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TICI: The Experts Speak on Creativity and Innovation

Robert J. Sternberg
Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychology at Tufts University.  Formerly, he was the IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He has also served as President of the Divisions of General Psychology and Educational Psychology in the American Psychological Association. 

Sternberg, Robert J. and Todd I. Lubart.  Defying the Crowd: Cultivating Creativity in a Culture of Conformity.  New York:  The Free Press, 1995.

“We strongly believe that the importance of creativity is underappreciated both by the society, in general, and by particular institutions within the society, such as schools.  The evidence is everywhere.”  (p. 19)

“Perhaps the most flagrant examples of the undervaluing of creativity are found in the schools.  Of course, you’d be unlikely to find even one teacher in a typical school who would say that he or she does not value creativity.  But again there is often a notable gap between what is said and what is done.”  (p. 20)

“Obviously we’re not saying that no teachers anywhere ever value creativity.  Many do.  The problem isn’t so much with individual teachers as it is with their training and socialization as teachers.  For example, student teaching with an established teacher is an important part of teacher training.  But the odds are that this “model” teacher was trained in a way that will perpetuate views on education that do not promote creativity.  Perhaps creative teachers should be identified and become central resources for teacher training.  Then, too, many teachers are so restrained by mandated curricular guidelines that they don’t have the flexibility for creativity.  For example, many states mandate that a series of topics be covered each year at the high school level.  Teachers have to follow these guidelines or their students will not be prepared for the statewide exams. . . .  Furthermore, students’ test results form an important measure of teacher performance, which creates a vicious circle of teaching for test results.”  (p. 21-2)

“The problem of the undervaluing of creativity in the schools is augmented by the nature of standardized tests.  Our complaints are that an industry has grown up around standardized testing and that, perhaps inadvertently, these tests have served to squelch creativity as much as any institution in our society. . . .  Ironically, few industries are less creative than the testing industry.”  (p. 22)


Howard Gardner
Director of Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of many books, including Frames of the Mind, The Unschooled Mind, and Multiple Intelligences.

Gardner, Howard.  Creating Minds.  New York:  Basic Books, 1993.

Multidisciplinary Framework.  Clearly, the bulk of work in the area of creativity has been carried out by researches trained in psychology and related individual-centered disciplines.  Yet it has become increasingly clear that creativity is precisely the kind of phenomenon or concept that does not lend itself to investigation completely within a single discipline.  As Peter Medawar, the Nobel Prize-winning immunologist once declared: 
‘The analysis of creativity in all of its forms is beyond the competence of any one accepted discipline.  It requires a consortium of talents: Psychologists, biologists, philosophers, computer scientists, artists, and poets who all expect to have their say.  That “creativity is beyond analysis” is a romantic illusion we must now outgrow’.”  (p. 36)


Richard Florida
The Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Florida, Richard.  The Rise of the Creative Class.  New York:  Basic Books, 2002.

“Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource.  The ability to come up with new ideas and better ways of doing things is ultimately what raises productivity and thus living standards.  The great transition from the agricultural to the industrial age was of course based upon natural resources and physical labor power, and ultimately gave rise to giant factory complexes in places like Detroit and Pittsburgh.  The transformation now in progress is potentially bigger and more powerful.  The previous shift substituted one set of physical inputs (land and human labor) for another (raw materials and physical labor) while the current one is based fundamentally on human intelligence, knowledge and creativity. 

The numbers of people doing creative work has increased vastly over the past century and especially over the past two decades . . . .  In 1900, fewer than 10 percent of American workers were doing creative work – most worked on farms or in factories.  When my father came home from World War II to take up work in a factory in Newark, New Jersey, fewer than 15 percent of Americans worked in the creative sector.  By 1980, the figure was still less than 20 percent.  But by the turn of the new century, the Creative Class included nearly a third of the workforce. . . .  The wealth generated by the creative sector is astounding:  It accounts for nearly half [of] all wage and salary income in the United States, $1.7 trillion dollars, as much as the manufacturing and service sectors combined.”  (p. xii-xiv)

“Fomenting creativity is obviously crucial, and U.S. regions that have done it best thus far do not accomplish it just by building stadiums, recruiting factories or retail chains, or starting business incubators.  The creative process flourished in places that provide the broad ecosystem which nurtures and supports creativity and channels it into innovation, new firm foundation and ultimately economic growth and raising living standards.”  (p. xxi-xxii)

“One thing is certain:  The creative age is a wide-open game.  No single country or region has a lock on it.  While many assume that the United States has an unbeatable edge, its position is more tenuous than commonly thought.

. . .  the United States appears to have thrown its gearshift into reverse.  At all levels of government and even in the private sector American have been cutting back on crucial investments in creativity – in education, in research, in arts and culture – while pouring billions into low-return or no-return public projects like sports stadiums.  In the zeal to ensure homeland security, the nation also has placed tighter restrictions on immigration, foreign students and the flow of scientific information.  If these trends continue, the U.S. may well squander its once-considerable lead.  Consider this thought:  The real threat to American security is not terrorism, it’s that creative and talented people may stop wanting to come here.”  (p. xxiii-xxiv)

“Any country that doesn’t keep building its creative strengths – with broad support for creative activities, and with policies that bring more citizens into the creative sector rather than under-employing them – will fall behind.

Creativity is not a tangible asset like mineral deposits that can be hoarded or fought over or even bought or sold.  We must begin to think of creativity as a common good, like liberty or security.  It is something essential that belongs to all of us, and that must always be fed, renewed and maintained – or else it will slip away.”  (p. xxvi)


John M. Eger
Executive director of the International Center for Communications at San Diego State University; also hold the Van Deerlin Chair of Communication and Public Policy.

Eger, John M.  “Building Creative: The Role of Art and Culture.”  The Futurist (March - April, 2006), 18-22.

“Cities of the future no doubt will be ‘creative communities’ in the sense that they recognize art and culture as vital, not only to a region’s livability, but also to the preparedness of its workforce.  Future cities will understand that art-infused education is critical to producing the next generation of leaders and workers for the knowledge economy.  While art, music, and all things cultural have been enjoyed and appreciated by every generation, there has often been an often unspoken assumption that they were nonessential, even frills.  Today, the demand for creativity has outpaced the ability of most nations to produce enough workers simply to meet their needs.”  (p. 20-21)

“Those communities placing a premium on cultural, ethnic, and artistic diversity, and reinventing their knowledge factories for the creative age, will likely burst with creativity and entrepreneurial fervor.  These are the ingredients so essential to developing and attracting the bright and creative people to generate new patents and inventions, innovative world-class products and services, and the finance and marketing plans to support them.  Nothing less will ensure a city’s economic, social, and political viability in the twenty-first century.”  (p. 22)


Sir Ken Robinson
Internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources.

Robinson, Ken.  Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative.  West Sussex: Capstone Publishing Limited, 2001.

“One of the most fundamental problems is the very process that’s meant to develop our natural abilities – education.  Companies and organizations are trying to fix a downstream problem that originates in schools and universities.  It would be naïve to think that education is simply a process of developing our natural abilities and rewarding achievement: that schools, colleges and universities simply sort out the intellectual sheep from the goats; that intelligent students do well and the less intelligent don’t.  Education doesn’t just follow the natural grain of young people’s abilities; it sorts them through two different filters.  The first is economic: education categorises [sic] people on implicit assumptions about the labour [sic] market.  The second filter is intellectual: education sorts people according to a particular view of intelligence.  The problem we face now is that the economic assumptions are no longer true and the intellectual filter screens out some of the most important intellectual abilities that children possess.  There are drastic consequences for the development of creative abilities.  This was always a problem, but now it’s getting critical.”  (p. 3)

“Governments and businesses throughout the world recognize that education and training are the key to the future, and they emphasise [sic] the vital need to develop powers of creativity and innovation.  First, it’s essential to generate ideas for new products and services, and to maintain a competitive edge.  Second, it’s essential that education and training enable people to be flexible and adaptable so that businesses can respond to changing markets.  Third, everyone will need to adjust to a world where, for most people, secure lifelong employment in single job is a thing of the past.” (p. 5)

“Often it [creativity] is associated only with particular sorts of activities, especially the arts; or with particular sorts of people, the ‘creatives’ in companies, or those whose appearance or behaviour [sic] is unconventional.  It is thought of as something people have or don’t have, like brown eyes. It is often linked with being uninhibited and with free expression.  The truth is that creativity is not a separate part of the brain that lights up only in certain people or during particular activities.  Creativity is possible in science, in technology, in management, in business, in music, in any activity that engages human intelligence.  People are not creative in general but in doing something concrete.  Different people have different creative strengths according to the pattern of their intelligences.  For some it will be music, or mathematics, or working with clay, or software, or images or with people.  Real creativity comes from finding your medium, from being in your element.  When people find their medium, they discover their real creative strengths and come into their own.  Genuine creativity is not only a matter of letting go but of holding on.”  (p. 10)

Promoting creativity:  “There are two related tasks.  First, to unlock the creative abilities in each individual.  We all have creative abilities and we all have them differently.  Creativity is not a single aspect of intelligence that only emerges in particular activities, in the arts for example.  It is a systematic function of intelligence that can emerge wherever our intelligence is engaged.  Creativity is a dynamic process that draws on many different areas of a person’s experience and intelligence.  We need to look at what it is in companies and organizations that blocks individual creativity.  But this is only half the job.  Creativity and innovation must be harnessed and not just released.  Creativity is not purely an individual performance.  It arises out of our interactions with ideas and achievement of other people.  It is a cultural process.  Creativity prospers best under particular conditions, especially where there is a flow of ideas between people who have different sorts of expertise.  It requires an atmosphere where risk-taking and experimentation are encouraged rather than stifled.  Just as individual creativity draws from many different skills and expertise in a single mind, corporate creativity draws on the skills and expertise across organizations.  Creativity flourished when there is a systemic strategy to promote it.  The cultural environment should be modeled on the dynamics of intelligence.  Many organizations stifle creativity in the structures they inhabit and the ethos they promote.  If ideas are discouraged or ignored, the creative impulse does one of two things.  It deserts or subverts the organization.  Creativity can work for you or against you.”  (p. 12)

The War for talent.  “Organisations [sic] are fighting a war for talent, according to recent studies by Andersen Consulting and the Institute of Management.  UP to 90 per cent of the chief executives in the survey said that attracting and retaining talented individuals was their major priority.  Better talent is worth fighting for, according to a major report by McKinsey.  The report argues that at senior levels of an organization, the ability to adapt, to make decisions quickly in situations of high uncertainty and to steer through change is critical.  But at a time when the need for superior talent is increasing, the big US companies are finding it more and more difficult to attract and retain key people.  Executives point to a worsening shortage of the people needed to run divisions and manage critical functions, let alone lead companies. . . .  The research concluded with a warning to corporate America that companies are about to be engaged in a war for senior executive talent that will remain a defining characteristic of the competitive landscape for decades to come.  Yet most are ill-prepared and even the best are vulnerable.

There is a massive gap between the skills and abilities that business needs and those that are available in the workforce. . . .  This shortage has put a new emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning. . . .  To win the war for talent, ‘most companies choose to develop more and more powerful recruitment and retention mechanisms to get the “right people” on board and identify the best performers’.” (p. 18-19)

“There [in the US], the intellectual property sectors, whose value depends on their ability to generate new ideas rather than to manufacture commodities, are now the most powerful element in the US economy.  The Intellectual Property Association in Washington has estimated these sectors to be worth currently $360 billion a year, making them more valuable than automobiles, agriculture or aerospace.  They are growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole, and generating jobs at three times the underlying rate.  The intellectual property sector is even more significant when patents from science and technology are included:  in pharmaceuticals, electronics, biotechnology, and information systems among others.  All of these technologies are based on fundamental advances in the sciences and in engineering.  They are creative fields of huge significance.”   (p. 42)

Academic deficiency.  “Employers are complaining that academic programmes [sic] from schools to universities simply don’t teach what people now need to know and be able to do.  They want people who can think intuitively, who are imaginative and innovative, who can communicate well, work in teams and are flexible, adaptable and self-confident.  The traditional academic curriculum is simply not designed to produce such people.”  (p. 52)

 “The dynamic interaction of technological and economic change has two immediate long-term implications for labour [sic] markets.  First, it puts a premium on the capacity of companies, countries and of individuals for creativity and innovation.  The most important resources of all companies are now the ideas and creative capacities of the workforce.  This is why there is such a huge expansion of education.  The second key quality is the need for flexibility and adaptability.  International companies, especially those using ICT, will position their operations wherever the best qualified and most cost-effective labour [sic] force happens to be. . . .  The competition for jobs is no longer local or even regional, but global. . . .

“There are many misconceptions about creativity.  Creativity is not a separate faculty that some people have and others do not.  It is a function of intelligence: it takes many forms, it draws from many different capacities and we all have different creative capabilities.  Creativity is possible in any activity in which human intelligence is actively engaged.  The distinctive feature of human intelligence is imagination and the power of symbolic thought.  Our lives are shaped by the ideas we have and beliefs we hold.  New ways of thinking can transform us.” (p. 111)


Shalini Venturelli
Associate Professor of International Communication Policy at American University and chairs the Communication & Human Rights Committee of the International Association of Media & Communication Research. She is among the first scholars to examine the international dimensions of the information society and the Internet and has published and lectured extensively on the subject.

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.

“The Information Society is now changing that equation.  The source of wealth and power, the ‘gold’ of the information economy, is found in a different type of capital: intellectual and creative ideas packaged and distributed in different form over information networks.  One might even say, that wealth-creation in an economy of ideas is derived far less than we imagine from the technological hardware and infrastructure, since eventually most nations, such as China, will make investments in large-scale infrastructure technologies.  Rather it is dependent upon the capacity of a nation to continually create content or new forms of widely distributed expression, for which they will need to invest in creative human capital throughout the economy and not merely in gadgets and hardware.”  (p. 13-14)

“In an unexpected way, this changing reality has vindicated the arguments of societies that sought to protect their content enterprises in the name of cultural survival and sovereignty.  They were right, though I suggest for the wrong reasons, since it is not the cultural legacy that is at stake, but the capacity to invent and create new forms of culture.  Few nations had any notion, even five years ago, that the fate of economy and society would be dependent on cultural resources and the capacity to contribute original forms of expression in the Information Society.  From this standpoint, then, all nations will need to regard their content and creative enterprises, including the creative workforce, with at least the same value they once ascribed to their metals, mining, minerals, agricultural and heavy manufacturing industries.”  (p. 16)

“The central economic and societal question of the Information Society will soon become how to stimulate innovation, that is to say, originality in ideas.  Through careful and intelligent policy initiatives ranging throughout all social levels, governments will need to provoke a high level of dynamic innovation in the arts, sciences, and imaginative ideas and their integration into an on-line, networked world.”  (p. 17)

“There is an urgent need to reorder our basic thinking on education . . . .  Modern societies would need to educate, not for a standardized work force as they did in the industrial economy, but for a highly knowledgeable work force prepared for a Creative Economy.  Basic literacy skills and imitative learning adequate for following instructions on the assembly line, the workshop, or desktop terminal are simply inadequate to the demands of a creative and innovative society.  Not basic education, but advanced intellectual and creative skills that emphasize interdisciplinary and independent thinking should be required at earlier stages of the educational process, and extend from preschool to grad school.

As nations begin to grasp the critical importance of education quality to an economy based on creative capital, there will be an international race to fortify the substance of knowledge that is taught and to re-incorporate the linkages between the arts, humanities and sciences.  These advanced skills would need to promote independent judgment, creative and imaginative engagement, scientific knowledge, technological literacy, intellectual and critical thinking, interdisciplinary knowledge of the arts and sciences, and experience in research activities for producing new knowledge ranging from bio-information and cultural invention to commercial ingenuity.”  (p. 19-20)


James J. Duderstadt
President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan and Director of the Millennium Project, a research center concerned with the future of higher education.

Duderstadt, James J.  A University for the 21st Century.  Ann Arbor:  The University of Michigan Press, 2000.

The Creative University.  “The professions that have dominated the late twentieth century -- and to some de­gree, the late-twentieth-century university -- have been those that manage knowl­edge and wealth, professions such as law, business, and politics. Yet today there are signs that our society is increasingly valuing those activities that actually create new knowledge and wealth, professions such as art, music, architecture, and engineering. Perhaps the university of the twenty-first century will also shift its intellectual focus and priority from the preservation or transmission of knowledge to the process of creation itself. After all, the tools of creation are expanding rapidly in both scope and power. Today, we have the capacity literally to create objects atom by atom. We are developing the capacity to create new life-forms through the tools of molecular biol­ogy and genetic engineering. And we are now creating new intellectual life-forms through artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

The university may need to reorganize itself quite differently, stressing forms of pedagogy and extracurricular experiences to teach and nurture the art and skill of creation. This would probably imply a shift away from highly specialized disciplines and degree programs to programs placing more emphasis on integrating knowledge. Universities might form strategic alliances with other groups, organizations, or insti­tutions in our society whose activities are characterized by great creativity, for exam­ple, the art world, the entertainment industry, or even Madison Avenue.

But herein lies a great challenge. While we are experienced in teaching the skills of analysis, we have far less understanding of the intellectual activities associated with creativity. In fact, the current disciplinary culture of our campuses sometimes discriminates against those who are truly creative, those who do not fit well into our stereotypes of students and faculty.”  (p. 280)


Raymond S. Nickerson
Department of Psychology, Tufts University.  He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Society of Experimental Psychologists. A past chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Human Factors, and a recipient of the Franklin V. Taylor Award from the American Psychological Association, he was the founding editor of The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied and of Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics, an annual publication of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

Nickerson, Raymond S.  “Enhancing Creativity.”  In Handbook of Creativity, ed. Robert J. Sternberg, 392-430.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1999.

“We need to take seriously the possibility that children are naturally curious and that they have to learn not to be. . . .  Might a reason why there are not more people with the creative capability of Einstein be that the educational process stifles in many the curiosity with which all of us begin to experience the world?  How else can we account for the rather amazing lack of curiosity that most of us show about the incredible world in which we live? . . .
The idea that children are naturally curious and that early educational experiences can stultify their curiosity is a very disturbing one.  The first article of the Hippocratic oath – do no harm – is as appropriate and as important for education as it is for medicine. . . . Determining the extent to which specific educational practices stifle creativity is an objective that deserves much attention.”  (p. 411)


David Henry Feldman
Professor & Developmental Psychologist, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and Director, Developmental Science Group, College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, Tufts University.

Feldman, David Henry.  “The Development of Creativity.”  In Handbook of Creativity, ed. Robert J. Sternberg, 169-186.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press,     1999.

“Being a stellar student is clearly not a prerequisite to the production of great creative work.  The importance of doing well in school varies with the field and the individual.  Freud was an outstanding student, for example, but Einstein was not.  For artistic fields and those where personal, social, and/or spiritual qualities are central, a person’s performance in school tends to be of less importance than in the sciences. . . .  If specific preparation within the domain or discipline is distinguished from schooling, then a generalization can be made that the proper preparation is crucial.  What form this preparation takes varies from field to field and person to person; indeed the challenge of providing just the right sort of preparation is one of the greatest ones facing those who hold this responsibility.”  (p. 176)

“The enduring belief that great creativity is developed largely alone, without assistance from teachers, mentors, peers, and intimate groups is largely a myth.”  (p. 176)


Robert & Michelle Root-Bernstein
Robert, a professor in the Physiology Department of Michigan State University, is a winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and author of Discovering: Inventing and Solving Problems at the Frontiers of Scientific Knowledge.  Michele is an award-winning historian who was written about and taught history and creative writing.

Root-Bernstein, Robert and Michelle.  Sparks of Genius:  The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

“Our foray into the hearts and minds of inventive individuals demonstrates that imagination can be encouraged and trained through the exercise of thinking tools and a desire for synosic understanding.  Clearly these elements are lacking in most curricula today.  Implementing thinking tools and synosic lessons in our schools will not, however, require major alterations in curricula.  We need not change what we teach.  A synthetic education requires only that we change how we teach, bearing eight basic goals in mind.  First, we must emphasize the teaching of universal processes of invention in addition to the acquisition of disciplinary products of knowledge . . . .  Second, it follows that we must teach the intuitive and imaginative skills necessary to inventive processes . . . .  Third, we must implement a multidisciplinary education that places the arts on an equal footing with the sciences . . . .  Fourth, we must integrate the curriculum by using a common descriptive language for innovation . . . .  Fifth, we must emphasize the transdisciplinary lessons of disciplinary learning . . . .  Sixth, we must use the experiences of people who have successfully bridged disciplines as exemplars of creative activity within our curricula . . . .   Seventh, to reach the widest range of minds, ideas in every discipline should be presented in many forms. . . .  Finally, we must forge a pioneering education, whose purpose is to produce the imaginative generalists who can take us into the uncharted future.”  (316- 319)

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