The Sources of Innovation and Creativity

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Summary of The Sources of Innovation and Creativity

©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 1 The Sources of Innovation and Creativity Karlyn Adams A Paper Commissioned by the National Center on Education and the Economy for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce September 2005 ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 2 The Sources of Innovation and Creativity Karlyn Adams September 2005 Table of Contents  Introduction ..................................................................................................................3  What Are the Sources of Creativity and Innovation in Individuals?.......................4  What Educational and Pedagogical Techniques Have Proven Effective in Promoting Innovation and Creativity?.....................................................................14  How Can Creativity Be Assessed and What Is the Impact of Assessment on Creativity?...................................................................................................................26  What Techniques Stimulate Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace?..........31  What Contributes to the Development of Successful Entrepreneurs?...................41  What is the Nature of our Culture, Society and Economy that Makes our Country Creative and Innovative?...........................................................................................47  Recommendations for Education..............................................................................50  Suggestions for Further Research .............................................................................53  References ...................................................................................................................57 ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 3 Introduction The following pages represent a comprehensive summary of current research and theory on the sources of innovation and creativity, both in individuals and organizations. Based on the recurring concepts in the existing literature, the paper concludes with some recommendations for how education systems can best foster these attributes in students. Both research and recommendations have been conducted with a view to informing US workforce development efforts within the context of the new global economy. The following key questions are discussed: o What do we know about the sources of creativity and innovation in individuals? o What do we know about curricula and pedagogical techniques that have proven effective in promoting innovation and creativity through formal and informal education? o What do we know about techniques that have been proven to stimulate creativity and innovation in the work place? o What is it about the nature of our culture, our society and our economy that makes our country more creative and innovative than others? o What contributes to the development of successful entrepreneurs? o What actions should the US education system take to promote innovation and creativity among students? o What are some suggestions for further research? ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 4 What Are the Sources of Creativity and Innovation in Individuals? A variety of theorists, using case studies, experiments and a variety of research methods, have attempted to better understand the sources of creativity and innovation in individuals. While these efforts have contributed significantly to broadening our comprehension of the subject, there is nonetheless disagreement between theorists and many hypotheses that remain to be fully substantiated. The challenge lies partially in the nature and definition of creativity itself. Broad, complex and multi-faceted, creativity can take many forms and can be found within a variety of contexts. It is embodied by individuals with a broad range of personal characteristics and backgrounds. It appears that the only rule is that there are no hard and fast rules concerning the sources of creativity. As such, the following paragraphs synthesize the current viewpoints, with the caveat that our understanding of the topic is still a work in progress. Cognitive psychology provides the most prolific and developed perspective on the sources of individual creativity. In 1950, J.P. Guilford, then President of the American Psychological Association, stated in his presidential address that the topic of creativity deserved greater attention. Following this seminal call to action, psychological research on creativity expanded significantly. These efforts have concentrated on the cognitive processes behind creativity, the characteristics of creative people, the development of creativity across the individual life span, and the social environments most conducive to creativity (Simonton, p. 1). Teresa Amabile, PhD in Psychology and Head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School, has provided the field with one of the most simple and yet comprehensive frameworks for the topic. As depicted in the diagram below, creativity arises through the confluence of the following three components:  Knowledge: All the relevant understanding an individual brings to bear on a creative effort.  Creative Thinking: Relates to how people approach problems and depends on personality and thinking/working style.  Motivation: Motivation is generally accepted as key to creative production, and the most important motivators are intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself. ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 5 Three Components of Creativity Multiple experts provide frameworks and hypotheses on the sources of creativity yet, it appears that the vast majority of their important contributions to the theory can be categorized as falling within Amabile’s three intersecting circles above. Thus, this section of the paper will make use of Amabile’s framework as the organizing principle, within which other theorists’ viewpoints are categorized. Knowledge Amabile describes knowledge as all the relevant information that an individual brings to bear on a problem. Howard Gardner goes deeper into the topic and explains that there are two types of knowledge that may be required for creativity. On one hand, in-depth experience and long-term focus in one specific area allows people to build the technical expertise that can serve as a foundation, or playground for creativity within a domain. At the same time, creativity rests on the ability to combine previously disparate elements in new ways, which implies a need for a broader focus and varied interests. Thus, perhaps the best profile for creativity is the T-shaped mind, with a breadth of understanding across multiple disciplines and one or two areas of in- depth expertise. Indeed, this is what Frans Johansson recommends in his book, The Medici Effect. He explains that “we must strike a balance between depth and breadth of knowledge in order to maximize our creative potential,” (Johansson, p. 104). He suggests that one way to ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 6 improve breadth is to team up with people with different knowledge bases. The educational implications of this recommendation are perhaps in the realm of greater focus on interdisciplinary study and having students collaborate on group projects with team members of varied interests. Dean Keith Simonton, professor of Psychology at UC Davis, has conducted historiometric studies of great creators. Using a large sample size of successfully creative individuals, historiometric studies quantify the otherwise qualitative characteristics of test cases (their developmental, differential and social backgrounds, for example) and through analysis of the data, attempt to derive some general laws or theories regarding the sources of creativity. Simonton’s research supports the idea that individuals must develop in-depth domain expertise to be creative. He explains that we can conclude with great confidence that creative output is linked to the amount of time a person is actively engaged in a creative domain. The relationship tends to be a curvilinear, inverted backwards J function of career age. In other words, creativity production increases with years in the field until reaching a maximum at which point it begins to taper off. Howard Gardner’s research into the sources of creativity supports this idea and further extends it to a “ten-year rule”: ten years is the approximate time required to build the domain knowledge and expertise needed to spur creative successes. Many creative individuals seem to have breakthroughs in ten year intervals. Creative Thinking While both Amabile and Gardner assert that thinking is a key aspect of the creative process, they address this topic at a high level. Amabile suggests that key aspects of creative thinking are:  Comfort in disagreeing with others and trying solutions that depart from the status quo.  Combining knowledge from previously disparate fields.  Ability to persevere through difficult problems and dry spells.  Ability to step away from an effort and return later with a fresh perspective ( “incubation”). Other theorists have addressed the topic of cognitive function from multiple angles. Sternberg’s article, “Creativity and Intelligence” in the Handbook of Creativity, provides an overview of the multitude of theories that have been proposed concerning the relationship between creativity and intelligence. While there is no consensus on the subject, multiple theories provide insight. ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 7 Ultimately, Sternberg promotes a “triarchic theory”, asserting that there are three main aspects of intelligence that are key for creativity – synthetic, analytical and practical: 1) Synthetic (creative): the ability to generate ideas that are novel, high quality and task appropriate. One aspect of this is the ability to redefine problems effectively and to think insightfully. Sternberg also notes that the basis for insightful thinking involves knowledge acquisition in three forms: a) selective encoding: distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information. b) selective combination: combining bits of relevant information in novel ways. c) selective comparison: relating new information to old information in novel ways. 2) Analytical: Critical/analytical thinking is involved in creativity as the ability to judge the value of one’s own ideas, to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and suggest ways to improve them. 3) Practical: Ability to apply intellectual skills in everyday contexts and to “sell” creative ideas. In his article, “Creative Thinking in the Classroom” Sternberg stresses the importance of these three types of thinking to overall to intellectual functioning and successful intelligence. The analytic and practical are separate from and support the synthetic. Studies indicate that when students were taught in a way that emphasized all three abilities, they significantly outperformed students taught in a way that emphasized only analytical abilities. The holistic approach also increased performance on strictly analytical, memory-related questions. Sternberg also explains, “Because the analytical, synthetic and practical aspects of abilities are only weakly related, students who are adept in one of these areas might not benefit particularly from instruction aimed at another area, and in particular, creative students might not benefit particularly well from instruction as it is given in the schools, which typically emphasizes memory and analytical abilities.” In an experiment, they found that “high school students who were taught in a way that better matched their own pattern of abilities…tended to achieve at higher levels than students who were taught in a way that more poorly matched their pattern of abilities,” (Sternberg, Handbook of Creativity, p. 256). ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 8 The cognitive processes suggested within Sternberg’s synthetic thinking category appear and reappear within the literature. Although a range of vocabulary is used to describe the phenomena, it is clear that the central, agreed-upon component of creative thinking is the ability to combine existing elements of knowledge or understanding in new ways. Simonton’s research on the concept of creative Darwinism also provides insight into this aspect of the creative thinking processes. Creative Darwinism asserts that creativity is a stochastic combinatorial process under which multiple ideational variations emerge in an individual’s mind, and then a subset of them are selected for preservation and execution. This concept was first put forward in 1960 by David Campbell, an evolutionary epistemologist. Simonton believes that Campbell’s model “still provides the best framework for a comprehensive theory of creativity,” (Simonton, p. 310). The concept asserts that creativity requires the capacity to generate blind variations in the same sense that genes might generate random mutations and that this generation is not linked to the probability of success of any given variation. The implication is that if creativity requires blind variation, then it is conceivable that creative performance may be increased by any technique that might serve to break the stranglehold of conventional expectations and simply increase the number of randomly generated variations. Some experiments have shown that this type of stimulation is indeed possible, (Simonton, p. 313). This supports the idea that “if the variation process is truly blind, then good and bad ideas should appear more or less randomly across careers, just as happens for genetic mutations and recombinations,” (Simonton, p. 316). The theory thus implies that the creative mind can be enhanced by environments or efforts that encourage the individual to generate new variations and new combinations of ideas. Simonton’s historiometric studies of creative individuals support this concept. The data shows that quality of creative output is closely connected to sheer quantity. The more an individual produces, the more likely he/she is to stumble upon success. Also, the best creative products tends to appear at the point in a creator’s career when he/she is most prolific overall. Thus, in the case of both the arts and sciences, creative quality is a “probabilistic consequence of quantity and the pattern of output is random and Poisson distributed”. As Simonton explains, “the total lifetime output of a nineteenth century scientist predicts the probability that he or she will have an entry in a twentieth-century edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Dennis, 1954a; Simonton, 1984b). Similarly, future Nobel laureates can be predicted on the basis of the total number of citations that scientists receive to their body of work (Ashton & Oppenheim, 1978), and yet the single best predictor of citations is the total number of publications (S. Cole & J. R. Cole, 1973; Simonton, 2002)….It is significant ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 9 that those who publish the most highly cited works also publish the most ignored works, so that quality is a probabilistic consequence of quantity,” (Simonton, p. 3). Simonton also explains that individual differences in creative productivity account for more variance in output in a given career period than does age, so that truly prolific creators in their final years may be more productive than less notable contributors at their career peaks. For more detail on the Darwinian view of the creative process, Simonton’s articles “Creativity as Blind Variation and Selective Retention: Is the Creative Process Darwinian?” (1999) and “Scientific Creativity as Constrained Stochastic Behavior: The Integration of Product, Person, and Process Perspectives” (2003) are highly recommended. For a clear and concise summary of the role of productivity and the potential relationship between productive output and creative success, see pages 89 – 101 of The Medici Effect which summarizes Simonton’s research and explains how creative outcomes result when people are able to break down the associative barriers that exist between disciplines or areas of knowledge. When this breakdown occurs, individuals can enter what Johansson terms “the Intersection” between fields, where the number of new combinations of ideas is staggeringly high. Living and breathing at this Intersection explains the high level of output of successful creators. By pursing the best of these numerous idea options, creative individuals have a shot at success. Motivation “Even more than particular cognitive abilities, a set of motivational attributes—childlike curiosity, intrinsic interest, perseverance bordering on obsession—seem to set individuals who change the culture apart from the rest of humankind,” (Nakamura & Csikzentmihaly, p. 258). Indeed many theorists see motivation as the most important component of creativity. Much of Amabile’s work has focused on the role of intrinsic motivation and ways in which intrinsic motivation can be enhanced in the classroom and workplace. Amabile explains, “[We] have found so much evidence in favor of intrinsic motivation that we articulated what we call the Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself—and not by external pressures [i.e., extrinsic motivation],” (Amabile, p. 78). ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 10 Numerous articles and studies document how intrinsic motivation enhances creativity and how extrinsic rewards hamper it. The principle in operation is best illustrated by Amabile’s maze analogy. The extrinsically motivated person will take the shortest, most obvious path to get to the reward at the finish line. The intrinsically motivated person will explore various pathways and alternatives, taking his/her time and enjoying the process along the way. This exploration will lead to novel, alternative solutions, some of which will turn out to be more appropriate and successful than the original, obvious path. One psychological experiment highlights the effect: one group of children were told they could play with a Polaroid camera (a reward) if they promised to tell a story when they were done. Children in a second group were told that there were two unrelated activities: 1) playing with the camera and 2) telling the story. The first group scored significantly lower on creativity throughout the activities, suggesting that extrinsic rewards can actually hinder creativity due to the negative feelings resulting from external control. However, through the course of her research and the contributions of other theorists, Amabile has recently modified her stance on the intrinsic-extrinsic question. The revised view acknowledges that there are probably two types of extrinsic motivation: synergistic (motivations that are informational or enabling) and non-synergistic (motivations that are controlling). Synergistic extrinsic motivators can support and enhance intrinsic motivation. Non-synergistic ones hinder it. Nonetheless, the types of extrinsic motivations that are most likely found in the workplace and classroom are non-synergistic and not easily avoided. Thus, Amabile’s research on motivation implies that, in the educational contexts, the impact of grades or praise as reward for schoolwork should be reviewed in light of their impact on creativity. Amabile suggests that if assessment is necessary, using it as informational – as a tool for improvement, rather than as a judgment, may reduce the feeling of external control. Additionally, she suggests that consideration should be given to the “motivation-work cycle match”. Different types of motivation play a role in different parts of the creative process. Intrinsic motivation is particularly important when the emphasis is on novelty. If greater emphasis is on persistence, synergistic extrinsic motivators may play a role. Additional roles for extrinsic motivators are that they can help an individual ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 11 sustain energy through the difficult times necessary to gain skills in a domain. Extrinsic motivators may also serve to bring people in contact with a topic to engage their intrinsic interest. Amabile’s theory of intrinsic motivation is reflected in Howard Gardner’s research on the lives of historically successful individuals. High degrees of intrinsic motivation in great creators such as Einstein, Picasso, and Gandhi play out in their holistic involvement in and commitment to their work. One thing that all the creators that Gardner reviewed had in common was that they had sacrificed a great deal on a personal level and are wholly and completely consumed by their work dedicating all their time, energy, effort and emotion to a problem, sometimes non-stop for days or weeks on end. This leads to what Gardner terms the “Faustian bargain” of creativity: To gain superior professional attainment, individuals must sacrifice a more well-rounded personal existence, neglecting family and social life. However, Gardner also qualifies his point: “The question remains whether and to what extent some aspects of the holistic pattern hold for individuals who are also creative, but in a more limited sense, such as the successful entrepreneur, the original strategist and the R&D inventor,” (p. 215-216). Closely related to motivation is the “positive psychology” perspective on creativity. Gardner explains that creative individuals are characterized by their disposition to convert differences into advantages. They reflect on their goals. They analyze their strengths and weaknesses and then leverage their abilities to the optimum. They frame apparent defeats or failures as prods to greater achievement in the future. They also demonstrate intrapersonal intelligence – the ability to understand and guide one’s own creative process and to put checks on illusory and/or emotional interferences in the process, (Gardner, p. 223). They are comfortable with taking risks and show persevere, even in the face of doubt and misgivings of others. Nakamura and Csikzentmihaly promote the linking the positive psychology/intrinsic motivation view with a deficit psychology model to give a fuller picture of the complexities of the creative mind: On one hand, a deficit model views creative efforts as a defense against personal inadequacy and feelings that the self is flawed and destined to failure. On the other hand, a meaningful purpose can also serve as a motivation for creativity. For example, the exercise of skills can be a source of joy. Integrating a deficit and strengths model, the ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 12 resulting systems model asserts that creativity is the outcome of the interaction between the innovating individual, that individual’s domain of knowledge and the social field that judges the individual’s contribution to the domain. In a deficit model, lack of affirmation of work from the social field might discourage persistence. Under a strengths perspective, the innovator may use the social field as a source of information about work, but also give equal or greater weight to signs of progress and success in the activity itself. The discussion highlights the importance of finding meaningful challenges and domains of activities that can serve as a source of increased self-worth and a shift towards strength-based motivation and away from deficit based motivations. Potential implications of this viewpoint are that the educational system should provide greater focus on helping students identify areas of interest and passion – areas where they can achieve the a state of flow which leads to growth of skill and confidence. Finally, closely linked to the role of practical thinking in creativity is the importance a meta- cognition of the creative process and an explicit decision to pursue a creative path. In his article “Creativity as a Decision”, Sternberg stresses this importance and explains that one of the main challenges of creativity research is to uncover general truths about the characteristics of creative people despite the fact that “so many things seem to be true about at least some creative people, although not necessarily all of them. For example, some seem surely to be characterized by high self-esteem, but then others seem just as surely to be characterized by low self-esteem,” (Sternberg, p. 1). Sternberg asserts that perhaps the one consistent attribute about successfully creative people is their explicit decision to pursue creative a creative path. He explains: “People who create decide that they will forge their own path and follow it, for better or for worse. The path is a difficult one because people who defy convention often are not rewarded. Hence, at times, their self-esteem may be high, at other times, low.…At times, they may feel curious, at other times, less so. But if psychologists are to understand and facilitate creativity, I suggest they must start, not with a kind of skill, not with a personality trait, not with a motivational set, and not with an emotional state, but rather, simply, with a decision.…If psychologists wish to teach creativity, they likely will do better to encourage people to decide for creativity, to impress on them the joys of making this decision, and also to inoculate them for some of the challenges attendant on this decision,” (Sternberg, p. 1). Sternberg’s suggestion echoes the sentiments of other theorists in the idea that not only should educational systems attempt to enhance creativity, but should also directly teach students about ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 13 the field of creativity itself so they gain an explicit awareness of their own creative potential, as well as and understanding of methods of enhancement. With this knowledge, they can both make an informed decision to pursue creative activities and at the same time, better control and direct the development of their abilities. Nickerson echoes Sternberg’s suggestion: “Students need to believe that creativity is determined by motivation and effort to a significant degree. They need to understand that creative products are seldom produced without intent and effort, that there is considerable evidence to support the belief that most people have potential they never realize and that persistent effort to develop that potential is likely to be successful…. Students need to know too that…truly outstanding creative works in science and art have often taken many years – sometimes the better part of a lifetime – to produce…They need to understand that if one really wants to be creative in a substantive way, one must be prepared to work at it,” (Nickerson, p. 416). Furthermore, meta-cognition of the creative process should involve managing one’s emotions, cognitive resources, learning one’s strengths and weaknesses and managing time allocating to creative pursuits. Section Summary In sum, within the three main components of the sources of creativity in individuals it appears that the following are key to individual creativity: o Knowledge: the balance between breadth and depth of knowledge. o Thinking: a strong ability to generate novel ideas by combining previously disparate elements. This “synergistic” thinking must be combined with analytical and practical thinking. o Personal motivation: the appropriate levels of intrinsic motivation and passion for one’s work combined with appropriate synergistic motivators and self-confidence. o Environment: a non-threatening, non-controlling climate conducive to idea combination and recombination, such as the “intersection”. o An explicit decision to be creative along with a meta-cognitive awareness of the creative process can go a long way in enhancing long-term creative results. ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 14 What Educational and Pedagogical Techniques Have Proven Effective in Promoting Innovation and Creativity? Innumerous programs, courses, workshops and techniques have been developed to promote creativity and to enhance the cognitive functions that supposedly support it. Some of these programs can be explicitly labeled as creative studies while others promote creativity as a bi- product of other efforts or processes. To give a sense of the wealth of creative training opportunities available, McDonough and McDonough found that out of 1,504 colleges reviewed, 76.5% of them offered creativity courses. In addition to university level programs, there are creativity specific training programs and workshops. Arthur Cropley mentions that more than 250 of these have been developed. For a list of some of the more popular programs, see page 144 (table 7.1) of Cropley’s book, Creativity in Education and Training or page 415 of Jane Piirto’s book, Understanding Creativity. Raymond Nickerson’s article, “Enhancing Creativity” in Sternberg’s Handbook of Creativity, reviews multiple creativity programs and addresses the key questions, can creativity be enhanced, and if so, how? Nickerson believes the answer to the first question is yes, but that the how is not well understood, although there is some speculation that is worth exploring. A Venezuelan example, Project Intelligence, aimed to promote a range of abilities including inventive thinking among seventh-graders in 1982-3. The inventive thinking section consisted of nine lessons on the idea of design, including analysis of designs of common objects with a view to understanding the functionality of design. Students in the participating group outperformed the control group for all themes. Also, to test the programs impact, students were given an open- ended design problem (to design a table for an apartment that was too small for one of typical size). The participating group’s designs scored better on all counts than did the control groups. Although this study didn’t measure the long term impacts of the program, it does indicate that classroom instruction can have a positive impact on creative abilities (Nickerson, p. 403-404). Nickerson, Cropley and Piirto all mention multiple idea-getting techniques, including brainstorming and divergent thinking methods and other instructional approaches to increasing creativity. Brainstorming is one of the most popular techniques used to induce creativity and so deserves special mention. Brainstorming was originally suggested by the classic creativity ©National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006 15 studies guru, Alex Osborn in his 1957 book, Applied Imagination. However, the technique is often implemented incorrectly. Studies show that due to evaluation apprehension and blocking, fewer ideas are generated in brainstorming groups than would be generated if participants thought alone and wrote ideas down. To be done correctly, brainstorming sessions should first involve 15-20 minutes for people to think individually and write their ideas on an anonymous piece of paper which is then handed in to the facilitator. All ideas are then discussed openly with a view to first considering how each one could be feasible rather than the more common approach of seeking to criticize or find the reasons why it wouldn’t work, (Johansson, p. 110). One attempt to assess the effects of creativity training is Scott, Leritz and Mumford’s study. The study reviewed 156 creativity training programs, categorized them into clusters, and assessed their effectiveness. Four themes emerged in the training programs: 1) idea production training, 2) imagery training, 3) cognitive training and 4) thinking skills training. Idea Production Training is the most common and traditional method. However, in terms of effectiveness, it is apparently less effective than Creative Process Training, Conceptual Combination Training and Critical/Creative Thinking Training (which are all appropriately designed forms of cognitive training). Conceptual emphasizes conceptual combination, convergent thinking and techniques to stimulate new combinations such as analogies and metaphors. Creative Process Training seeks to develop creative thinking through convergent and divergent thinking. It’s typically lengthy and involves practice on realistic exercises accompanied by lecture and discussion. Critical/Creative Thinking stresses problem finding, idea evaluation, idea generation, brainstorming and meta-cognition. For more information on which creativity training programs fall into these categories and their characteristics, see article, “The Effectiveness of Creativity Training: A Quantitative Review” by Scott, Leritz and Mumford. Most creativity programs, such as brainstorming and other idea-getting techniques, address only one or a few of the sources of creativity, and show modest positive outcomes, if assessed. As an alternative, Cropley suggests a more holistic approach: an educational program should be tailored to address an individual’s creative potential, psychological aspects of creativity, thought processes, such as divergent thinking, environment and special characteristics of the task and desired solutions.