic and routine? How do you lead a culture of innovation?

  • Jun 23 2011: 1- We should understand roadblocks to creativity first.

    For example, (1) fear, (2) no appetite for chaos, (3) preference for judging over generating ideas, (4) dislike for incubating ideas, (5) perceived lack of challenge, and (6) inability to distinguish reality from fantasy.

    Fear is by far the most significant roadblocks and the fear factor can be devastating and controlling. Recognize it; face it; and help others do the same.

    2- Remove Road Blocks To Creativity
    To do so, the three building blocks are described next to fight the road blocks for creativity flow in following ways:

    Play. During play you anticipate, surprise, feel pleasure, understand, strengthen, and poise. The element of play is fun and the outcomes seem quite attractive, so why don’t we play as adults. It is also called serious play like gaming education context. Go play games of your choice.

    Improvisation. As trainee, you need to have greater sense of self and a greater tolerance of failure. Improvisation skills help to eliminate the fear factor, allowing ideas to flow freely.

    Observation. Observation is a vehicle for understanding lives and situations in the context you are trying to know. Participating and observing are both important because in both situations you are living in the environment that you are studying. The process helps you understand the problem by physical being inside that problem. For example, to understand poverty, you live some days inside that poor community, as result, you understand the problem and this helps to generate idea for solution of that particular problem.

    Thank you
  • thumb
    Jun 21 2011: Hi Kyra,

    let people get bored from time to time. That's what fosters creativity.

    My children are not allowed to watch TV during the week, only on weekends and only for a very limited time. Often they get bored after school and are complaining: "Mum, what can we do, we are soooo bored!"

    My answer is always: "And what will you do after finishing being bored?"

    In most cases, they start playing, inventing new games, doing crafts, etc.

    It's amazing how their behavior changed since I decided to let the TV turned off during the week. Boredom is the key. :)
    • thumb
      Jun 21 2011: wow, that is bold. congrats.
    • thumb
      Jun 22 2011: Yes! I agree.

      I feel in myself that in order to go forward, there needs to be some kind of pent up boredom of boredom which somehow transforms into motivating energy. This has happened to me many times.
  • Jun 22 2011: Trash, lots of trash.

    I grew up near a place where people would dump broken televisions, radios, cars, etc. I had lots of fun making or fixing things from the piles of stuff people considered trash.

    For the parent more concerned about safety, things like Legos, wooden blocks or even a pencil and paper are a good start.
  • thumb
    Jun 21 2011: Be what you want to see. We cannot foster creativity and innovation in others, if we do not have that in ourselves. If we are running a company, organization or school, we need to model creativity and not just talk about it. Whatever role we take in this life experience, we need to demonstrate what we want to see.
  • thumb
    Jun 20 2011: There needs to be space for it and by space, I mean time..
  • Jun 30 2011: For the first time in history we have far too much information; creativity involves restricting "bad" information and enhancing "good" information. If you are a scientist and your free time is spent on Facebook, twitter and playing video games, does this enhance your creativity as much as reading a good novel? It helps to be passionate about your beliefs to have the ability to focus and be persistent. These are qualities that are usually inate but can be learned.

    There is creativity and then there is productive creativity. Creativity that stops with the individual may be creative but is not productive because it does not rise to the level that society benefits. For creativity to be positive it must not be self-centered. Creativity is best away from a structured environment---as Ken Robinson says, schools kill creativity.

    Recognized creativity is different from published creativity. Published creativity to be beneficial creativity, must be acceptable to the mainstream intelligent layman/woman. Thus, to be creative, requires "people" skills. The best ideas poorly promoted will fail; mediocre ideas pursued tirelessly will succeed. Promotion is a huge part of craativity i.e. salesmanship.

    Having creativity and not capitalizing on that creativity "seizing the moment" will result in lost creativity i.e. we need a positive feed back loop between creativity and tangible goals whether that is acceptance by your peers or others.

    Risk taking is critical (Rafi). It is common wisdom in physics that if you don't get your Nobel prize winning results by age 30, you are toast. This is specious because how many of these physicists were willing to take the same level of risk at age 50 as age 25? How risky can you be if you have a family to support and rocking the boat might cost you tenure? The only reason physicists stop coming up with Nobel prize winning ideas after age 30 is they stop taking risks.
    • thumb
      Jul 1 2011: QUOTE: The only reason physicists stop coming up with Nobel prize winning ideas after age 30 is they stop taking risks.

      Acknowledging this is not really your point, there are other explanations for new scientific discoveries often being the domain of the young. Not the least of which is the young brain. It has a "growth spurt" in young adulthood and contains more neurons than at any other time - more nearons; more synaptic connections. More synaptic connections; more "computational" capability.
  • Jun 27 2011: Now for a view from the front lines.

    I teach mathematics at a typical Midwestern high school.

    You ask how to foster a culture of creativity in the classroom? That's difficult if not impossible. You must understand that a teacher has little control over the material that she must teach. The public school system is very much top-down. Indeed with the near universal adoption of the new federal Common Core Standards, almost all schools are now controlled by a single governmental entity.

    I don't choose what I teach. Others choose for me. My classroom is not really my own. I am merely a mechanism for the delivery of skills that others say my students must know. Those skills are codified in the Common Core Standards, which are quite lengthy and detailed. Mastery of those standards requires mastery of hundreds of little bits of "knowledge".

    Students will be tested on those standards. Teachers will be judged by their students' performance on those tests. Thus teachers must teach them. If they do not, punishment will be severe.

    I know geometry best. It's all that I teach. The geometry standards easily fill an entire school year. My hands are tied here. I have little control over what I must teach and that rate at which I must teach it. I can't stop to consider a side-topic not in the standards. I can't let students take the time necessary to arrive at results on their own. If I do, I won't get through them all.

    Creativity requires time, the time to independently develop and then ultimately reject many mistaken solutions to a problem; and I just don't have the time to let my students do that. If I do, we're all labeled and inadequate.

    Would creativity be fostered in business if there were a single governmental entity were to dictate all business decisions? Of course not. Why assume that the classroom is any different?

    My conclusion: if you want creativity in the classroom, you'll have to radically restructure the standards and how they are taught and tested
    • thumb
      Jun 28 2011: Franklin,

      That sounds horrible.

      Do you think the Khan Academy might help you?

      It sounds like you don't have much wiggle room but still ... how you deliver a message (even a canned message) must allow for some creativity. No?
  • thumb
    Jun 27 2011: QUOTE: How do you foster a culture of creativity and innovation?

    Encourage creativity and innovation. Literally. Encourage people to be creative and innovative.

    Create an environment where it is safe to be creative and innovative which means: Create an environment where it is safe to make mistakes.

    Encourage mistakes.

    Use Edward de Bono's idea of "provocation." (What would we do if cars had square wheels, etc.)

    We put up a cork-board at work and everyone sticks an "action item" on it every day.

    Celebrate contribution.

    Celebrate mistakes. (We actually applaud mistakes.)

    Laugh a lot.


    Stare at the wall or the floor or your knee (really.)

    Use Tony Buzan's "Mind Mapping."

    Draw pictures and encourage other to draw, even if you, or they "can't draw."

    Pick a topic and, with a team, write a song or a poem about it.

    Watch kids. Copy what they do.

    Keep a record of ideas (notebooks, files, computer, etc.)

    Ask what is the desired outcome (of any endeavour) and then figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Give yourself a deadline.

    Work and play without deadlines.

    Have a "creative meeting" where everyone has to keep moving (no sitting down or standing still.)

    Play with toys (plasticine, Lego, crayons, dolls, cars, etc.)


    Learn a new language.
  • thumb
    Jun 27 2011: this is all so fantastic! thank you so much for these wonderful insights!
  • thumb
    Jun 26 2011: Maybe too simple but all of us need to trust in the others potential. As leaders be it as parents or CEO's, we need to trust in the others potential therefore empowering us and giving ourselves room to express ourselves in given situatons. There is no better fuel for creativity than someone who believes in you .If we are trusted we can conquer our fears and open the doors to limitless posibilities.
    Also the way we look at time has to change....our obsession with it ,and productiviy has us pressed for results when in the long run the time spent wisely in creative solutions to problems ends upreaping more fruit.
  • thumb
    Jun 21 2011: The requirement and the urgency will teach us to be creative. But we cant wait for the eleventh hour to increase our skills of creativity. The ways to nurture creativity are radical. We should be cautious in exercising them. If we take for example, breaking the rules is one of the element to nurture. But it may land us in troubles, sometimes. We may think that creativity is just in there wont be any problem in the outside world. But the mind once experienced with the so called creativity cant sit idle.
  • Jun 21 2011: "How can creativity be encouraged as a regular and reliable part of everyday life? If you are running a company or an organisation or a school, how do you make creativity systematic and routine? How do you lead a culture of innovation?"

    By encouraging people to be more critical of the standards of measurement they are presented with, instead of taking everything at face value. This is most efficiently done through a conflict of goals which decreases the ability for progress to be communicated within the system.

    This increases the demand for effective ideas and decreases the demand for superficial creativity that involves ineffective solutions. Within any organization, "creative" solutions will only spread and be adopted if the members of the organization have both the willingness and ability to recognize innovative solutions. The ability to do so is dependent on the awareness of the potential failures of a given system; the willingness to do so, in contrast, is based upon the goals of the organization in relation to entities both within and outside of the organization. When the goals of the organization are in conflict with other entities, the willingness to create or adopt innovative solutions will naturally decrease.

    Accordingly, both parts of the following text are relevant to this question: The first part to the willingness to support economic progress which is one of the most common goals of an organization, the second to the ability to recognize ways to support those goals.
  • thumb
    Jun 21 2011: Kyra, 1) Generate as many answers as possible. Don't look for the one "right answer". 2) Don't ask if something is "logical".3) Set aside all rules.4) Don't judge the quality of an idea by looking at its "practicality".5) Take risks6) Don't worry about being wrong.7) Indulge yourself...let yourself play.8) Let yourself go into new areas.9) Be foolish and silly.10) Accept your own creativity.11) Make yourself receptive to new ideas.(Roger von Oech (1983))
  • thumb
    Jun 21 2011: Continuously striving for an open transparent environment with diversity and inclusiveness where people can speak up and take risk and encouraged to do learn from mistake.

    Tough but achievable
  • Jun 20 2011: Innovation and/or creativity in business is an interesting dichotomy. While day to day activities within every business is critical to the operation and ultimate success of that organization, so is identifying opportunities and being able to be "ahead of the curve". These two activities each take a specific thought process. Innovation in business is yet another activity that is at the polar opposite with day to day operations, but is somewhat more in line with identifying opportunities. My point is that it is extremely difficult to perform in both of these capacities and is not a common trait in most people. In addition, many organizations target "innovation centers" when looking to reduce expense or to become more efficient. It is a slippery slope for any organization - just when the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage and market share is introduced (such as in a down economy) the pressure to control costs and become more efficient is greatest.
  • thumb
    Jun 20 2011: I almost think that creativity is very much like those playbooks we used to play with as children, where you get a bunch of dots and you connect them to draw a figure. Being creative is just connecting the dots across different realms of expertise you have, and so I think it should always be encouraged to never narrow down your area of expertise and never become a specialist in one area. I also think that people should be encouraged to solve problems their own way, people solve problems at different rates, a problem can use different aspects of logic, visual, mathematical amongst other things, everyone being different will approach these aspect differently at different rates, it always seems very irrational to say to someone "no, the correct way/ proper form should be like this"...This all may seem logical but I feel these are pillars to build up from...Im interested in seeing what others have to say :)