Unmasking Creativity and Innovation: 3 Things I Learned in the DECSC25 Course

Today, we live in a world where new products, services, and processes are rapidly emerging which we can attribute to creativity and innovation. As a concept that has made such a big impact on society, this can be an intimidating matter that we often detach ourselves to and have so much ambiguity about. However, throughout the course, I have discovered what it truly means to be creative and how it differs from what it is normally painted out to be. Here are the three things I learned about creativity and innovation:

1. Creativity was never about waiting for inspiration, but unlocking hidden doors for oneself

Oftentimes, creativity is defined as being able to have that “AHA!” moment at any given point in time. People also think that it is purely about artistic expression and being unique. This leads most of us into thinking that the key to creativity is either having that natural “talent” or sitting and reflecting long enough; this is something I believed as well. However, being in this class, I realized that this is not the case at all. In fact, creativity is not merely about coming up with something exciting, but about being able to find problems or inconsistencies in the human experience and present something valuable to others through which we can address these concerns and make life better.

Hence, this is something that can be learned and developed which involves an active process that is grounded on the art of seeking, rather than reacting. It entails a way of thinking that does not simply deal with what is in front, not even about just being aware, but requires consciously searching for infomation around you and voluntarily viewing the world in different perspectives. It is being curious, inquisitive, and attentive of situations, and finally making connections with these findings to create a picture of the larger whole which can help you ideate a solution. We have to acknowledge that an idea will never come to us by waiting. While inspiration is indeed helpful, it is also fleeting and something we cannot count on. Instead, we can invest our time into widening our knowledge and taking action immediately.

Creativity is about opening an opportunity for ourselves when it is as if there are none. We often try to make the most of what we have to see what good can come out of it, but most of the time, what we truly need is not in front of us. This is where creativity comes in to allow us perceive things that other people normally don’t. We all entered here being the same; it is the way we interact and experience the world that can make all the difference and make us stand out amongst others. There is always something for us to uncover, and it is creativity that will allow us to spot this and turn it into something great.

2) It’s okay to be lost when trying to be creative.

Although creativity needs a certain way of viewing the world, it is not as easy as focusing and following a specific process to arrive at an idea at the very end of the session. In reality, the creative process is extremely obscure, confusing, and can seem very misleading like it’s taking you nowhere — all the more when it comes to finding a problem to solve. With this, there is always the issue of not knowing how or where to start and what to do next, but realistically speaking, there isn’t any definite starting point at all. We simply need to start where we are and to take small steps from there. We need to let the information we know bake in our heads as we continue to gather more and more of these in different ways, may it be through observation, research, or other strategies. Now, these details don’t have to be right; they don’t have to make sense; and they don’t have to mean anything at all. In fact, during the beginning phase, most of the things we discover seem useless.

However, this is all part of the process because as we continue to experience and learn, we will, sooner or later, realize how these all tie in together; and, these often come in ways we don’t expect it to. It is also important to know that what works for others might not work for us. We all have our own ways of thinking, learning, and growing which is why it may take us a little longer to navigate our way into this complex world and find the design thinking techniques that best fit our working style; but throughout this journey, we must always stay open and patient — holding out a little longer, continuing to build on ideas and refine them. It is about experimenting with different things and avoiding being selective of information wherein we immediately deem “out-of-place” details as irrelevant. Instead, we must accept everything as building blocks to useful insights, and by taking note of these seemingly trivial things, in time, we will be able to create something out of the chaos — out of “nothing” — which is what creativity is rooted in.

3) Creativity is not everything in the real world; balance is always key.

There has always been a debate about which is better: the basic but useful or the interesting but impractical; the relevant but costly or the menial but cost-efficient. However, in creativity, the answer is none as it involves a balance of all these good qualities which would undoubtedly reach a point where we must sacrifice the one we feel is worth compromising for based on the situation. As we first start generating solutions and other insights, it can be tempting to go all out with our ideas and come up with something so unique and grand that it has no one has ever done before. However, one thing that we should always consider is being realistic.

We must keep in mind that creativity without the practicality, feasibility, and efficiency is futile because without being able to put this into action, a creative idea will simply stay as an idea — as an art piece for people to simply look from afar. Although we must ensure that this stands out and that it is relevant, we must never rely on novelty and meaningfulness itself. These certainly act as the starting points but to truly optimize this, we must be able to bring this to life where this can be attained and experienced by real people facing real problems. This is when balance strikes in to allow this to succeed in the worldly context which is what differentiates creativity from innovation (i.e. innovation transforms creativity into something that can work).

Thus, innovation all boils down to finding that sweet spot that will allow you to operate in the everyday life. There is no secret formula to this, but we can start by pondering on what we are doing, for whom we are doing it for, and how we can do this. This involves deep understanding, experimentation, taking uncalculated risks, and figuring how to adjust each factor in the best way possible. However, just as anything is it will never be perfect. There will always be pros and cons no matter what, unless we are creating a fantasy; but, after all, making something revolutionary is not about achieving the ultimate dream, but being able to make a great impact, maximizing the overall benefits as much as possible while minimizing the bad.

To add to the discussion, below is a mind map of my favorite class topics:

With these said, creativity and innovation can be scary and overwhelming, but these are the three things I hope we can all take with us in our creative journey. It is not easy, but it can lead to so much greatness and help us the change the world in our own ways while harnessing our true potential if we just have the right mindset and work ethic.

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