Creativity and Innovation in a Real World Context.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. Vince Lombardi

As of yesterday my family is feeling a sense of absolute exhilaration, more than a little exhaustion, and a massive dose of relief. My wife and I have been battling for the past two years to achieve an equitable outcome for a family member of ours who has a disability. I won’t provide too many details, as I haven’t have sought permission from our loved one and don’t intend to. Nonetheless the journey to the triumph may be a useful tale for others about fostering creativity and innovation whether in or out of the classroom. Let’s bounce!

To be reasonably brief, our story revolves around constantly battling a bureaucracy staffed by people who’s job description seems to be based around saying ‘No’ or ‘Computer says no’ in as many ways as possible. To be fair, the majority of these folk work in departments that are hopelessly underfunded and understaffed. If you are case number 322 and they are dealing with case 7, the best they can do is placate you. Unless you have explicit inside knowledge of the system you are going backwards if I’m honest.

The journey to our success depended entirely on having a profound understanding of the bureaucracies we were dealing with and then breaking this down to manageable challenges. We then broke that down further to include the people who could or couldn’t/wouldn’t help us. Further to this we then mapped out how each individual should be spoken to either directly or through email. We had to get creative about the vocabulary we used in certain emails depending on whom it was going to. This was not a makeshift process where we cobbled something together at the last minute. It was based entirely on our previous experience with those involved. We drafted many emails and matched the level of sophistication of language to the recipient. While this sounds over the top, the more knowledge you have about something the more creative you can be.

Phone calls to relevant parties were planned and rarely impromptu. The important documentation was always out our fingertips so that we could be precise about what we were addressing. Some people responded to empty praise, others liked to delve into the jargon, and still others responded only to aggression. Throughout the ordeal it became increasingly apparent that if we gave those involved an innovative way to move forward, they were appreciative.

Throughout the marathon we often heard comments like, “Well, we had never thought of that before!” or “The A .6.002 form is not for that specific purpose but I can see a way to use it with a B.8.993 form to achieve that just like you said.” Most of the people my wife spoke to were surprised and eventually worried about her explicit knowledge in the disability arena. Having worked in this field for the past 12 years fighting for equity for those with a disability, she was able to preempt the standard excuses and point out the creative solutions we were seeking.

I was very aware the privilege this knowledge afforded us. I would describe my wife as the most driven, passionate, innovative and creative person I know. Unless it’s an area where she has little or no knowledge. Then like everyone else her creativity and innovation is effectively stifled until she learns as much as she can. For some odd reason she just isn’t able to transfer this creativity and innovation seamlessly across domains.

I know it’s very popular to have a classroom atmosphere that ‘fosters creativity and innovation’. In my opinion if you value knowledge in your classroom you are going a long way to achieving that aim. You don’t need to teach creativity or innovation as though they are discreet skills. (Hopefully few do.) If there is someone in history that you believe was a creative and innovative influence on our society today, I’d wager it’s a fair bet that person had mountains of knowledge and years of toil behind them.

If you have read this far thank you and well done.

M J @seminyaksunset