This colourful zebra was featured in an ad for Beauti-Tone paint in a promotional magazine delivered to our house recently. Its tagline was “Paint for the creative and curious…”. I love this picture. It inspired me. It led me to conjure up a few story lines for children’s stories. I thought about how it might be fun to try to make a paper mache zebra and paint it with coloured stripes to see what my 3 year-old, animal-specialist grandson would say. In other words, this image stimulated my creativity. I thought about whether it was innovative as well. Probably not, it’s still a zebra, although different from other zebras – an out-of-the-box-thinking zebra. But this zebra is the result of making changes to something already established, just like the innovative Dyson vacuum cleaner. Surely its change of design is an innovation?
Where am I going with this, you ask? I have been interacting with the blogosphere for 2 months now. In perusing the blogosphere by searching various tags and categories, I have been intrigued by the divergent uses of the categories “inspiration”, “innovation”, and “creativity”. “Inspiration” tends to be favoured by blog postings with a religious or spiritual topic; “innovation” tends towards postings with a business focus; and, “creativity” gravitates towards postings with an artistic theme.
This discovery surprised me. In my experience, these categories are very much interconnected. Innovators aren’t just people in business. The reason we encourage innovation as much as we do in economic development is because it is important for moving beyond the status quo: for encouraging new product development and for improving ways of doing business. But innovation is equally important in finding new, improved ways to teach your class. Innovation is critical to developing new health therapies. Innovation is central to new directions in art and music. And, of course, innovation is vital to successful research and development.
Ever since she has been old enough to sit at a table and hold a crayon or pencil, my 6 year-old granddaughter has been teaching me anew about creativity and innovation. She doesn’t need to wait for inspiration before she starts a new art project; she seems to be permanently infused with inspiration. She never needs to ask someone, “What should I make?” She always seems to know what she wants to create next, and she can be productive all day! She happily tries new techniques that pop into her head, finding materials from indoors and outdoors to incorporate in her creations.
My students, over the 30 years that I taught computer science, exhibited creativity and innovation in many of the challenges put to them as they learned how to harness the continually changing technology. It could come through a particularly original way of writing a program, a unique approach to interface design, a novel technology-based business solution, or an idea for an original new video game. In all aspects of designing and implementing solid IT solutions, creativity and innovation play an important role. My former students are an inspiration!
Now that I have come to realize that these three words have diverse interpretations in the blogosphere, I’m going to be more creative with my tags. I think I’ll use all three tags each time, just to be sure!