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Foundations of Creativity

ideasFoundational knowledge regarding imagination, creativity, and innovation.

“Imagination is the source of all human achievement.”
- Sir Ken Robinson
In 2020 we lost a giant in the education world, Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken made it his mission to transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence. His teaching and research will serve as the foundation for this material.
In his book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative Sir Ken made the case that our world is the product of the ideas, beliefs and values of human imagination and culture that have shaped it over centuries. It has been created out of our minds as much as from the natural environment. The human mind is profoundly and uniquely creative and It all begins with imagination.


In his book Out of Our Minds, Sir Ken Robinson says:
"Imagination is the source of our creativity, but imagination and creativity are not the same. Imagination is the ability to bring to mind things that are not present to our senses. Imagination is the primary gift of human consciousness. In imagination, we can step out of the here and now. We can revisit and review the past. We can take a different view of the present by putting ourselves in the minds of others: we can try to see with their eyes and feel with their hearts. And in imagination we can anticipate many possible futures.We may not be able to predict the future but by acting on the ideas produced in our imagination, we can help to create it. The imagination liberates us from our immediate circumstances and holds the constant possibility of transforming the present."


This leads us to asking, “Then what IS creativity?” Sir Ken would answer with this definition: "Creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value." He would reinforce the idea that it is a process, and not an event, and that it can be taught.
Creativity is a PROCESS. It includes a relationship between two main aspects that bounce off each other: generating ideas and evaluating ideas.
Creativity involves ORIGINALITY. There are different ways to categorize originality in this context and each is valid: if it is original in relation to the creator’s previous work; if it is original in relation to the work of the creator’s contemporaries; or if it is original in relation to all of history if a piece of work is the first of its kind to ever be created.
Creativity involves making judgments of VALUE. What is considered to be of value depends on the nature and the purpose of the work–if something is useful, beautiful, valid, or sustainable, etc. For example, beauty is one aspect of value to aim for when designing a building but it soon becomes irrelevant if the structure of the building is unsound. For an original design of a building to have value, it must be both aesthetically pleasing and be fit for the purpose. In this sense, and across all three points, the creative process depends heavily on the ability to think critically.
It is important to remember that IMAGINATION can be a private process taking place internally. Sir Ken once said, “Private imaginings may have no outcomes in the world at all.” Whereas, creativity involves doing something. Calling someone “creative” implies that they are producing something in a purposeful way. He stated, “People are not creative in the abstract; they are creative in something: in mathematics, in engineering, in writing, in music, in business, in whatever. Creativity involves putting your imagination to work. In a sense, creativity is applied imagination.”
There are lots of misconceptions about creativity.
  1. One of them is that only special people are creative. That’s simply not true. People have varying powers in different fields, but if you’re a human being, the power to be creative is part of who you are. You may not have developed these powers yet, but you have them.
  2. A second myth about creativity is that it's about special things. We tend to think it’s all about the arts, but you can be creative in anything. Often when people say they’re not creative, what they think they mean is I’m not very artistic, like I don’t play the guitar or I don’t have a violin or I don’t paint. You can be a creative mathematician, software developer, a creative chef, a creative business leader, anything that involves human intelligence is a possible site of original thinking, anything. Sir Ken once said “I think the question we ought to be asking is not so much how creative are you, the question you should be asking yourself is “how are you creative?” Where are the areas that you start to think differently, that you feel that you have something genuine to contribute there and that you would like to evolve?”
  3. And the third is that there’s not much you can do about it. You’re creative or you’re not and that’s the end of it. Sir Ken suggested that there’s a lot you can do.


“Innovation is the process of putting new ideas into practice. Innovation is applied creativity. By definition, innovation is always about introducing something new, or improved, or both and it is usually assumed to be a positive thing.” - Sir Ken Robinson
Robinson, K. (2017). Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative (3rd ed.). Capstone.
Robinson, K., Robinson, K., & Seabrook, A. (2022). Imagine if ...: Creating a future for us all. Penguin Books.