Drawing again today from the authoritative report from Craig Jerald, Defining a 21st century education. Jerald views creativity and innovation as among the most important 21st century  “broader competencies;”

The new Skills Commission concluded that academic knowledge and skills, applied literacies, and critical thinking will not be sufficient for the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy. “The crucial new factor, the one that alone can justify higher wages in this country than in other countries with similar levels of cognitive skills, is creativity and innovation.” Indeed, employers in the Conference Board survey ranked creativity third among skills they expect to increase in importance over the next half decade….Today, with so many similar products and services available to consumers, companies can only stay ahead by providing customized or uniquely designed versions.
But more than just establishing its importance, Jerald has done more, he has probed deeply into what we really are talking about when we talk about the competency of creativity and innovation.   Helpfully, he compares the view of this competency as seen by employers and by school administrators: whereas the latter most often see creativity as defined as “problem-solving,” employers see it as “problem identification or articulation.”
Employers and superintendents also disagreed on the “comfort with ‘no right answer.’” Employers ranked it fifth in importance, but by such a small margin that it was virtually tied for third, while superintendents ranked it eleventh—dead last.
One is tempted to say that of course educators, school superintendents in this case, aren’t as likely to prioritize “comfort with no right answer” when so much of education today measures success by whether students can select, in a standardized test, exactly what the single “right answer” is.   Indeed, testing kids this way, again and again, is mentally reinforcing exactly the opposite mindset of what employers are seeking.
Employers are also much less confident in the creativity skills of high school graduates:  only 45% express confidence in the problem-solving skills of grads, compared to 73% of superintendents; only 33% in their comfort with no right answer, compared to 57%; and only 56% in their fundamental curiosity compared to 75% of educators.   We need to structure education to promote and sustain greater curiosity in our kids, something I fear few conventional or traditional high school classrooms do, so intent are they on standardized testing success.  “An unfortunate feature of much education today, as well as the assessment of educational progress, is its overwhelming emphasis on well-structured problems,” laments Yale University psychologist Robrt Sternberg.
Jerald then takes us onto how to better teach for creativity, very helpfully.    First, it is about being inquisitive: “People who’ve learned to ask great questions and have learned to be inquisitive are the ones who movefastest in our environment because they solve the biggest problems in ways that have the most impact on innovation.”
As someone who frequently preaches here the value of trial and error, and learning from mistakes as the best way of learning, I love this message too:
The review also found research on what kinds of environments support creativity: “It will happen only in circumstances in which the creator is allowed to fail many times in order to succeed only once. Those who are most successful respond very poorly to extrinsic motivation.”
A chart outlines the key five elements for encouraging creativity: Knowledge comes first, creative thinking skills second, motivation third, metacognition fourth, and the environment finally: ” Non-controlling (risk taking and unconventional solutions rewarded rather than sanctioned) b) Non-threatening (intrinsic incentives vs. extrinsic rewards or threats). “
He adds that creativity draws upon knowledge in all kinds of ways.
Notice that creativity seems to call for the same kind of “pattern recognition” at the heart of critical thinking and problem solving. According to Robert Sternberg, insightful thinking involves several kinds of knowledge processing: telling relevant from irrelevant information; combining pieces of relevant knowledge in new ways; and connecting new information to old information in novel ways
As for motivation, it is essential to recognize that innovators must be purposeful and persistent. “Creativity, according to the investment theory, is in large part a decision,” Sternberg says. “To be creative one must first decide to generate new ideas, analyze these ideas, and sell the ideas to others.”
Also essential is that innovation is much more the product of intrinsic than extrinsic motivation.  This discussion is very resonant to those of us reading and following Dan Pink’s important new book, Drive, which explains that complex thinking is driven much more by the intrinsic rewards and the forces of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.    Here, he cites not Pink but a Harvard Professor:
“In fact, in our creativity research, my students, colleagues, and I have found so much evidence in favor of intrinsic motivation that we have articulated what we call the Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity,” says Harvard’s Teresa Amabile. “People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself—and not by external pressures.”
Finally, I want to draw from Jerald a useful elucidation of the signficance of collaboration in creativity, and an actionable item for our teaching in K-12:
“When researchers and historians study the origins of the important innovations that change our world, they discover that they are never the isolated insight of a solitary individual; they always involve collaborative teams and complex organizations.”201 He urges educators to use activities that require disciplined but improvisational collaboration. Even an activity as commonplace as whole class discussion can provide such opportunities. “Decades of educational research have demonstrated that unstructured group discussion has the potential to teach students the sort of group creativity that the new economy demands,” says Sawyer.
Before I conclude though, let me just list below some of the outstanding sources Jerald has identified and drawn from for the discussion on educating for creativity and innovation– each and every one of which I intend to read and share more about here.
Johnansson, F. (2006). The Medici Effect. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. (p. 104) Available at http://www.themedicieffect.com/downloads/MediciEffect.pdf

Adams, K. (2005, September). The sources of innovation and creativity. Paper commissioned by the National Center on Education and the Economy for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy.

Sternberg, R. (2006). The nature of creativity. Creativity Research Journal,

Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sawyer, R. K. (2006, April). Educating for innovation. Thinking Skills and Creativity