Does Creativity Matter?

In recent discussions of 21st century jobs, the focus is usually on science and math skills, problem solving, multi-tasking, and the ability to work in a team.  From there, the talk moves to postsecondary education and the much-cited stat that 90% of new jobs will require some college education?

Some critics of the STEM focus, like Checker Finn, have drawn attention to the need of a classically liberal arts education, one that includes civics and history along with science and math.  The goal being a nation of thinkers, not just a nation of workers.

So where in all of this discussion does the need for creativity come into play?  Honestly, Eduflack doesn’t know if he has heard the word used as part of the needs of a 21st century workplace until this morning, when he saw the following AP article posted on on a conference held by Washington-based Creativity Matters.

It is an interesting concept, tying workplace success to creativity and the ability use one’s imaginations.  And it raises larger questions.  How do you teach creativity?  How do you measure it?  What do you do with a linear thinker who follows the rules, and can’t “think outside the box?”  And are we really talking creativity, or do we mean those who solve problems and try different approaches?

In Eduflack’s mind, creativity is a term associated with artists and musicians and writers and others who express emotions and thoughts.  I don’t think I’d use it to describe someone working at a Boeing plant or writing code for Microsoft.  But maybe the word is taking on new meaning and new context.

Regardless, the focus on including creativity in K-12 instruction is an important one for one central reason.  It demonstrates that the recent push to link high school education to meaningful careers has taken hold.  We no longer have to convince the American people that a high school diploma and postsecondary education are essential components to a successful career.  We now know they are non-negotiables.

Instead, we now get to focus the discussion on what constitutes a high-quality secondary education.  Whether it be STEM education, rigorous and relevant instruction, classic liberal arts, or creativity 101, the talk is on what skills can be taught now to take advantage of opportunities tomorrow.  We’re not convincing people of why, but rather leading them down the path of how.

It demonstrates that progress has been made in marketing the need and effectiveness of high school reform over the past few years.  People get it.  Even without creative thinking, we now see that a strong education leads to a good job. 

2 thoughts on “Does Creativity Matter?

  1. Great post! Yes, we are starting to understand that creativity is an essential ingredient in that non-negotiable education. Our students must learn how to synthesize the information that is coming at them from all directions, and they need to know how to collaborate with others in order to create meaningful output. Synthesis. Collaboration. Creativity goes far beyond the artsy elements we tend to use to define it. That code writer can be wildly creative. And more to the point, we need that code writer to be wildly creative. Our best jobs of the future will require us to use our abilities as creative synthesizers and collaborators whether we’re in mechanical engineering, landscape design, hospital administration or restaurant management. How do we teach students to be creative? **We stop compartmentalizing–math should not exist in a vacuum, and neither should composition. **We integrate a rich diversity of technology, venues, methods and instructors. **We step it up a notch (or two) by doing more blending and cross-training in both the sciences and the arts. **We keep in mind that the world is getting more complicated, and we teach students how to thrive in situations that require ingenuity instead of content.**We stop seeing education as a way to prepare for a particular career and start recognizing that it’s about learning the SKILLS and developing the TALENTS that will be serve them throughout their lives. **We send them abroad–as early as high school–to engage in the ultimate synthesizing/collaborating experience: living in another culture and learning another language.Twenty years from now, our kids will have jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Let’s teach them how to pay attention to what’s going on, find new ways to fit things together, and create new approaches to the challenges of the 21st century.

  2. WHAT THE CATERPILLAR CALLS THE END OF THE WORLD, GOD CALLS A BUTTERFLYIf you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you always got. The same old, same old ideas over and over again. The future belongs to those thinkers who embrace change, break new ground, forge new paths, and transform the way they think. Discover how to look at the same information as everyone else and see something different by using the creative thinking techniques and strategies that creative geniuses have used throughout history. Internationally acclaimed creativity expert Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques have inspired business thinkers around the world to create the innovative ideas and creative strategies they need to achieve unimaginable success in today’s changing business environment of complexity and uncertainty. Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. [Available at, Barnes & Noble, and most major bookstores. Visit for more detailed information.]

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