Can Creativity Be Taught?

There is an ongoing debate if creativity (amongst many things) can be taught, or that it is a natural skill that one possesses or not. Many business schools are more and more offering courses and programs that teach innovation and creativity in an entrepreneurial and business context. And where does collaboration kicks in?

Ajay Agrawal, the Peter Munk professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management elaborates on the topic of creativity: “It boils down to a nature-versus-nurture debate. We take the view that whether or not there is a nature component, there are a set of tools that can make one more effective.”

Professor and Canadian Research Chair in technology and operations management at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, Ian McCarthy on the topic:

“If you believe music can be taught, sports can be taught, then the same logic applies to business schools and innovation.”

As mentioned before, business schools are offering more innovation courses and programs on their calenders, this demand is created by the pace of consumer demand, how technology adds value, how organizations can keep up and meet consumer needs in a fast and cost-effective way.

Experential learning

As written by the Globe, “a move toward more experiential learning, and integrating it with the theoretical side of innovation, will mean that business schools will keep changing themselves to keep up. And keeping up with innovation in business and innovation in education are really not that different.”

What I miss in this all, in relation to creativity, innovation and experential learning is Collaboration. I don’t know the exact level of collaboration in each and every business school, but we have visited and talked with people within universities and they all acknowledge that collaboration and engagement are not taught. So how can creativity and innovation be ignited? I don’t believe a person should and can have all traits and skills, Team is the keyword and to unlock creativity and innovation, business schools, university but really, starting from elementary school, collaboration and engagement must be taught explicitely.

Have a look at the video below where good ideas come from, where did good ideas came from back in the days? Bath-houses. What did people do at bath houses? Communicate and engage.

Hard and soft skills

I think the key in creativity and innovation is not so much in the hard –functional- skills, but in the soft skills such as collaboration, cross-functional and –cultural communications, effective presenting skills and what more.

In a previous article I gave my view on the existence or inexistence of the one-person data scientist. This reasoning can be applied also to innovation as a concept. I am not saying that people can be very innovative by themselves, and certainly by reading the news, there are. But in a transparent, global world, where we are shifting from an information age to a knowledge age, it is how that knowledge is translated in action such as innovation. Two people know more than one.

So can creativity be taught? Yes I think it can.