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					lllCreativity in Action!

Using Creativity in Developing the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Learning in Action! A Cross-disciplinary Problem-Based Learning Environment for Entrepreneurship

Test Version 1.0 (A Work in Progress)

R. Wilburn Clouse, PhD Vanderbilt University

Storyline by Jan Wilson

Creativity is a neglected area of corporate operations. While many of you will agree that creativity is important, you probably cannot identify how or why it happens. Additionally, few of you could speak to how to harness and nurture creativity within your respective firms. But imagine what the world would be like if creativity were either lacking or not championed. Look around your desks, for example, and identify at least 3 technological advances that you couldn’t live without. How would your working life change if you had no telephone, no calculator, no Post-It notes? A hallmark of man’s ability to harness and master his universe is his use of creativity. From hunters and gatherers to the most proficient technology advances, man has used creativity to surmount challenges and improve products and processes. In this exercise, we are going to be presented with a case study that will help us delve into creativity topics so that you might understand them in the abstract and apply them to your real-world situations. We will discuss and explore the creative process through the lens of one creative undertaking by a single mom named Jan. We will debunk various myths surrounding the creative process and outline principles that will help you recognize and unleash your own innate creativity. Read the following case. There are some resources cited and some guiding questions to help you through the case. Lastly, there are some assignments for you to complete. We will debrief the case study as a class and go through the assignments as a group.

The Case
Jan had just returned home from working her shift job at a local factory. She was dead tired from a 12 hour shift. The supervisor had chewed her out for being late that morning. It was nearly 6 p.m. and she had to race to make it across town to pick up her children before the daycare started charging an arm and a leg! At daycare, her 4 year old was whiny and petulant. Her toddler was trying to come down with a cold. Both kids were vying for Mom’s attention as she loaded them in the car and headed for home. When she got in, she changed clothes with a toddler hanging onto her leg. Both kids were complaining that they were hungry, and even Sesame Street could not hold their interest. She just needed about 45 minutes to pull something together for supper. A quick overview of the cupboard suggested that tonight would be another “boxed” night. Jan worried that the kids were eating too much processed food, but exhaustion and the children’s insistence won out over preparing a more elaborate meal.


While Jan was fixing dinner, she began to turn over her situation in her head. “What I need”, she thought,” is my oven to double as a refrigerator! That way, I could put in a roast and vegetables or a casserole in the morning before I got the children out of bed!” She dismissed the thought as quickly as it came to her and chided herself for thinking that she could dream up a solution, since, obviously, no one else had. “They pay people to think up these things,” she thought. “It must not be doable, or someone else would already have done it!” She continued to make dinner, but the idea just wouldn’t go away. Later that night, she revisited her idea. “I don’t know why you couldn’t make a stove blow cold air, just as easily as you could hot”, she reasoned. “And it would have a timer to turn the oven on – they already have that,” she thought. “And why is it such a far-fetched thought? If I need it, I guarantee you there are other moms out there that would feel the same way…” Jan had a friend that worked at a local manufacturing company. They didn’t do ovens, but Jan felt that her friend could help her either dismiss this idea or set her on the right path to someone who could help her figure out its feasibility. She picked up the phone the next morning and said, “Hi. I have this idea…..”

Guiding Questions
1. What were Jan’s “external” drivers that prompted her to dream up the fridge/oven? 2. Why would Jan feel initially that she could not come up with a viable idea? 3. Look at the section in the case where Jan fleshes out her idea later in the evening. Is her reasoning sound? 4. Most ideas end as just that – nice ideas that never get acted upon. What did Jan do that took her idea to the next level?

References - great web site for exploring your own native creativity – what it is, how to leverage it - more concerned with creativity in a work environment

3 Robinson, A. and Stern, S. Corporate Creativity, Berrett Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 1997. Chapters One through Three.

1. Break into small groups and discuss this case. 2. Each person should identify 5 barriers to your own personal creativity. These can be either internal or external. Once you have shared your ideas, have the group narrow the list to 5 ideas and list them on the tear sheets at the front of the room. Be prepared to explain your reasoning. 3. Next, consider creativity in the workplace. How important is creativity? List barriers that you have encountered against creativity in the workplace specifically. Share and post 5 workplace creativity busters. Do they differ or are they the same as your personal list? 4. Explore why you think all these barriers exist. List one or more possible reasons for the barriers. We’ll discuss this as a group. 5. Once you have identified the barriers, spend some time thinking about what organizations can do to tear down or minimize the barriers you have identified. List 3 “solutions” to the barriers we listed in Number 4.

Creativity Theories Used in This Case Study
I feel very strongly that the personal aspects of creativity are the first building blocks of understanding corporate creativity management, and these are the characteristics I explore in this case study. Before people can hope to understand and effectively manage corporate creativity, they must identify and understand their own. Most of the theory is taken exclusively from the first few chapters of the Robinson and Stern book, particularly Chapter Three. I hope to elicit conversation surrounding intelligence and creativity (p.40) and shedding inhibitions and taking risks (p.47). I also would discuss the pros and cons of “incentivizing” creativity and the intrinsic creative drive. Lastly, I would hope to begin to drive the dialogue toward the six elements of corporate creativity to prepare them for the second module in the series, how to manage and nurture corporate creativity.


To this end, I would draw a parallel between Jan’s self-initiated activity, the serendipity of her having a friend that she finally shared her ideas with, and her ability to finally take the idea out of her head and act on it. The first web site citation is an excellent one for exploring personal creativity (in fact, I noticed you used some of them in class!). Debunking the “somebody else can do that – not me” myth is extremely important in a student’s creativity development. Additionally, good facilitation skills while managing the group interaction will be crucial during the discussion to minimize negative feedback the students might give to one another. Hopefully, the freedom of the exchange of ideas will be a teaching aspect of the module.

Teacher’s Instruction to Case
We will begin our investigation into creativity in two modules. This first module will explore personal and workplace creativity – what it is and isn’t and ways to identify barriers and solutions. During the second module, we will delve more deeply into the managerial implications of the creative process, and for this reason, do not spend too much time on this during the first module. Adequate time must be given to identifying creativity and its blockers before the students can make the leap to managerial constraints.

Robinson, A. and Stern, S. Corporate Creativity, Berrett Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 1997. Chapters One through Three.


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