If innovations have to be augmented, a creative process of doing things has to replace the mundane systems and activities currently being carried either in schools and colleges or at workplaces. No doubt, creativity is God gifted but a plethora of evidence suggests that it could be enhanced by proper nurturing, training and introducing processes and systems that breeds creativity.
The journey of a successful innovator, entrepreneur, or a startup usually begins with a creative idea (Thinking new things), progresses to innovations (Doing new things), and finally culminates at entrepreneurship by creating value in the market place. These three stages could also be described as opportunity recognization phase, opportunity development phase and finally the value creation phase. But important precursors to all these milestones are the curiosity, imagination, knowledge, skill and creativity which eventually help to give birth to a potential workable idea, driving an individual/s to become a successful entrepreneur. Creativity is the ability to develop new ideas and to discover new ways of looking at problems and opportunities in order to obtain solutions to confronting human problems.
Creativity and innovations are as old as mankinditself. Human beings, modern and ancient, have had the capacity to takeexisting elements of their environment and modify them to meet their needs.These vital creative acts are, in some ways, what set us apart from otheranimals. We take a cobble and turn it into a chopper; we take a set of wordsand create new sentences from them, pieces of straw converted into a fine matand so forth. I won't go into the evolution of creativity but Man is believedto be most creative during an early age, mostly during the age group of 5 to9. A popular perception is that creativity and old age do not mix.Creativity is the domain of the young and to a certain extent this is true, yetnot in the way that many of us would expect. At around about the age offive, we are using about 80% of our creative potential. We invent daily – nomatter than our inventions have been invented before, the fact is that we areinnovating at a remarkable rate. By the age of twelve, our creative output hasdeclined to about 2% of our potential, and it further declines as we grow underthe influence of various learning methods imposed on us which we may like ordislike. Our education system further declines our creativity as childrenhardly are given any creative tasks in their learning curve. Our Schooling system drill conformity into us. We learn that thereis one true way of thinking. We learn that there is one right answer for everyproblem and that this is the one in the teacher's head.
Arts and creativity, which are altogether missing in our educationsystem, are basically the two inevitable elements of a comprehensive educationstrategy. Success is based on knowing what is wanted, not what isinteresting. Rather than just studying what is in the lesson through typicallectures and exams, bringing in some arts and skill development exercises canhelp students to be more creative in classrooms. Tinkering labs and problem-solvingworkshops can increase creativity. In fact, this way of learning is going tohelp children to grasp the lessons in a better way, memorize it for long andapply what is learnt in real life in a more tactical way. A creative classroomis a good platform for students to stimulate their extracurricular talents andgrow up as creative persons. A good teacher can utilize different strategies toteach difficult subjects by integrating it with arts and amusement techniques.This is a better way of enhancing their interest for learning and makes themmore alive in classrooms. Students love to learn with play and arts. This isthe right phase to mould them into better creative persons and open them aworld of artistry. Mosaics, Scriptwriting, Folk Art, Science labs, Advertising, Wire sculptures, Draw a topic, Map Art,Documentaries, Math Journals, Tinkering labs etc are the educational tools andtechniques which can help children to learn fast and enhance their creativity.New and creative learning methods need to be devised and visited. Learn withfun is an important element of imparting education to young minds followed bytheir Freedom of expression. Children need to be emotionally developed whichwill certainly enhance his thinking capability. The education system should bedesigned in such a way that it reduces stress and anxiety, boostsproblem-solving skills, improves focus and attention and make him a bettercommunicator. In western societies, schools that have triedexperimenting arts with the curriculum are seeing a drastic improvement in theway students have received the learning. Learning through creativity andhands-on experience are good assistance for students to gain a deeper level ofunderstanding of the lessons. A good classroom environment always hassome elements of creativity which make the lessons more interesting andinteractive. The right mix of creativity along with curriculum helps studentsto be innovative and also encourages them to learn new things. Students cangrow up as good communicators in addition to improving their emotional andsocial skills. In fact, creative expression plays a key role in a student'semotional development.
Now, after schools and educational institutions, let us come tothe workplace where people spend most of their life. Let's take a look atwhy creativity is necessary for optimal work, and how administrators and topofficials can foster this spirit within the workplace and its people. In atraditional office life (or factory life), what many of us see as the 9-to-5grind at a cubicle, or on a table, or on a machine, endlessly dreaming abouthartals and weekends–don't always leave a lot of space for creativity. Afterall, you generally have a set amount of tasks you need to accomplish, and you'drather not try something new and innovative when it comes to completing them.In management theory, it is believed that the challenges present in work itselfare the greatest source of motivating individuals rather than other benefitsand emoluments offered. Such challenges in work can only be inculcated if thecreative element of performing a job is kept alive. Being creative at workgenerally means taking risks, which might make you hesitate, because your bossmight scold you to do things differently. Fear of the unknown is a powerfulthing, especially when it means you might fail. If you can apply creativethinking to your everyday work life, you'll find that not only will the daystop feeling like drudgery, but you'll be unlocking more meaningful results.And this doesn't just go for employees, but for managers as well–in fact,managers and top officials have the ability to be the conductors of creativityin their staff. Sometimes it has to start from the top. There are two main waysthat creativity is absolutely needed in the workplace: creative thinking andcreative problem-solving. Creative thinking is pretty simple to define, but abit harder to implement. Basically, if you're a creative thinker, it means thatyou come up with ideas that are entirely unique. But when you start thinkingcreatively and getting a little daring, you may be surprised at what your braincan come up with. It's this "throw everything to the wall and see what sticks"method that creative thinkers truly shine at. An additional bonus to being acreative thinker is that you understand the success in failure. Creativethinkers know that one's talents are best used to make results that might comefrom unordinary circumstances or out-of-the-box methods. To get these results,you may need to take a risk–something that can be frowned upon in theworkplace. This can also be a bit scary because it means you might fail.Creative problem solving comes into play when trying to fix an issue that hasmany possible resolutions. While a lot of problems in the workplace have one ortwo clear solutions, creative people have the ability to look at all sides ofthe issues, and many times can come up with solutions that might be completelynew and interesting. Employees and managers benefit from creative problem solvingbecause it can take them–and sometimes the company itself–in a whole newdirection. It pays to stray off the beaten path.
The second milestoneafter creativity is Innovations, doing new things. Innovation is a catalyst forthe growth and success of a business. This phase is the successful exploitationof a new idea in the form of a useful product, service or a process. It is adeliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in derivingsome value. Few important requirements and elements of this phase areincubation centres with right facilities and mentors to develop a prototype,testing facilities, IPR facilitation centres, identification and procurementprocedures of right kind of materials and so forth. Once a prototype has beensuccessfully developed and tested, then we move towards the third phase bycreating value in the market place. Here we need to develop a business modeland a business plan, identify investors who can invest in the project whethermanufacturing (establishing a unit) or offering some useful service, buildingan organization, procurement of right technology, collaborations andcommercialization of products or services. This gives birth to an entrepreneurwho now needs support from all corners including government agencies anddifferent stakeholders. The tactical and strategic decision making now becomeimportant for an entrepreneur and such decisions must be taken using scientifictools and industrial engineering techniques. An entrepreneur needs to be verypassionate, should not give up and accept failures as a stepping stone towardssuccess. He needs to be very passionate, hardworking and honest. The initialjourney might be tough but later it is realised that the slope of the graphincreases as he advances ahead. To conclude, few important elements atthis stage are: looking for the right timing, a cohesive team, right ideas,enough capital, source of raw materials, sales and exploring the market. Hence most of the great innovations come from Science where creativity andresearch is a precursor followed by innovations (invention) and diffusion.
Author is the head of IIED Centre at NIT, Srinagar.