It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched. Jessica Olien, Inside the Box: People Don't Actually Like Creativity, Slate, December 2013.
People don't like creativity - I KNEW it!
In my article, "Developing Creativity in Every Learner" (LMC October 2012), I listed as a Myth 7:
Everyone wants creative students. Creative people have a long history of making others nervous or upset. From Elvis’s gyrations, Monet’s abstractions, Job’s technologies, to Gandhi’s resistance - innovation is met with resistance. Our students (and teachers) who are truly creative just might rattle our preconceptions and our sense of taste. Genuinely new products just may take some getting used to. Recognize this and remember that not all people celebrate the creative spirit.
Creativity means doing something differently, looking at the world differently, potentially creating winners from losers and losers from winners. Any wonder human nature is a little suspicious. (Gee, we had a 17.5% success rate of killing mammoths using the atal method. Might this new fangled bow and arrow be worse? What do we do about Phlem who is headman because of his atal chucking prowess?)
So how do you get your creative ideas accepted when it seems humans are naturally inclined to LIKE staying securely in their boxes?
1. Call it innovative, not creative. To innovate means "make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products." Create means "bring something into existence." Vgotsky's proximal theory says to learn something new we have to have a connection with the known. Can your creative idea be implemented in baby steps - an extension of the established rather than a whole new deal?
2. Make your supervisor think it is his/her idea. "I think you were mentioning the other day about changing the process we use to ______________." Have you given this any more thought? I personally think it's a good idea and here's a way we might tweak it...."
3. Stress the functionality, not the newness. Too often we forget the second half of what makes something creative - that it is both original and effective. When pitching the creative solution, stress the problem that will be solved, not the originality.
4. Suggest a trial run and evaluation. Run a pilot of the new method. Get a volunteer. Select a time frame. Then assess.
5. Build trusting relationships and a track record.* The old adage that the best predictor of future performance is past performance holds true in leading innovative and creative approaches to solving problems. When suggesting your idea, it wouldn't hurt to mention how your similar approaches to problem solving worked before. And if you don't have a track record of success, should people be nervous about your ideas?
6. Seek recognition. Many leaders like recognition for their programs, schools, or districts. If an innovative program might lead to a state or national award, use that to sell it. This seems the least genuine reason to do anything creative. I'd hope most of us in education try new things for the sake of improving kids' educational experiences, not for personal glory.
7. Be subversive. Just do it. Ask forgiveness later if needed.
How do you sell a new approach when it means upsetting somebody's routine?
* This recommendation was made with the assistance of my tech integration specialists, Tracy Brovold and Marti Sievek, who are far more "harmonious" than I can ever hope to be.