Ted Hunt was formerly responsible for all the digital stuff at innocent drinks. He now provides helpfulness via this is helpful and helps out at Good For Nothing and The Peoples Supermarket amongst other things.
If you want an inspiring definition of creativity just spend 20 minutes with Ken Robinson's now legendary Ted talk. I went to a subsequent TedxLondon event which picked up on Ken's thoughts and looked to take them a stage further. One speaker, Ewan McIntosh, summed up the problems we're facing in adapting our educational systems to a new generation as the need for a shift from encouraging students to be mere 'problem solvers’, to become ‘problem finders'.
If you think about your own education, or if you know any teachers, you'll know that the usual formula we follow is for teachers to prepare lesson plans outside of school and then deliver them within a set lesson in the school day. The teacher finds, frames and presents a problem for the students to solve, and then they are marked on how well they solve it. Ewan argued that this fundamentally limits a student’s potential and sets a precedent for the future; that they always need to be brought problems in order to use their creativity. What if we gave students the opportunity to find problems along with solving them?
As with most things the answer is probably best demonstrated through example rather than theory. One of Ewan's many educational projects saw him work with a group of seven-to-nine year olds to produce their very own Tedx event, TedxKidsSland. The children where given the opportunity to talk about anything meaningful to them. So on May 27th 2011 in a lecture hall in Sunderland, 60 7, 8 and 9 year-olds explored topics such as the secret language of animals, why slugs have slime and what family means. They took a step closer to becoming our future generation of problem finders.
So what does this story this have to do with sustainable difference in our industry? Well, we're pretty much an industry full of inherent problem solvers as well. Clients come to us with their problems (the brief) and we use our creativity to solve those problems. But what if we made the same shift to become more problem finding focused? Could we kick-start a new revolution in designing and engineering our way out of the environmental problems we're in (have a listen to Eden Project Founder Tim Smit talking a lot of sense on this topic?
In my own opinion the most interesting and inspiring examples of creative problem finding are currently coming from the developing world. They have less resource, education and financial backing than us but they're kicking our ass at grass-roots problem finding and solving, because they need to. Here’s just few examples to illustrate this;
- Pretty much all the work featured in the 'Design With The Other 90 Percent: Cities' exhibition that is installed in the visitors lobby at the United Nations
- The innovation that Jonathan Dimbleby came across in his trip to find positivity in Africa
- The Dabbawallas business in Mumbai
- The inhabitants of Lagos's landfill sites finding their way out of poverty
None of these approaches will ever come to us through traditional creative briefs, we'll have to go out and find them. So maybe the best solution to a sustainable difference in creativity is to just start thinking of ourselves as problem finders, as well as solvers?