Creativity & Innovation Linked

We have been watching a DVD on the life of Leonardo da Vinci which featured animations of some of the machines that he designed about 500 years ago. A remarkable life for a remarkable man – full of amazing insights.

My 5 yr old daughter recognised some of the machines because we have seen working models at the museum a while back. We have a deal in our house, that; when we get videos out she is allowed 1 kids DVD and 1 documentary so we can both enjoy learning about new topics. BTW – this works well – and she is now an expert on a number of topics and regales the family with fascinating facts at dinner.

(I have a Peter Drucker biography that noted his parents had some great dinner party salons at which the young (5) Peter was exposed to some of the brilliant leaders of the day at a very early age.  See The World According to Peter Drucker by Jack Beatty and I’d say that worked out quite well.)

One of the stunning facts about Leonardo was that he found out what he was good at (art) early on and got an apprenticeship with Verrocchio which was about as formal as his education got.  The rest as they say – is history. We also found out that some of the anatomical discoveries could have advanced science by decades, if not centuries according to one medical commentator.

So how was one person able to be so brilliant at so many different disciplines in just one lifetime?

The answer is we don’t really know but some more modern thinkers are beginning to suggest that nurturing our innate creativity and improving the educational focus on creativity might be a step in the right direction. Consider this story as told by Sir Ken Robinson.

“I heard this wonderful story of a 6-year-old girl. A teacher was doing a drawing lesson with a group of 6 yr olds. And there was a girl at the back of the class who rarely participated, was not very enthusiastic about school. But while she was in this drawing lesson she was completely absorbed with what she was doing.

The teacher went up to her and asked what are you drawing and the girl said I’m drawing a picture of God. And the teacher said but ‘nobody knows what God looks like.’

And the girl said: they will in a minute.

Isn’t that great? Of course what happens is that by the time they get to be 25 she’s lost all confidence in her conception of what God might look like because she will have had 20 years of people telling her that’s wrong or that’s not the right answer.

So here’s my point really. We are born with immense creative capacities. We systematically root them out of ourselves in the process of educating people and now business and national systems are desperate to re-in store creativity in all of our people.

The point is children are born with immense creative capacities, but they lose them by the time they are educated.”

The quote comes from Sir Ken Robinson who was speaking at a Principal Voices event held in Bejing in 2005 discussing the future of innovation and education and the role of creativity in that process. He continues…

“So innovation internally is absolutely vital. But at a national and global level it’s absolutely essential if we are to keep pace with the growth in jobs, if we are to keep pace with the cultural challenges that are being presented by these processes of innovation.

“Well one of the major ways that people think they can do this is through education and they are right, education is the biggest investment we can make in our own future. The problem as I see it as I go around is that most countries are making a mistake. The mistake is that they tend to believe that we can face the future simply by doing better what we did in the past, we just have to do more of it.

“Do you know in the next 30 years more people will pass through formal education worldwide than since the beginning of history. If you add them all up until now there will be more of them in the next 30 years. One spectacular consequence already is a tumbling decline in the value of qualifications.

In short  – we have educating our children for an industrial model world that is disappearing fast. My first year at university was 1977, when I studied Vietnamese Politics (very current at the time) and eventually law, arts  and business – however computer technology changed my life in early ’80’s and that was something I could not have studied even if I had wanted to. Fortunately – being a creative generalist by inclination I was able to leverage a very wide range of experiences into a new emerging sector.

To quote Sir Ken again… (list of other recent articles by Sir Ken Robinson are here)

On the whole we are educating people as if we are still facing the industrial revolution – which by the way required a largely manual work force and a minority of people doing intellectual work which is why we had the system structured the way it was

Back in April, I wrote about TED and mentioned the Robinson video on “Do schools kill creativity?” – Unknown to me, Sir Ken had been keynote speaker at 8th World Convention of the International Confederation of Principals conference held in Auckland, earlier that month in front of 1200 school principals and educators from around the world.

(See also a post by Brian Sweeney over at NZ Edge TED Conference: Edge Experience)

Testimonial from ICP: “Thank you very much for your Keynote address at the ICP Convention 2007 in Auckland New Zealand. We were indeed privileged to have the opportunity to listen to speakers of such calibre as yourself, to be inspired and to learn from a presentation filled with wisdom, presented with humour and passion.

We have had many favourable comments from delegates who were inspired by your words. We know that your presence added so much to the success of the convention. ” (9 mb Audio of presentation Out of Our Minds here 77mins -will play in the browser)

Hopefully, this is a positive sign of change towards a more exciting and creative education.

Last word goes to a local renaissance man, Paul Reynolds in a piece where he scratches his head as he ponders the “Blueprint – Growing Auckland’s creative industries“.

Paul’s comments are very worth while  reading and thinking about. See McGOVERN ONLINE: Blueprint – Growing Auckland’s Creative Sector for more.

Buried away in there is a comment that every industry needs to be creative to move forward and I would agree but that seems to have been missed by the official document.