How do I make my child, pupil, student, mentee, protégé, follower, and tribe/community members creative? While this seems so simple like a friend hurriedly reacted without much ado by posting “science and technology,” when I posed the question a while back, it is rather a billion dollar question that can prove the game changer of the entire human race.

The destination of this journey actually is innovation but the journey starts with creativity because without a creative mind, there cannot be innovation. A truly purposeful and visionary mind bent on innovation sees creativity to a logical end – invention.

What is Creativity and what is Innovation? 

Before venturing into a definitive meaning of innovation [the attaining end of creativity], let us first clarify between two mostly used and rather confused terms or words.

The words creativity and innovation are used interchangeably by different persons and they probably are right depending on what they mean. While this may be confusing to a vast majority, perhaps only a few would be able to truly differentiate between the two words.

First, we must understand that creativity is not innovation. While creativity is about ideas, innovation is the process of actualizing or bringing the ideas to life. A writer stated “It’s not about ideas; it’s about making ideas happen.” One can’t agree more.

Every equipment or device produced, every book written, every album waxed, or whatever tangible thing that has been used or is being used by man to live life comfortably is actually an idea perfected; an intangible thought expressed to become tangible.

Every vehicle ever manufactured, the computer and other devices made, a poem written, a dance step originated, a story or book written, the electric iron, the telephone, the microphone, the aircraft; social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and applications or solutions were actually figments of some person’s imagination. They were ideas [intangible] that were brought to life [tangible] through a process of execution.

Innovation is the striving towards making human life worth living in terms of improvement of processes, updating of new trends, equipment and the production of new things.

Innovation is invention and it often requires that the present is disrupted to achieve a better future. Innovation rests upon a restless hunger to give; a restless spirit built on the ethos of munificence and generosity.

The mind of the innovator [inventor] is saddled with an unquenching thirst to add value, whether in confinement, rejection, freedom of space or thought, living a recluse though connected or attuned to world realities; the theme is the same – disruptive thinking [creativity] to inundate mankind with physical benefits [innovation/invention].

The real challenge is not whether Nature has blessed us with the Great Fruits of Change but rather how do we nurture these great gifts and minds like the Steve Jobs, the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Bill Gates, the Paul Allens, the Steve Wozniaks, and the Elon Musks, of tomorrow, like the Thomas Edisons, Dale Carnegies and Henry Fords of yesterday?

How do we, through parental and academic engagements raise men of great gifts and wisdom like Joseph, Daniel and David when we do not align with the requirements of the Giver of the gifts? Do we leave them to the pains of nature to nurture them?

How do we get the upcoming ones to be creative in their minds? How do we infuse the culture of innovation into them through the use of one of their most powerful gifts—the imagination through curiosity and creative thinking?

Since it has been proved beyond doubts that ideas rule the world and that innovators are game changers through their disruptive works though schools have stolen the minds of a vast majority today, how do we ensure that successive generations enjoy life via the churning out of ideas and then proceed to implement or execute same ideas?

 How do we teach children to be creative?

The following suggestions may be helpful:

First, establish the discovery of the human essence: God made man in HIS  own image. This man comprises body, spirit and soul. This man has a psyche – soul, spirit and mind. These have creative capabilities because with the spirit for example, there is imagination, one of the most potent creative forces in man, though many are oblivious of this and so hardly use it. That man is made in the image of his Creator makes man a creator too but does man know? Knowing this first holds great fortune.

Make the learner aware of the existence of his mental faculties: Will, Perception, Reasoning, Imagination, Memory and Intuition. The knowledge of what each is and what they are capable of doing can never go to waste. This awareness will tune and keep them in the positive frequency to help them productively engage and handle the negative forces.

Help learners with the need to identify that each of them has a special gift from above, which they must self-discover. Everyone is gifted specially and made uniquely; the reason no two finger prints are alike. Parents and gifted educators can help in this regards to guide learners to knowing their special gifts and talents; but it is man’s duty to know.

The discovery of the talent must be followed tenaciously with the development of relevant skills to align with the gifts and adequate information must be provided to equip the subconscious mind and help it develop the mindset that service to mankind helps the servant achieve proficiency of what they have. Proficiency comes through repetition.

Encourage curiosity based learning. The drive of a productive learning initiative is to guide learners towards asking the right questions. Young minds are often the most curious minds; and where they are unfettered, they can attain impossible levels of thinking as they are not often hindered by those fears that plague adults. We must not limit them during this productive thinking stage of their development when they are ready to touch, say or do anything. Adults actually push fear into children. Who built David, the shepherd boy, up to challenge wild beasts? We must urge them on when they ask “stupid” and endless questions, which are keys to unlock their creativity.

Give room for experimentation. No idea gets implemented or becomes an innovation or invention unless it was first put to the test and put to use. Learners must be made to experiment with ideas with the objective of inculcating patterns of origination of ideas, implementation and execution. Project Based Learning platforms serve this well. Then it would become a lifestyle or pattern. This would encourage more ideation.

Permit iteration: Practice, they say, makes perfect. You become adept at what you do frequently and repeatedly. Iteration is repetition. Encourage learners to repeat tasks, to repeatedly collaborate, to repeat experiments and this would help them hone the required skills so that they acquire experiential knowledge through unfoldment and use. Salman Khan advised that young people be taught to achieve mastery and not the covering of voluminous curricula.

Allow waste to happen: This sounds like antipodal thinking right? Though seems odd and out of place, it is a key to unlocking ideas that would build a culture of creativity, leading to innovation. During play periods at home or in school, or during science, arts, crafts, painting, sculpting, pottery, drawing or similar periods, young children must be allowed to exhibit and adequately express themselves using resources provided in a limitless fashion. While this may seem wasteful, such “expensive” exercises often help to develop rare skills in growing kids.

Play mind games: All work and no play, they say makes… Playing consciously has its purpose of relaxation and allows learning to filter through the mental faculties, and in turn form layers of useful acquired knowledge.  The specific kind of play young minds are exposed to builds them on the right paradigm that would not need to be altered when they grow up. Mind games, word games like Chess, Scrabble, and Monopoly teach critical thinking, strategy, maneuvering, intrigues, problem solving, and more.

Use unlikely routes: Some young children have never boarded a public transport. Taking children through such experiences once in a while could spark creativity in them; get them into the curious mode because they would have seen another aspect of life that they are not used to. On such trips, watch their reactions, ponder their questions both during and long after those experiences. An idea or more would have registered in their minds. This could be the foundation for bigger ideas that may lead to innovation. Reversing the roles for the less privileged may need different kind of experience

Teach learners observation: The art of observation is one of the strongest   forms of learning. Young children must be taught how to focus on what matters and what may not matter at the specific moments in question because what matters in some contexts may not matter in some others. The idea is to teach them to observe; not necessarily what to observe. After this focus and observation, do let them report their observations. In the cities, many young children, adolescents, teenagers and even older, have never observed nature like forests, river, streams and the like live. To some yams grow on trees and tomatoes are harvested in the soil. Experiencing nature, plants and animals, in their natural habitat, holds fortunes that can spark creativity in most uncommon and profound ways.

Encourage excursions and expeditions: Taking learners on excursions and expeditions especially by road or rail is a strong form of travel education. During such trips, watch their observation quotient come alive. What you personally observe or are drawn to stays with you forever because it hits resonance with the unseen part, where your true treasure actually lies. The mental faculties, especially memory store up such information. It is essential that young people be taken out of their own environments to other places to help their imagination align with their conscious mind.    

Final Thoughts: Teaching the art of creativity is an essential part of ideal education – educe – from within. The treasure in man, regardless of age, lies within and young children should be made aware of this from very early on. If there are standard learning practices to be established, they should be built on this model so that learners who benefit can grow up to exhibit same based on their innate gifts/strengths rather than being dependent on others. Going from creativity to innovation/invention is a journey of a thousand miles that starts with one step.

This is not an exhaustive list though.