Creativity Before Innovation

Creativity Before Innovation

I find it interesting that whilst there are several innovation indexes around the world, there is not one Creativity Index.

I suppose that is due to the fact that some feel innovation can be measured, but like many indexes it only measures one part of the innovation equation. Glaringly, without a measurement for creativity - which is a fundamental eco-system for innovation - how can we truly define it?

The answer lies in the fact that all existing innovation indexes are based on technological and business innovations, measured through patents, employment and economic growth.

Creativity meanwhile is intangible, and hardly ever figures in the economic forecasts of businesses and governments, who often relegate it to the arts and culture inbox, because no one can really show how it makes money for a country.

Yet, creativity is at the very heart of innovation.

Let me try and explain this in easy to visualize terms.

The creative eco-system is like the sun; it is the gravitational pull that brings together the all the elements of culture milieu - from an education system where children are taught from an early age to appreciate the arts, music, literature, dance, etc., where the public exposure to creative works is part of the social cohesion in our daily lives - such as in how we build homes, neighbourhoods and protect the environment.

Innovation must go beyond just business and technological innovation to embrace artistic, cultural and public (civic) innovation. True innovation cannot function isolated only in the business and technological sphere. Focusing only on this one area negates what it means to be an innovative nation.

Artistic, cultural and public innovation are an integral part of the whole, feeding off each other as part of a society’s move to have an creative culture that is sustainable and cohesive.

Empowering creativity

Innovation is not the beginning, but rather the outcome of people being empowered to ‘be’ creative. While funding for innovation is on the top of the agenda for most governments and large organizations, the fact of the matter remains that innovation is fostered in small clusters by a small group of people.

They are a minority because they are nonconformist.

They ask a lot of Why Not questions, about a lot of things (often of bureaucrats).

They are highly creative, which means they are more likely than most to break the rules.

These are just some of the fundamental issues at the heart of what it means to nurture a society that is creative, and ultimately innovative.

Funding is only a facilitator, but it’s not the defining value of innovation.

The real ‘currency’ of innovation is ironically embedded in the highly intangible value of ‘creativity’.

Creativity is a state of mind

Creativity is a state of mind

Creativity inspires. Creativity empowers.

It is a state of mind of the highly intelligent, the incredibly curious and the restless idealist.

It is in this state of mind where problems meet innovative solutions, where current scenarios transcend to future possibility, and where dreams turn into reality.

Realistically, is this the scenario that one finds in schools today?

There is no shortcut to innovation, no matter how much money or government focus we put on it.

When we have a culture that prizes conformity over creativity, when children are told there is only one right answer to a question, when IQ is prized over EQ or CQ as the measure of one’s intelligence, we are moving away from - not towards - a culture of creativity and innovation.

Whilst education is always a hot potato subject because of the many stakeholders, I believe that if we want to achieve what we say we want - ie. to be an innovative nation - that it is not the voices of the jostling majority that we must listen to.

There is no pleasing everyone, and there is no one solution that’s going to make everyone happy.

The only solution is one that is future-focused, by the most creative and innovative people in the country. We must focus on what needs to be done, not just the path of least resistance.

All we need to do is to look at the innovative economies like the US, and even closer to home to South Korea and we can see that creating a culture of creativity requires a dramatic shift of education as we know it.

Asian innovation racing forward

Asian innovation racing forward

For the first time since Bloomberg Business Week began its annual Most Innovative Companies ranking in 2005, the majority of corporations in the Top 25 in 2010 were based outside the US.

The magazine says Asia is catching on, with 15 of Top 50 are Asian—up from just five in 2006.

China is wasting no time and has set its sights on exporting its innovations in wind turbines to high-speed bullet trains to the U.S.

The report says 95% of executives in China cited innovation as the key to economic growth, while 90% and 89% of respondents in South America and India, respectively, agreed.

What kind of response would we have if we asked the same question in Malaysia?

Herein lies the dilemma.

How ready are we to have freedom of thought without being told what is right to think…and what’s not?

How ready are we to do what’s best for the country, instead of what’s best for ourselves?

How ready are we to redesign education that embraces both linear and creative intelligence?

The purpose of education of the 20th century is obsolete to the needs of the 21st century.

Blackboards, rote learning, uninspired teachers cannot take us where we need to go.

Creativity doesn’t only belong to the rich economies. Creativity can be found amongst the uneducated and in the poorest parts of the world.

Creativity cannot be measured and there is no index for it, that’s true.

But that is why it’s the most priceless and timeless gift we have.

Everyone has it in them. Instead of suppressing it - as education has done for the longest time - we need to unleash it, and embrace the changes it brings, instead of fearing it.

There is no time left. The more we argue why the time is not right to make crucial changes to the education system, the more we lose out to the other Asian economies that are racing ahead.

The future of our economy…and the future of our dreams as a nation depend on it.

tansri photo

About Tan Sri Lim


Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.

His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.

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