Measuring Creativity And Innovation?

“Our future prosperity depends on the quality of our collective imaginations.” -Eric Ries

In his book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries shares the thought that, “When I meet with most entrepreneurial teams, I ask them a simple question: How do you know that you’re making progress?  Most of them really can’t answer that question.”  For which Ries adds, “It’s not enough to just give it a whirl; you’ve got to give it a whirl with purpose and direction.”

Which is an interesting idea on how startups should operate.  Especially when we tend to think of startups as these shifting, pivoting, freewheeling, innovative, and agile juggernauts.  We have this idea that for an organization to be creative, innovative and agile…measurement and metrics would not only get in the way, but dampen and diminish the energy and flow of the organizational culture and environment.

Which runs contrary to how creativity and innovation actually work…

Creativity and innovation is not something we indulge because it sounds cool, rather it is the process of looking at new and novel ways to add value to the work and lives of those we lead at all levels of our organization.  It is not an event, as much as it is a way of operating, doing and being.

It is about designing a better user experience…from the classroom to the boardroom.

And to do this, we need to determine not only if we are progressing with our work, but that it is providing value we intended to the user.  Whether that value is in something that has been curated or created, the use or implementation of technology or tools, or even the flows,structures, processes and systems we have built up within our organization.  Inability of any of these to add value to the user experience is not only a flaw in the design, but initiates frustration as the innovation is found to be useless, tedious, obtrusive or unnecessary.

And why shouldn’t this design of the user experience be the goal of education?  Why aren’t we looking to design a better learning experience; from the learning spaces we create to the curriculum we curate…value, rather than completion should be the focus of our work.  The creator should always be working from the eye of the user.

But this has not been the traditional way of how we have approached education.  Input in, output out.  We have traditionally spent more time determining a pacing guide than the learning environment and experience where it would be initiated.

Moving away from these traditional approaches will require not only more experimental learning, but delving much more often into trial and error, discovery learning.  Requiring our educational institutions to learn how to become more creative, innovative and agile as organizations.  Especially when shifting and pivoting has not been a necessary or prevalent part of our educational vernacular.

However, it is not enough to transform and evolve our work towards being more creative, innovative and agile, if we are unwilling to take that same trial and error, discovery learning mindset towards the metrics and measurements we use to determine progress, both individually and as organizations.

As our work evolves and transforms, so must our metrics and measurements…

Which means we are going to need to get more creative and innovative on how we set the metrics and measurements if we are going to do the creative and innovative work necessary to prepare our students for a rapidly shifting and changing world.  Innovative work, bound by traditional metrics and measures, leads not only to deepening levels of frustration, but creates misalignment at all levels of the system.

In the end, the goal is not to determine if we can measure the creative and innovative thinking and ideas of our students and educators, but can we determine if growth and learning is actually occurring.  And to tell you the truth, we just don’t need a rubric to tell us if that is or isn’t happening.  If you really want to see if something is working, if value is being added, you have to go to ground level and see for yourself.  Just watching, along with a few minutes of conversation can provide us a plethora of information and real time data.

Remember, we like to repeat the mantra that what get’s measured…is what gets done.  But the funny thing about data, just like the questions we ask, is that if we are measuring the wrong things, if we are asking the wrong questions…don’t be surprised if we don’t end up with or where we expected.

I will leave you with this final Eric Ries quote from The Lean Startup, “Our educational system is not preparing people for the 21st century.  Failure is an essential part of entrepreneurship.  If you work hard, you can get an ‘A’ pretty much guaranteed, but in entrepreneurship, that’s not how it works.”

If we want to prepare our students and educators for this rapidly shifting and turbulent world, then we may need to become not only more creative, innovative and agile as organizations and individuals…but more creative and innovative of the metrics and measurements we determine to chart our path of progress.

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