ECM Faculty Focus
Enhancing students' creativity through creative thinking techniques by Winthrop Professor Caroline Baillie
Why enhance creative thinking?
We often hear people asking the question: how can I help my students think more creatively, think up innovative solutions and perhaps even enhance their creative potential? However, we also need to think about why we want them to think creatively. I became interested in creative thinking as a way of helping engineering graduates solve problems for the world in innovative ways. To me, that means finding creative technical solutions to social and environmental problems - global problems, our problems.
However, I am also concerned that we do not increase our effectiveness in destroying our planet or in killing each other with new and clever devices. As Homer-Dixon puts it ‘...the technologies which save us time and labour individually - that empower each of us - bind us collectively into a frenetic, mad race in which we often feel more caged by obligations and demands than before..the people who succeed in this technologically hypercharged environment make up a narrow elite that thrives on constant stimulus...they usually don't think a lot about who they are, about what their ultimate aims are, or about the broader consequences of what they are doing' (Homer-Dixon, 2000, p102).
He suggests that we need more ideas for solving technical and social problems but that societies cannot always supply the ingenuity they need at the right times and places. They face an Ingenuity Gap. In the prologue to his book of the same name Homer-Dixon discusses this gap which widens the ‘already yawning gulfs' of wealth and opportunity within and between our societies. Homer-Dixon warns us of the ‘dangerously self-indulgent and even delusional. Western triumphalism'. In writing this piece and in facilitating workshops which attempt to enhance creative thinking, it is important for me to first state my purpose and encourage others to do so also. Perhaps in taking a moment to reflect on our purpose, we will then be able to question it.
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