Sunday, 20 January 2013

Scheduling Creativity

I was thinking today about being creative.

Creativity, I hope you will agree, is a Good Thing. It provides us with most of the worthwhile aspects of human experience - arts, design, humour, sport, and even science.

Some large companies (Google et al) set aside a portion of the working week for employees to be independently creative.  Others have corporate days for employees to hack, tinker and be generally creative on the company shilling.

At my school, creativity is seen as the highest level of thinking, and teachers are expected to plan sessions of cerativity into most lessons.

Therein lies the problem, though.

I consider myself to be a creative person, but I can rarely be creative on demand - I find it very hard to sit down and come up with an idea for a project fron nowhere on demand.  I have 160 projects published on Instructables,  and maybe 200 more in the form of scribbled notes and unpublished one-line projects,  but they come to me unpredictably. I even call one the 4am Robot, because that's when I woke up with the idea.

How can I, then, expect my students to be successfully creative within a prescribed section of a timetabled lesson? How can managers expect anything more than a workforce spending 20% of their day worrying that they haven't had a cool idea?

Instead, a brave step needs to be taken.

Stop scheduling creativity, just accept and welcome it when it happens.

Let employees suddenly down keyboards or headsets, and wander off to an open-access creative space to pursue an idea that occurs to them. As long as they keep a log or diary of their ideas, a company's more creative staff should even be allowed to phone in absent because they've woken up with a cool idea and need to spend the day in the shed.

An even braver step could be taken by schools, allowing pupils to walk away from the timetable to do the same. Now, I'm not a fool, I know that there are a lot of students who would use a "creativity out" to avoid certain lessons, or to get time off school, so maybe a voucher system could be used. Each pupil gets an actual voucher to give to a teacher to get out of the lesson and go to one of a selection of designated creative spaces (depending on the pupil's inspiration). If the time spent away from the lesson results in something positive,  then the pupil gets another voucher issued for next time inspiration strikes. If not, if the time is wasted, then the pupil does not get a replacement voucher, and must remain constrained by the traditional timetable until they can demonstrate the results of a creativd act they undertake on their own time, unrelated to the curriculum.

Recognising and rewarding creativity in this way would need schools (and employers) to demonstrate an unusual level of resilience and flexibility in their approach. In fact, it might require a school to step completely away from the traditional curriculum and timetable.

I know of only one school working in the way I envision - Brightworks in San Francisco (see ).

I wonder if they're hiring?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


I would like to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Carry on.