Creativity and innovation have become important commodities in the world’s marketplace. Universities that ignore this fact risk becoming irrelevant and of graduating students qualified only for second- and third-tier jobs.
Ideas have become the currency of the new economy, as one expert explains: “Which companies will thrive in the coming years? Those that value ideas above all else” (Coy 2000). Similarly, Venturelli notes that the “emergence of ideas as capital has brought culture to the center of public policy.” Continuing, she contends that the “central economic and societal question of the Information Society will soon become how to stimulate innovation, that is to say, originality in ideas” (Venturelli 2001). Echoing the same theme, Richard Florida writes in “Regions and Universities Together Can Foster a Creative Economy” that “in the past few decades, human creativity has replaced natural resources and physical capital as the predominant drive of economic growth” (Florida 2007).
Universities that fail to understand this cultural/economic change are in danger of falling out of touch with the demands of the marketplace, of being tethered to the past and of becoming incapable of responding in meaningful ways to the changes occurring around them. Creativity and innovation are becoming increasingly vital to our national interest. Indeed, “[m]ost economists now seem to agree that the emerging so-called ‘creative and innovative’ economy represents America’s salvation.… – this new thinking encourages America once again to do things it does best: ‘create and innovate’.” (Eger 2006).
The call, then, is for a broad, sweeping change in the way many higher education courses are taught. While factual knowledge remains important to mastery of any discipline, equally important are the cultivation of critical/imaginative thinking skills, the ability to understand the relationships of contrasting concepts and ideas, working in teams with others and having experiences with cross-discipline learning.
Lamenting the approach of curricular design in too many public schools and universities, Sir Ken Robinson notes that “The emphasis in schools on academic learning has tended to value only one mode of knowing and, in so doing, has displaced others. This has been to the detriment of all of them. Creativity depends on interactions between feeling and thinking, and across different disciplinary boundaries and fields of ideas. New curricula must be evolved which are more permeable and which encourage a better balance between generative thinking and critical thinking in all modes of understanding” (Robinson 2001).
In her paper, From the Information Economy to the Creative Economy, Venturelli urgently calls for changes to our basic concepts of modern education. It is no longer sufficient to provide curricula aimed at a one-dimensional workforce as it did for the industrial economy. Rather, these older curricula must evolve into programs that produce highly knowledgeable yet versatile graduates who are capable of growing and adapting with the rapid changes in our society and culture. The skills a modern workforce need include “independent judgment, creative and imaginative engagement, scientific knowledge, technological literacy, intellectual and critical thinking, interdisciplinary knowledge of the arts and sciences, and forms.” Sounding an economic “call to arms,” Venturelli warns us that “a nation without a vibrant creative labor force…does not possess the knowledge base to succeed in the Information Economy, and must depend on ideas produced elsewhere” (Venturelli 2001).
In addition to better preparing our students for success, creativity and innovation provide fertile ground for research in every area of our campus. Every discipline can benefit from continuing exploration of innovative techniques for teaching and creative ideas that inspire students to think in new ways and discover new methods of problem solving. Each can benefit from interaction with the public schools, businesses and corporations and governmental agencies or involvement with service learning activities within the community. And all can benefit from an Institute that challenges a total reliance on traditional methodology, instead seeking out new, creative and innovative ways of fostering true domain scholarship in its students, while instilling the versatility and adaptability graduates will need to thrive in the 21st century.
The Texas Institute for Creativity and Innovation (TICI) will serve as the umbrella organization for the entire campus, serving as the coordinator for all new and innovative programs—both academic and research-based—and providing the vehicles for disseminating this information to the general public, as well as businesses, public schools and governmental agencies.
Coy, Peter. "The Creative Economy." Business Week (August 21, 2000): 76-82. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 6, 2007).
Eger, John M. “Building Creative: The Role of Art and Culture.” The Futurist (March-April, 2006), 18-22.
Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books, 2002.
Robinson, Ken. Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative. West Sussex: Capstone Publishing Limited, 2001.
Venturelli, Shalini. From the Information Economy to the Creative Economy: Moving Culture to the Center of International Public Policy. Washington, DC: Center for Arts and Culture, 2001.