How To Inspire the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers and Innovators

How To Inspire the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers and Innovators

Education March 11, 2014 / By Dr. Stephen Brand & Pim Vossen
How To Inspire the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers and Innovators

Twelve insights for educators and parents about developing creative thinking in children.

What insights would you gain if you asked 13 innovators (architects, artists, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and a media savvy baker) what they would urge educators and parents to do to best develop the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers?

On November 2, 2013, the Creative Education Foundation brought them together at Innovators to Educators to uncover their stories. Here is their advice:

  1.  Realize that Out of School time tends to be more inspiring and powerful to lead to a life of creativity than school time. Innovators tend to take responsibility for their own learning when they are on their own time.
  2.  Create Environments that allow children to explore and experiment - safely. Environments like backyards that look like junkyards and kitchens that are more like cooking innovation labs inspire new ways of investigation.
  3.  Provide unique Experiences that surprise and allow children to see things from new perspectives. It’s museums, shows, traveling around the world, going away to summer camp, going to the next town, selling Girl Scout cookies or even swimming in a pool with the scent of ripe grapes that allow one to imagine a world they know nothing about.
  4.  Refining the skill of Asking Questions is the fuel that ignites innovators. Without an innate sense of curiosity and exploration, students will just give you back what you give to them.  They need to learn that uncovering knowledge is much more interesting, fun and critical than covering what is in a standard or even innovative curriculum.
  5.  Have Adults encourage, support, and listen to children to better evoke a constant sense of wonder. Aunts, uncles, teachers, parents, friends of parents and even siblings who listen and mentor are more valuable than those who provide too much structure and rules that want students to be someone they are not.
  6.  Teach how Telling Stories is a critical skill if one is to have their creations become realized. Whether it’s sharing visually, verbally, in writing or with new technology tools, those who can tell compelling stories that are empathic to their audiences allow their ideas to come alive for others.
  7.  Understand that Emotions are critical to learning and thinking. Learning void of connecting to the human spirit is just gathering information but to truly embrace ideas and concepts more deeply is to gain knowledge.
  8.  Providing career Role Models is a powerful effort to help students understand options for what their life could be like. They can only image what they see and if you only see rock stars and sports heroes, that’s all they will imagine as their future.
  9.  Provide opportunities for Team Work and collaborating with others. How can students learn that for most of us, life is working with others when schools spend so much time having them learn, study and be measured only on their own merits?
  10.  Show how getting Out of One’s Comfort Zone, taking risks, persevering and being energized by failure builds character and stamina which leads to breakthrough ideas.
  11.  Give students a Safety Net and Support when they fail and show them that failure is critical to innovation.  Edison invented many more light bulbs that failed than those that worked.
  12.  Educators and parents need to Listen More Than Talk. Be welcome to not just hearing children, but to ask questions so you can understand and reflect and so they feel that you care and can be a mentor for them and their explorations.  This is something the internet cannot do.

The innovators we spoke to had a zest for life and explored in their own way as children by:

  • Playing with blocks way beyond their recommended age group.
  • Combing through junkyards for toys and projects to engage them.
  • Baking with their father at a very young age by emulating his sense of experimentation and esthetics.
  • Selling Girl Scout cookies as a way to teach perseverance.
  • Coming alive when his later studies allowed him to design something physical and learn rather than to read and not learn.
  • Learning how the author of the Wizard of Oz constantly scanned his world and incorporated elements in this epic story that he picked up like crumbs of inspiration along the way.

Alex Osborn, the founder of the Creative Education Foundation, invented Creative Problem Solving and Brainstorming, by reverse engineering his highly successful creative team at BBDO advertising.  Today, we are reverse engineering the ways that innovators innovate by uncovering their early learning experiences and sharing their insights with educators and parents who are critical to allowing the development of tomorrow’s innovators.

To review individual 18 minute stories, go to:

Article by Dr. Stephen Brand ( & Pim Vossen (

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