Fostering Creativity- Collaborate, Criticize, and Communicate

I started working on this post with the intention of including some tech for brainstorming, but the post got pretty long so, check out the 10 minute videos for some tech ideas.  This post focuses on developing an environment that promotes creativity.

Let me begin by saying I am no authority on the subject of creativity.  I am not sure anyone is.  Teaching, playing, and directing music for most of my life, I do have a lot of experience teaching creativity(40+ years, I guess), and a list of methods that have worked for me; however, none of them work in all situations.   The best method is more often an attitude or approach… perseverance… never ever give up trying to be creative, or foster creativity.

But that’s not what this post is about, this post is about a method of creativity development that I have used, (incorrectly, I might add) that may not work and I have always thought it was at least helping. So, to try and promote proper use of this well known and commonly used method, I present the following about brainstorming.

I am working on my a Masters in Ed Tech and recently one of my classes put a web site in the learning objects (their label for extra stuff you need but won’t be tested on) focused on visual learning and knowledge visualization.  I had not heard of knowledge visualization and so out of curiosity, I watched some of the videos (here is the first one I watched) and was very intrigued and inspired by what Dr. Martin Eppler presented. Pointing out that brainstorming does not promote creativity and that this has been proven since 1958 is one of those moments that makes me think…what else have I been using that doesn’t work or foster creativity?  At least now I can reflect on past brainstorming activities with my students that failed or had limited success and understand why the outcomes were not as I expected.

Further research (and more research) into this revelation,  I found that maybe I just need more training or study of the method.  Basically,  there are negative results when the technique is poorly utilized (kind of like standardized test scores used for determining whether a school and the staff are any good).  Back to brainstorming…proper use of the technique can produce or foster creative solutions to problems and teach students collaboration skills.  Knowledge visualization also offers multiple opportunities for fostering creativity.  This is the area that most interested me.

Of particular interest was the notion that the most successful brainstorming/knowledge visualization methods have, at some point, a degree of criticism and discussion.  Transferring this to the classroom, students are not always comfortable sharing ideas, especially if those ideas are scrutinized by their peers, so consequently, most brainstorming sessions incorporate a “no put-downs” rule during the process.  This is a major flaw in my past approach to brainstorming.  Constructive feedback (peer review and criticism) is necessary in order to realize the full potential of brainstorming/knowledge visualization.  Leaders of brainstorming or knowledge visualization must promote an environment that utilizes a system of criticizing ideas.

Dr. Eppler suggests using the following method for communicating criticism or constructive feedback (Sfu creability talk june 15 2015 martin eppler, n.d., slide 19):

  • Positive
  • Potential
  • Concern
  • Overcome

When criticizing, be positive, recognize potential in the idea, state your concern, and (most importantly) provide a solution for overcoming your concern.  For example, ” I like the idea and the/its potential to help; my concern is that it may take too long and cost too much, but maybe we can work together and raise the funds necessary to realize the idea.”  Perhaps further discussion may determine that the idea won’t work, but this method promotes a professional exchange of ideas and could lead to a creative solution that incorporates parts of several ideas offered during the brainstorming or knowledge visualization session.

Brainstorming and knowledge visualization aside, peer-to-peer constructive feedback is often a difficult skill to foster in or teach students.  Perhaps the PPCO method outlined above is the answer.  If not, it is vital that educators never give up on trying to find a method that fosters not only creativity, but also, criticism (constructive feedback) and collaboration.  These are skills that all students need to realize their full potential.


Sfu creability talk june 15 2015 martin eppler. (n.d.). Retrieved from lity-talk-june-15-2015-martin-eppler

While there are those who support the use of brainstorming and those that say the method has too many faults to be useful, I believe the answer lies in knowing how to use the technique and combining it with your judgement as to whether or not a particular situation is the right “fit” for the brainstorming.  Not sure if brainstorming is right for your situation?  In addition to the links above, here are a couple more articles for you to consider.

More on Dr. Martin Eppler and Knowledge Visualization




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