Author/educator Ken Robinson is a leading thinker in the field of education and creativity. He’s especially known for his TED talks, bringing great subjects to light. One of his TED talks is, “Do schools kill creativity?” This talk, which has 34 million views and has been seen by 250 million people, illuminates how creativity is taught to most of us.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the video:

“Kids will take a chance. They’re not frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original and by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities, and the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

Given that we have this bias built into 95 percent of our innovation teams and ourselves, how do we find a way to increase our creativity? The obvious answer is education, but it’ll be an education different from the one that got us into this problem. Here are some educational goals you should have.

  1. Get out of your head;

Commit to reading and researching interesting subjects at least one hour per week. The subject does not matter, it just matters that you are expanding your mind. Sign up for your state university’s research newsletter or go to the library and Google for ideas. It’s also hard to beat TED talks. Just searching for talks on “creativity” produces more than 130 sessions. Once you have selected a few to watch, look into each speaker. This’ll lead you to some great new thoughts.

  1. Watch “TED” with your innovation team;

You can do this by viewing sessions as a group twice per month. Most are only 20 minutes long; ask the team to suggest the best ones to view. Some of my favorites include Catarina Mota’s, “Play With Smart Materials,” Joi Ito’s  “Want to Innovate? Become a ‘Now-ist,’” and Tom Wujec’s “Got a Wicked Problem? First, Tell Me How You Make Toast.”

  1. Have your team take a course online together;

I suggest a series from University of California, San Diego about human-centered design. The class starts in October, so don’t delay. This seven-session course’s description says, “you will learn how to design technologies that bring people joy, rather than frustration. You’ll learn how to generate design ideas, techniques for quickly prototyping them, and how to use prototypes to get feedback from other stakeholders like your teammates, clients and users. You’ll also learn principles of visual design, perception and cognition that inform effective interaction design.” You can see the full details here.

  1. Encourage passion;

As we have discussed in previous blogs, passion for creativity is a key to high-performance teams. Allow design freedom to encourage each team member to find their “hot button.” Help the team see the vision for the innovation project.

  1. Let there be movement; and

If you watched Sir Ken’s TED talk, you learned that we need to move to enhance our creativity. Design your innovation meetings to have only short periods of sitting. I suggest no more than 15 minutes of static activity. Use standing tables, war-room write-on-walls exercises, and encourage everyone to take a 10-minute discovery walk through the plant or facility just before your innovation meeting.

  1. Make a time commitment.

This is where it gets real. All these suggestions in this blog take a major time commitment. If you really want innovation to take off at your company, time must be allocated. I know the recession has doubled everyone’s workload and we’re all doing much more with much less, but without a time commitment, creativity will be killed. Make time to succeed.

Lastly, we should also consider how we can help turn the tide on educating the next generation. Please consider bringing all the local fifth-graders to your office and plant for a tour every year. Design a safe activity that will get their hands on a mechanical part for assembly or for a small contest. Engage the teachers to insure there is pre-work and post-work. The kids will be excited, and so will your team. One of these students may be the one that takes over your innovation team in a few years.

Please let me know how your Innovation Project is progressing- Send any questions to Also see the Fenestration Innovation Network on Linkedin.

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