As we have been discussing, Friedman tells us that no aptitude it more important for 21st century success than innovation, and this theme is a common one, found in Pink (he calls it design, and “high concept” thinking more broadly), in Gardner (the creating mind), and Wagner (the survival skill of curiosity and imagination).

Kenneth Robinson was a keynote speaker at NAIS NYC 2008, and his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative is an essential text on instilling this aptitude in our students.

Not surprisingly, Robinson thinks creativity is important. The changes we have already seen since the Industrial Revolution “may be nothing compared to with those to come. We are in a deepening revolution in the work people do, who works and for how long, how we relate to each other, and how we conceive our own intelligence and abilities.”

In a melodramatic and sweeping conclusion to his book, he writes “our own times are being swept away along an avalanche of innovations in science, technology, and social thought. To keep pace with these changes, we need to keep all our wits about us– literally. We must learn to be creative.”

The result of this revolution, Robinson argues, is that there is a new “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.”

But what happens to creativity. From the jacket flap: “most children think they’re highly creative; most adults think they’re not. What happens to them as they grow up?”

So what is creativity, really, and how do we better cultivate it? My own reading of Robinson finds more rhetoric than specifics in answering these questions, in contrast say to the much more grounded works of Pink and Wagner. Nonetheless, for what it is worth, I will share here some of the rhetoric.

1. “Creativity is a dynamic process and can involve many areas of expertise. New ideas come from the dialogue between different disciplines.”

2. “Creativity is incremental. Conceiving new ideas is often promoted by knowledge of the achievements of others– by cultural literacy.”

3. Cultural change is not strictly logical. Creativity and innovation should be seen as functions of all areas of activity and not only as confined to particular people or processes.

4. Robinson cites the work of Edward de Bono, such as his Six Thinking Hats and CORT, as especially useful for generating better brainstorming and creativity in an organization. Something to check out. Robinson also suggests the use of Synectics.

5. “Creative synergy happens best when people at different professional backgrounds and skills work together…. Creative environments give people time to experiment, to fail, to try again, to ask questions, to discover, to play, to make connection among the seemingly disparate elements.”

6. “It is essential in schools that there be an equal balance between the arts and sciences…. Each of these broad groupings of disciplines reflects major areas of cultural knowledge and experience to which all young people should have equal access. Each addresses a different mode of intelligence and creative development. The strengths of any individual may be in or or more of them. A narrow, unbalanced curriculum will lead to a narrow, unbalanced education for some if not all young people.”

7. “Schools teach many subjects but one dominant way of thinking– the verbal, mathematical, deductive and propositional. These processes can be applied to any phenomena: plants, weather, poetry, music, social systems. On this basis, the person who writes about the arts may be thought to be intellectually superior to the person who produces the work. A Picasso scholar, but not Picasso himself, may be given a PhD. Doing the arts should be recognized as being as legitimate an intellectual process as critical inquiries about the arts. The heart of this argument is that knowledge can be generated in many ways other than in words and numbers. Not all that we know can be put into words and numbers, nor is what can be put into words and numbers all that we do know.”

8. “Facilitating creative development requires the teaching of knowledge and skills, together with the opportunities to speculate and experiment. This is a sophisticated process that combines elements of what are thought of as traditional and progressive education.”

9. “The emphasis in schools on academic learning has tended to value only one mode of knowing, and, in doing so, 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 field 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.”