Creativity & Innovation At A Glance

Project Based Learning, PBL, PBL Consulting

What is creativity and what is innovation? The terms creativity and innovation are thrown around a lot. Their meaning can feel nebulous at times. What are they exactly? Why do we always hear them paired together? Indeed these two skills are linked in important ways. ​​​​Creativity, as defined by Sir Ken Robinson, requires nothing more than generating ideas. You don’t have to do anything with them. ​​They can live in your head. Innovation, on the other ​​hand, asks us to take our ideas to fruition. Innovation requires that we manifest our ideas into reality. Innovation results in tangible novelty. This is why we so often see creativity and innovation paired as important partners in crime. Creativity is about ideation and innovation is about production. ​​

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Linda Hill dives deeper in her 2014 TED Talk on Managing Collective Creativity. She breaks creativity and innovation into three important skill sets that work together to achieve successful outcomes. They are: (1) Creative Agility, (2) Creative Abrasion and (3) Creative Resolution.

Creativity, as defined by Sir Ken Robinson, is the essence of Creative Agility. On the other hand, think about Creative Resolution as innovation - the tangible production of ideas. Creative Abrasion becomes an important step between Creative Agility and Creative Resolution in which we determine which ideas, conceptually and in development, are worth pursuing and how to do that. Abrasion is also about revising, refining and improving along the way.

Creativity and innovation must be taught, practiced and developed. ​​

Project-Based Learning, Creativity and Innovation, PBL

It is not a question of being good at them or not being good at them, at an inborn level. Creative Agility, Abrasion and Resolution can be unpacked into sets of behaviors that can be explicitly taught, practiced and refined. Furthermore, some of the behaviors require interactions that can be optimized through facilitation of structures and protocols. In addition, the quality of the environment can enable or disable the targeted sets of behaviors. Therefore, creativity and innovation can be both implicitly encouraged by the environment and explicitly taught and practiced with the help of the teacher in the context of schools. Finding the sweet spot for creativity and innovation in schools requires that teachers are modeling behaviors that teach, elicit and facilitate student behaviors, all of which are enabled by learning spaces conducive to creative and innovative work. (For more information on these specific sets of behaviors, see our free resources for assessing creativity and innovation in each of the three domains.

The Creativity & Innovation Ecosystem

Makerspace, Project-Based Learning, PBL


You are not alone in this work. A whole ecosystem has formed around creativity and innovation called The Maker Movement: A growing network of DIYers - inventors, designers, artisans and tinkerers - focused on production over consumption. People and organizations are participating at all levels - from individuals in their garages to self-organizing groups converging together to​​ ​​share spaces, tools and ideas in MakerSpaces that are free to anyone, at libraries and community centers, at paid membership-based facilities and more. ​​There are impromptu Maker communities to large-scale participation in organized Maker Faires. Schools and small communities can and do even host their own mini Maker Faires. Schools have embraced the Maker Movement as well and are transitioning libraries to learning commons and MakerSpaces in which learning can shift from a consumption-focused activity to a production-focused activity.

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The Maker Movement extends into industry where well-established companies, like Google, Pixar and more have created spaces that foster collaboration and flexible creativity and innovation because they recognize that “space transmits culture" (Doorley, 2014) and that “the environment influences human behavior.” If they want to build a culture that fosters creative and innovative mindsets, than they know they must create spaces that promote creative and innovative behaviors. Notably, Google created “Google Garage” to optimize the use of their 20% time structures, in which employees can use 20% of their working hours to pursue projects of their choosing, based on their interests and passions. This structure was the famous inspiration for the Genius Hour movement in K-12 schools. Higher education has embraced the Maker Movement and MakerSpaces as well, with Stanford’s famous dSchool, Harvard’s Innovation Lab and MIT’s Fab Lab.

Hacker Mindset, Maker Movement, PBL

​​The Maker Movement is more about mindsets than about stuff. Maker Mindsets are Hacker Mindsets, in which we attempt to find clever and simple solutions to everyday problems, both big and small. If you’re wondering how all of this will help prepare students of today for their post-secondary lives of tomorrow, don’t worry, it will. The Maker Mindset has increasingly become way of the world in individual’s lives, in communities, in higher education, in entrepreneurship and in industry. Students who adopt this mindset have the potential to become agents of positive change in the world around them. They can become producers in a sea of consumers. And let’s not forget that thinking and working in this way can be fun, fulfilling, connected and often even positively impactful to the ever-changing world around us.

Want to dive deeper? Visit our PBL Consulting Services Page to learn more about our immersive workshops on Creativity and Innovation and Deeper Learning.

Learn more about assessing with our free Creativity and Innovation resources.

Works Cited:

Doorley, Scott & Wittholf, Scott (2011). Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration . : John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Hill, Linda (2014, September 1). How to Manage for Collective Creativity [Video file]. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from TED Talks :

Kroski, Ellyssa (2013, March 12). A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources. Open Education Database, p. 1-2. Retrieved from

Maker Faire. (2004-2016). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from

Robinson, Sir Ken (2010, October 1). Changing Education Paradigms [Video file]. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from TED Talks:

Yang, Yu-Hsiu (2013, September 30). Maker trailer - A documentary on the Maker Movement [Video file]. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from MakerTheMovie:

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