Quick Post: Sparking Creativity thru Divergent Thinking

Sir Ken Robinson is a well known thinker and writer who primarily focuses on the ambiguous idea of creativity.  What does it mean to be creative?  How do we become a creative business leader?  Can we teach creativity?  Do schools stamp out creativity rather than encourage it?  Which is better?

Ken Robinson has dozens of lectures available online.  All are informative and he is quite engaging and humorous as well.  As it relates to Design Thinking in schools, I found the following video particularly intriguing.  This clip is on “Changing Education Paradigms.”  I particularly like this one because of the brilliant visual sketches by RSA Animate that bring the talk to life.  Sir Ken Robinson says we must change the model of education by using and encouraging divergent thinking.  To get right to that point skip forward to the 6:28 mark.  Otherwise, enjoy:

Since this blog is meant to be a clearing house of information and links, I’ll occasionally add these quick posts for links I stumble across and find worthwhile.  I’ll also categorize appropriately and am working on an additional page of categorized links that may be easier to refer to in the future.

If you are a teacher, why is there a typo in the name of your blog?

Sorry to disappoint you, but Planting T’s is intentional.  It’s both a shamelessly stolen idea from well known design guru Tim Brown of IDEO as well as the most creative play on words that my Left-Brained self could muster up.  So the T is the focus here.  Tim Brown explains that he likes to recruit designers that are T-shaped.  I’ve tried to modify the analogy a bit to fit a K12 education scenario.  My feeble mind understands the concept as follows:

The base of the T is whatever you are most interested in, most experienced at, perhaps your college major, or what you most want to do.  The top of the T should be an ever expanding interest in other disciplines / concepts / ideas.  So the base of the T embodies the skills you can bring to the table, but the top of the T is critical to collaborating with other perspectives, relating your skills to theirs, and fostering creativity and curiosity.  So if we continue the analogy to a school that fosters Design Thinking then maybe young students are lower case – 8pt – arial type – t’s.  When they graduate, they are capital – 18 pt – Franklin Gothic –  T’s.  What’s the vehicle to grow a T?  My favorite answer: It depends.  Inquiry, project based learning, 21st Century skills, standards based grading, career and technical education, and lots of other concepts all lead us down the right path.  The central theme is finding a mode of teaching and learning that works (for you and students).  At the same time, I subscribe to the idea Standford D school suggests.  That is, design thinking primarily focuses on empathy and a bias toward action.  It makes sense to me.  If you can present a topic such that I empathize with the problem, or concept, or ramifications then I am emotionally invested to a point that I want to know more.  I want to help.  And, as is the case with me and many other engineers, I want the opportunity to either prove you wrong or show that I am always right! {wink}  Such is the plight of a Left Brain-er.  Lots of really smart teachers are out there coming up with lesson plans that create a culture willing to solve “wicked” problems related to energy, pollution, clean water, etc. in a school setting.  I look forward to sharing what I’ve found in another post.

Related to this T concept is the idea that expertise is in many ways counterproductive.  Simply put, the more you know about one domain of knowledge the more likely you are to railroad all new ideas to fit within the context of your expertise – for better or worse.  People with a variety of interests and skills (top part of the T) are better able to ask “stupid” questions that glean new and creative perspectives.  The conundrum is how to reconcile the ability to ask stupid questions while being skilled enough to seek out relevant solutions.  So perhaps planting and growing T’s is a call for radical reform in liberal arts education as Liz Coleman suggests in her TED talk.  Stress breadth and make tools available to seek out depth when inspired.