Imagination is the source of all human achievement. (Sir Ken Robinson)

Our society is now, more than ever dependent on our ability to be creative – the process of having original ideas that have value.

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson explains that creativity is the crucial 21st century skill that we will need to solve the challenges that we are facing. He explains:

The challenges we currently face are without precedent. More people live on this planet now than at any other time in history. The world’s population has doubled in the past 30 years. We’re facing an increasing strain on the world’s natural resources. Technology is advancing at a headlong rate of speed. It’s transforming how people work, think, and connect. It’s transforming our cultural values.

If you look at the resulting strains on our political and financial institutions, on health care, on education, there really isn’t a time in history where you could look back and say, “Well, of course, this is the same thing all over again.” It isn’t. This is really new, and we’re going to need every ounce of ingenuity, imagination, and creativity to confront these problems.

Also, we’re living in times of massive unpredictability. The kids who are starting school this September will be retiring—if they ever do—around 2070. Nobody has a clue what the world’s going to look like in five years […]. So creativity is essential to us; it’s essential for our economy. (Sir Ken Robinson, in Azzam, 2009)

Therefore we need creative people – people who are innovative, and who can think differently. Everybody has the ability to be creative, and on a psychological level there is no distinction between the creativity used by artists, and the creativity we all use when we try to create something new within our field (Mikkelsen, 2009).

So what is actually happening, when we are creative? There are four characteristics of the thoughts involved in a creative process:

  1. Being sensitive towards problems (we are aware of things that do not work or fit together and it makes us curious to find out why).
  2. We get lots of ideas, and our ideas are new and not just replications of old ideas.
  3. We are flexible and able to shift between different perspectives.We can view a problem from different angles and branch out into new channels of thought.
  4. We think in a synthesising way – organising ideas into larger,more inclusive patterns and as part of it analyse to see the relevant and interesting aspects (Guilford, 1950).

Innovative organisations need creative employees because creativity provides the raw intellectual materials – ideas, concepts, insights and discovery – that eventually become new theories, approaches, tools, products and services which underlie innovation (Vithayathawornwong et al., 2003; Baumann and Boutellier, 2009; Dul and Ceylan, 2011).



Azzam, A.M., 2009. Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson. Educational Leadership 67(1), 22-26

Baumann, C.E., Boutellier, R., 2009. Physical Activity – The Basis of Learningand Creativity, future/common/download/Paper pdf/ITL59-Baumann.pdf (accessed 07.05.12).

Dul, J., Ceylan, C., 2011. Work environments for employee creativity. Ergonomics 54(1), 12–20.

Mikkelsen, T., 2009. Kreativitetens Psykologi – Hvad du som kreativ bør vide om digselv og din psyke. Nyt Nordisk forlag Arnold Busck A/S, København.

Guilford, J.P., 1950. Creativity. Am. Psychol. 5, 444–454.

Vithayathawornwong, S., Danko, S., Tolbert, P., 2003. The role of the physical envi-ronment in supporting organizational creativity. J. Interior Design 29 (1–2), 1–16.


Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation, and human resources;


Image by Trine Plambech. The image is from Falsled, southwesterly part of Funen, Denmark.

Written by Trine Plambech

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