Cracking the Creativity Code

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity recently. As I prepare for a forthcoming job interview, in which I will need to support the promotion of ‘creativity in education’ or demonstrate the importance of ‘creative skills in the workplace’, I began researching a little deeper into what this meant. Lo and behold, the World Economic Forum have listed ‘Creativity’ as a top 3 skill in 2020:



The Forum’s 2016 report The Future of Jobs noted that the core skills of the 21st century – such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and digital literacy – are important for enabling people to be flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of the job market. These skills are ideally developed early, in basic education, and then refined at colleges and universities as well as during lifelong learning . . .  and a subsequent Forum report, The Future of Jobs and Skills in the Middle East and North Africa: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, flagged a current deficiency of skills in the region including creativity and independent thinking. Creative risk-taking and experimentation can aid confidence; increasing students’ capacity for creative thinking is essential to prepare them to take on careers that do not yet exist, and to tackle problems not yet identified.

But what is the definition of creativity? Schools and employers claim to value creativity all the time, but do they really know what it means?  Is it just being good at art or music?  How does that translate to being good at business later on in life? And how do educators squeeze creativity in alongside the demand for the basics of the curriculum, as well as embracing digital technology?  Well, I don’t believe it’s just about offering drama as an extra-curricular activity, and neither is it about letting kids having free rein (read: chaos) in the classroom.


Way back in 1999, the AfEE report called ‘All our futures: Creativity, culture and education’, (DfEE, 1999) broke creativity down into four characteristics:

  1. thinking or behaving imaginatively
  2. this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective
  3. these processes must generate something original
  4. the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.


As I read in a blog recently (Gabora, 2017), the world didn’t come into existence already carved up into different subject areas.  So, why should writing and performing a poem about cells be fine for students to do in a drama class but not necessarily acceptable in a biology class?  School students make posters all the time (yawn) but do they devise drama about the effects of an ageing population? Or how different religions view good vs evil?

Just look again at those TOP TEN SKILLS they could practise during the creative process:


(For Service Orientation, insert Audience Awareness)

All this in a safe, flexible environment, where it’s okay to make mistakes and offer different perspectives.  Everything is on the table. No-one sits at a desk, hiding their work.  Ideas get challenged.  They are given time to develop and grow.  Outcomes are not always clear at the beginning of a project, but that’s okay.  Suggestions which are rejected initially sometimes find new life further down the line. Students find ways to identify and articulate problems – and solve them!  They find it easier to tease out patterns, forge relationships and see connections between things. They collaborate, learning how to negotiate and fit with the team.



I could go on . . .  but this is what theatre students do all the time (just saying).




us35-cover_316x395.jpgTo finish, here’s an example from 1946 which I wrote about in a resource I produced for ZigZag Education.  It was a show called Uranium 235written in response to the Smyth Report, the official account on the development of nuclear weapons, published days after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   Joan
Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop (best known for O! What a Lovely War!) developed a production designed to tap into the  growing national anxiety around the discovery of atomic energy.  They first had to learn everything they could about atomic energy – not the most entertaining of topics! Nevertheless, the fast-paced, episodic production, a montage of seemingly incompatible theatrical techniques, including verse, song and dance, slapstick comedy, planting actors in the audience and narration, was a success.

Point made?!



References: 2010. Towards a Definition of Creativity. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 May 2018].

Gameplan A by Adidas. 2018. The Gameplan A Guide to Creativity. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 May 2018]. mindmap


McKinnon, J., 2011. Creative Copying?: The Pedagogy of Adaptation. Canadian Theatre Review, 11, 147-155.

Paolo Gallo. 2018. 4 mega-trends for the future of work. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 May 2018].

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