This week I am fortunate to be part of an 11-member delegation from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) attending the Creativity World Forum (#cwf2010) in Oklahoma City. The story of why we are here and the journey thus far is an interesting one. You can read a bit about that journey and the Lead the Way campaign here. At the heart of the Lead the Way project is the understanding that all individuals within our organization has creative and unique capacities and ideas that need to be recognized, valued and tapped into. By encouraging individuals and groups to explore and expand those creative capacities, we create a culture of engagement where people feel valued and engaged in ongoing learning. The benefits to the organization are myriad and, although Lead the Way is now in its’ fifth year, we are really only at the beginning stages of realizing the potential for this approach.
What about Student Achievement?
As a public school board, the OCDSB is committed first and foremost to supporting student achievement across the District. This is precisely the driving force behind the Lead the Way project. As witnessed by the unanticipated interest — registration for the CWF is double what it was anticipated to be — people from across the globe and in a variety of industries are recognizing the critical role that creative and innovative thinking plays and will continue to play in this century. Last spring, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto explored the necessity of adopting an artistic mind-set for business leaders today, as well as the importance of developing that mind-set in leaders of tomorrow. In the opening article, Rotman Dean Roger Martin discusses the role of an ‘artistic alternative’ in response to today’s complex world:
Effectively dealing with the challenges of the modern world — rather than with the narrow sub-segments of them — demands artistic capacity. Without the explicit development of qualititative thought, sophisticated mental operations like judgement in the face of uncertainty, coping with ambiguity, balancing consequences, and responding effectively to surprise will remain ellusive. No matter what we do for a living, we need to go beyond using our knowledge as a recipe and aim higher than crunching quantitative data to produce single point answers. (Rotman Magazine, Spring 2010, p. 7)
The point is simple. In a complex world, the approach Martin coins as the ‘artistic alternative’ enables individuals to tap into their own perhaps previously undervalued capacities to understand, process and respond using a fuller set of senses. The creative response is critical in the complex world. If we, as an educational organization, are meant to support student achievement, we must cultivate the learning environment that will foster the artistic mind-set.
Not a top-down strategy
Rather than seeing this as an urgent call for another top-down initiative, our project has been, and must continue to be, somewhat grassroots in its approach. Instead of developing a creativity policy and an accompanying set of procedures, Lead the Way is constantly looking for avenues through which all individuals in our District — parents, teachers, educational assistants, custodians, principals, community partners, etc… — can tap into their own creative capacities. Through recognizing current practices that model the creative approach, we hope that creative and innovative thinking will spread throughout the District, like a spark that catches and sets the whole place ablaze. If individuals and groups across the District engage in creative approaches to the every day, our learning environments will be enriched and will provide the inspiration and motivation to keep the momentum going. Students will benefit from seeing the adults with whom they work engaged in risk-taking through the use of innovative and unique approaches to learning.
Now, good morning, Oklahoma! If I were Wayne Coyne, where would I be …