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Creativity - Not Just Butterflies and Sparkly Unicorns

There's lots of buzz around student development of 21st century skills. As being part of the corporate world, I'm all for the future workforce having the necessary skills to be able to think and communicate in a way that positively represents our company and our partners. Yes, company executives and leaders want an intelligent and productive workforce capable of taking the initiative to solve problems and to be innovative. But there is a key element that cross-cuts all characteristics we want in our team members and employees. Creativity.

The notion of creativity has been given a great deal of bandwidth lately too. But what makes someone creative? A creative person (aka, a creative) views things from multiple perspectives and is able to turn new and imaginative ideas into reality. I read a great definition of creativity - "the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others." And I also liked the description of creativity as having "the capacity to generate or form unique work, concepts, methods or ideas." These definitely are all qualities we want in students and with individuals that work for or with us.

However, there is still the lingering misconception and stereotype that a creative is a flighty, flaky individual that lives in the world of rainbows and pixies with an accompanying pan flute soundtrack. There is also the misconception that people are just born creative, and if you are not creative…well, you'll never BE creative. I'm incredibly thankful that there is a bounty of research to the contrary!

Creativity CAN be taught, it can be learned, and it can be developed and enhanced with time and practice.

Oblige me this tangent, please. Remember the first line of the famous Whitney Houston song, "I believe the children are our future?" Sure, that's true. And I do apologize for that song being stuck in your head for the rest of the day. But there is a crucial detail that needs to be added to that sentiment. Educators are also the key to our future. Because behind ever great student is an even greater teacher in the background.

Getting back to the fact that creativity can be taught. This should be fantastic news to any stakeholder or business leader, but that news comes with the awareness that educators are the catalyst and the fuel for developing students' creativity. Even the most analytical and linear thinking educators can be enlightened on how they are actually creative. Showing those educators the process of how to recognize and develop creativity in themselves can then be transferred to their teaching and to their students.

So here are my request to educators. Apply creativity to developing new and engaging ways to teach topics that are difficult or boring to learn because not every morsel of knowledge out in the world is fascinating and riveting to learn. Give students opportunities to be resourceful, solve problems, or communicate their knowledge in ways that they imagine. Design activities where the many facets of students' creativity are allowed to unfurl. It takes time, practice, and can be a little bumpy at first to push yourself outside your comfort zone. But I promise your efforts will be incredibly rewarding for you and students. And I speak for those of us that will be hiring your amazing and creative students in several years, we thank you in advance!

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