Creativity is essential to any enterprise that operates in a dynamic environment. Schools are no exception. They function in the social, political, economic, and organizational context that is constantly evolving. In this environment, creativity is essential for consistent performance over time, as well as, survival. Most leaders profess the necessity of creativity but unintentionally kill it by trying to maximize regulation and control.

Creativity doesn’t happen by getting struck by lightning. Popular culture frequently provides a distorted picture of creative people and organizations. There are several key components to creativity. Noted author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Creativity, defined creativity as “any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.”

Imaginative thinking involves synthesizing ideas into new combinations, which is a high form of complex thinking. Examining with fresh eyes and testing ideas from various areas is the foundation of synthesis. In fact, creativity is more than having an imagination, as Ken Robinson stated in his book, The Element, “because it requires that you actually do something rather than lie around thinking about it. It’s a very practical process of trying to make something original.”

Second, expertise is essential in terms of knowing fundamental concepts and skills in the broad arena of the work. It involves thinking conceptually, mastering  content areas, and  applying pertinent skills.

Third, motivation requires the basic ability to persevere on difficult challenges and patience—to let ideas incubate. Reflection and trial and error are frequent partners in innovation.  Individuals must have desire to do something important and find joy in the challenge and interest in their work.

Basically, strong intrinsic motivation is essential for creativity. High performers are not stymied by failure but instead present a positive outlook and see failure as a false start, a glitch, or a part of the learning process. They have high tolerance for uncertainty and do not fear failing. Children or teachers need to understand that strategic or outcome failure can bring insight and progress.  Who can succeed 100% of the time?

Creativity is not a competitive endeavor. Competition can limit or reduce the encouragement for people to work together. It can create a sense of self-consciousness on the part of some workers who worry about the perception of others of their competence and capability. They become hesitant to contribute. For others, this climate curtails sharing and collaboration. The constant expectation of evaluation can undermine individuals’ creative spirit and efforts for fear of looking bad in a judgmental setting.

Competition also gets in the way when there is a significant need to work together to solve problems. Looking good becomes more important than being good and becomes the enemy of creating a learning organization. If we feel a need to “look good” it is difficult for us to expose that there are things we do not know or did not accomplish. Competition can result in individuals working in isolation, putting the best face on their efforts and protecting themselves from criticism.

Finally, education is not race, and America’s penchant to turn everything into a competition can actually work against educators finding solutions to complicated problems. A continuous crisis mentality, first of all, is not useful, and secondly, results in focusing blame for difficult issues that have very complex roots. In this climate, success has a thousand mothers and failure has none.

Closed, highly regulated systems wear down and squander energy as individuals stand by and watch the system atrophy. The desire for conformity and equilibrium exhausts the capacity for change and dissipates creative energy. Open systems on the other hand engage with the outer environment and continue to grow and evolve.

Excellence is not a static state that can be produced by following a recipe. Certain organizational conditions are essential for producing a creative culture. These conditions relate to the nature of management and leadership that address challenge, freedom, resources, supervision, and organizational support. Each of these categories has positive or negative features that will either promote or stymie creativity.

Taken from: Straitjacket: How Overregulation Stiles Creativity and Innovation in Education