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Creativity and the Learning Culture
Martha G. White
The creation of a learning culture and the enhancement of human creativity are two preeminent topics in the world today. Leaders in business and Government worldwide know that the solutions to pressing economic, social and political problems lie not in yesterday’s thinking and behaviour, but in entirely new ways of seeing, perceiving and behaving. Learning and creativity are inseparable components of any successful enterprise. So how do we go about being creative? And how do we find a blueprint with which to build a learning culture – in our business organizations, our political and educational systems – in ourselves? Creativity, clearly, will not flourish in an environment which is not dedicated to change. Learning, therefore, is a critical issue. Before we can begin even to think about building an environment conducive to learning, we need to ask some important questions. Questions such as: What does it mean “to learn”? What is a learner? How does a learner feel, think, behave? What is it that we are seeking to learn? Why are we seeking to learn? We need to ask these questions of ourselves, individually, and of our organizations. Webster’s defines learning as “knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field or fields of scholarly application” or “the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill”. Such definitions of learning may have served us well in the past, but these evolutionary times require new and expanded understanding. We cannot wait for new knowledge to appear in scholarly form so that we can study in a systematic fashion. Learning, now, must mean a greater ability to process and synthesize new information – information that leads, not backwards to data, but forward to understanding and wisdom. The accelerated rate at which change is occurring requires that human beings somehow become capable of handling increasing complexity with a fluidity and appetite for constant discovery instead of a need to categorize and control. A learner, then, understands the paradox that, in order to know, we must suspend what we think we know in honour of what we might learn. Mature learners are able to hold a hypothesis, to explore new territory and entertain new ideas without immediate and constant judgement. Also they are able to feel ambivalent and ambiguous without becoming frightened and angry. They have the intelligence, courage and grace to try something new, to appreciate and build on favourable outcomes and to celebrate the new knowledge generated by what they once referred to as mistakes or failures. All this requires a tremendous adjustment in our ways of thinking, behaving and relating. Now that we have some understanding of what a learner is, the next question we must ask is: What is it that we want to learn? In the past, learning has centred on individual study and research related to specific subject areas. So do we want to learn more about the specifics of running our business, doing our work? If so, then historically what we really have been talking about is training, not creative learning. Job training has been, is now, and will continue to be important, but we must not confuse the two. Training has to do with the “what” of special case phenomena, such as becoming computer-literate or becoming an accountant. Creative learning, however, has to do with the “why” of general case phenomena and learning how to question and how to learn. Why does a chaotic system also contain its own order? Why do people behave as they do? How can one predict change and what that change will entail? Why do we need to learn how to learn? Creative learners, with their expanded vision, have a larger “window” through which they view their work and their world. They know that new knowledge and insight can come from a myriad subject areas and, sometimes, from the most
The Learning Organization, Vol. 1 No. 2, 1994, pp. 4-5 © MCB University Press, 0969-6474
regardless of his or her intelligence. When. our culture becomes truly creative and open to learning will we be able to grow and thrive. Synergy is a hugely creative force. beneficent co-creators of our lives. becomes. sabotage our ability to create lasting solutions to our mutual problems.VOLUME 1 NUMBER 2 1994 surprising sources. can hope to deliver all the kinds of insights. differences have been understood as “the enemy”. the energy generated by the interaction of individuals and groups. are seen as one and the same. we can embark on a journey towards our true nature and identity: powerful. Finally free. Differing and opposing voices within us cause great discomfort. use and incorporate our differences will we be heir to the creative power and synergy we so desire. It is the unification of differences unavailable to individual intelligence. most reliable and useful knowledge and information come from the exceptional clarity. We want to learn because we are here. Therein lies the secret to collaborative intelligence. Once we have become wide-eyed learners aware of the unlimited potential which openness and collaborative learning provide. individually and collaboratively. to learn and to create anew is an innate part of every living thing. appreciate. “what?”. It takes all our personal attributes and cultural agreements and artefacts and produces completely unexpected. multicultural and multilingual and it will take more than good computer technology to communicate with and understand one another effectively. higher-order knowledge. and that synergy. The hardest work of all is at hand. we will fall in love with life and with one another in a new way. understand and value differences. unashamed and unafraid. Pine. Colorado. And this means that not only must we become masters at creating collective intelligence and synergy. The study of creativity inevitably leads to the desire to know and understand human consciousness and the possibilities open to humanity for participation in the evolution of our species and the life of the universe. Our refusal to learn from these incongruities and oppositions. opportunities and outcomes. 5 . This means that within an organization. Historically. actions and answers necessary for participation in today’s rapidly changing world. is one of the most powerful forces available to humankind. They rob us of beneficent new ways of experiencing abundant and joyful life. They find that the greatest learning takes place collaboratively. If we keep asking ourselves why we want to learn. the answer to the question: “What are we seeking to learn?” We seek to learn how to learn. the seedbed from which new ideas and creations are generated. The union of differences is the foundation. energy and wisdom born of collaborative exploration and participation. Creative learners recognize that no one individual. the fastest. then. and our unwillingness to integrate them into our common intelligence. Differences between us cause great impatience. understanding. together and separately. Thanks to an ever-increasingly global culture. businesses and organizations are multinational. and only when. so that our combined intelligence and wisdom will be available for our constant use. Now we are called on to learn. but also we must discover the means to communicate with one another in the simplest and most meaningful ways and to disseminate new knowledge throughout the culture on a continuous basis. USA. education or dedication to learning. Only when we can truly honour. our work and our world. from the essence of our being. learners find that they are forced to ask a much deeper question. Having answered the question. White is President and CEO of The Collaboratory for Business and Social Architecture. something to conquer. in the end. that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Martha G. They want to learn and understand the dynamics of creativity in order to be able to participate in the world in a more meaningful and powerful way. Learning to learn. Learning and creativity always have to do with something new and. we will eventually answer in the most fundamental way. “why?” Why do we want to learn? The answers usually have much more to do with the heart than with the logical mind. because we must learn and grow or we will cease to live in the most complete sense of being alive and never fulfil our true destinies as individuals or as a species. The urge to discover. because it is in the union of differences that true brilliance and creativity are born.
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