July 20, 2020



Creativity at Crossroads

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


A 2016 behavioral study of entrepreneurs, scientists, and artists called Hacking Creativity, which was conducted by Red Bull’s high performance group in partnership with data analytics company Vibrant Data, set out to understand the habits that lead to creative breakthroughs most often. I am curious about this notion and how we can foster more creative leaders and learners. Published in Inc. 4 Habits of the World’s Most Creative People, Senior Editor Graham Winfrey culled four attributes of the most creative thinkers, composers, actors, teachers, artists, technology leaders, and more.

4 Habits of the World’s Most Creative People

  1. Beware of “outside the box” strategies and learn to “work within the bounds of existing rules.”
  2. Leave more things up to chance by a “let it happen” approach not a “make it happen” approach.
  3. Don’t fear coming up with and moving to a Plan B when faced with obstacles that pose insurmountable.
  4. Spend time outdoors, as the majority of respondents reported that spending time outdoors was important to their creative process.

Creative people discover their visions over time and through dedicated struggle. In a world where we become impatient with the microwave, this is important. In that way, creativity is more like a marathon than a sprint. Creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand working shoulder to shoulder to make things better, easier, or new. Types of Creativity: Video & Lesson Transcript from Study.com explains four main types and offers usable insight. These include cognitive and emotional creativity crossed with spontaneous and deliberate creativity.


3 Big Ideas

  1. Creativity Requires a Clear Purpose. Ed Catmull made the bold move from the comfortable predictability of Disney to innovate Pixar and co-authored Creative, Inc. with Amy Wallace (About the Book ). He found that, for creative people, a clear purpose often inspires them to move towards innovations and new solutions to achieve goals–but without it, creativity wanes and eventually dissipates. When JetBlue said it was going to “bring humanity to its business,” it reunited two worlds that had been apart for decades–humanity and flying. When it put those TV sets in the backs of the seats, upholstered the chairs in leather, and gave everyone a little more room, people felt loved. AJ Juliani, educator and author, notes, “I used to think all I needed to create something that mattered was passion…I was wrong. It turns out passion might start the engine and get the creative process moving, but purpose is what takes it all the way to the destination (and beyond).” Take a peek at Why Creativity Begins With Purpose (Not Passion) for more on how to start with purpose, with a kick of passion (AKA Genius Hour)!
  2. Creativity and Problem Solving. Our minds make it intrinsically challenging to see things as problems unless they directly challenge our ideas. Our own perceptions can be our most substantial barriers to problem-solving. Further, as we become more rigid about our beliefs, our brains lose elasticity, impeding our ability to consider alternative ideas. We can flex creative muscle by starting a thought group, like Braintrust at Pixar (Pixar’s Ed Catmull On Innovation (Part II): Why A ‘Brain Trust’ Is Key For Successful Team Collaboration).  This group of leaders meets regularly to provide honest feedback with the intent to end mediocrity. Sincerity is key to optimal functioning of this group. Learning to recognize common barriers like resistance to change, overfocus on efficiency and not quality, and fear of failure can allow creativity to occur more freely. Couldn’t we establish Braintrust groups in schools and classrooms that offer sincere feedback and support for creative ideas? Might we begin with using different thinking types to problem-find and problem-solve in our schools related to schedules, returning to school after COVID closures, talking about racial and social justice practices?
  3. Creativity and Mental Models. Imagery is a powerful tool we use to breathe life into our missions and visions. Developing mental models helps leaders communicate complicated and complex ideas. Creative people usually have a “mental model” that will help them go through the creative process. By imagining this uncertain process as familiar pictures, they are able to keep focused when the pressures of not knowing what the final result pokes holes in their confidence. Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Nesslabs.com published 30 mental models to add to your thinking toolbox along with a useful YouTube video  where she outlines fundamental mental models that you can start studying and observing in your daily life right now then adjusting to fit your own unique needs.




“Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”
– Albert Einstein


“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”
– Pablo Picasso


1 Question

What do you do to get into your creative zone?



About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.


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