In the past, I’ve generally associated creativity with the arts. An individual’s creative capacity rested primarily on his or her ability to generate something tangible and aesthetically pleasing. Accordingly, I believed that people were born creative—this wasn’t a skill that could be learned or developed over time. Over the past few years, working in education, my ideas on creativity have drastically changed. I no longer believe that creativity is just a skill, which cannot be nurtured or learned. I understand that while creativity can be tangible, it doesn’t have to be. Creativity is a mindset, a process by which folks use their imagination to generate something novel that others consider being useful, not just visually charming.
Perhaps my ideas on creativity are rooted in a systematic educational background where creativity was generally not encouraged in disciplines other than the arts. Assessments then, and for the most part, now, are based on specific answers, with little room for ingenuity. The current model of education is deeply rooted in grades and test scores. Thus, many schools dismiss opportunities for students to think differently, or pursue career paths that are not based on efficiency or standardization.
As I work towards becoming a leader in education, I understand that a creative mindset is paramount towards impactful change and innovation that will benefit students. I have been a member of too many teams with leaders focusing too heavily on past experiences to solve complex problems. In Creative Leadership: Skills That Drive Change, Puccio, Mance, and Murdock suggest that tolerance to ambiguity and an open mind are key characteristics of a creative problem solver, the type of transformative leader with an eye on the emerging future. A leader’s ability to exercise an open and creative mind in a time of dynamic change in education will help separate innovative and effective leaders from those who aim to navigate an uncertain future based on past experiences.
I consider myself to be a creative person—not based on artistic prowess, but as a person that has the ability to remain agile, open, and flexible with vision and decision making skills in complex situations. The future of education remains unclear; with a creative mindset, leaders have a tremendous opportunity to cultivate learning environments for the educational community that foster and encourage change. This mental model cannot live in a vacuum—my experience thus far in education has lead me to conclude that true leadership is a collective journey that positively influences all stakeholders towards innovative and imaginative thought and action.