Creativity can be defined on a variety of levels: cognitively, intellectually, socially, economically, spiritually, and from the perspective of different disciplines within the arts, sciences, and humanities. All students in Wisconsin can develop their creative capacities if they have access to rich learning opportunities in environments that nurture and support their creative development.

Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation

“The first step is imagination, the capacity that we all have to see something in the mind’s eye. Creativity is then using that imagination to solve problems—call it applied imagination. Then innovation is putting that creativity into practice as applied creativity.”

    -Sir Ken Robinson, Reading, Writing, and Creativity, Business Week, February 23, 2006,

According to international education expert Sir Ken Robinson, the creative process involves being imaginative, creative and innovative - three distinct but related concepts.
  • See - Imagination, Seeing something in the mind's eye
  • Think - Creativity, Using imagination to solve problems
  • Produce - Innovation, Applying creative ideas and implementing solutions

Similarly, business consultant Linda Naiman defines creativity as "the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality."

"Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing.  Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea.  If you have ideas, but don't act on them, you are imaginative but not creative."

  - Linda Naiman, What is Creativity?

According to these experts, learners who exercise creativity combine imagination, creative thought, and innovation to produce something novel that has value.  The ability to imagine, create, and innovate are key components of what it means to be creative - a quality that is fast becoming a key to future success.

Creative Capacities

 Integrating creativity education into arts, academic, and training programs can help learners develop their creative capacities—the skills and attitudes that contribute to imaginative, creative, and innovative thinking. The creative process often involves identifying a problem, exploring multiple solutions, and accepting the risk of failure as the best solution emerges. A base of disciplinary knowledge enables creative work.


  • Inquire
    •  Pose questions that arise from curiosity.
  • Find, Frame, and Solve Problems
    • Identify, articulate, and solve problems.
  • Integrate Ideas
    • See patterns, find relationships, and make connections among ideas.
  • Think Critically
    • Question, analyze, and synthesize ideas.
  • Reflect
  •             Contemplate and evaluate ideas.
  • Take Action
    • Initiate action and follow through in bringing ideas to fruition.
  • Collaborate
    • Work productively with others to bring ideas to fruition.
  • Communicate
    • Express ideas in a variety of ways using a variety of media.


  •  Curious
  • Risk-taker
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Comfortable with ambiguity
  • Comfortable with more than one right answer
  • Open and responsive to diverse perspectives

Environments that Support Creative Development

Both the “culture” and physical space of a learning environment can support learners’ creative development. Nurturing such learning environments is an important role of learning leaders—the teachers, principals, administrators, and business and cultural leaders of a community. Whether in a school, business, or community organization, creative learning environments often share the following characteristics:

Culture of a Creative Environment

  • The creative environment is welcoming; it is a place where learners feel safe in taking risks.
  • A sense of community and teamwork exists among learners.
  • Curiosity is encouraged and respected as an important first step in learning. 
  • Learning is situated in an authentic context and work is focused on important learning goals.
  • Inquiry and investigation are important components of the learning process, as the outcomes of creative work are often unknown at the beginning of a project.
  • Time is allowed for ideas to incubate.
  • Ideas are challenged.
  • Diverse perspectives are welcomed and explored to deepen and strengthen the creative process and products of creativity.
  • “Mistakes” are viewed as a normal part of the learning process and viewed as opportunities to improve.
  • Project-based learning is common; learners often explore open-ended problems.
  • There is an excitement about learning; learners take ownership of their work. 

The Physical Environment

  • The physical learning environment allows for flexibility so learners can work alone, in small groups, and in larger groups.
  • Creative work is visible, communicating the importance of process and production.
  • The environment itself is stimulating and may serve as a provocation for questions and investigations.
  • Learning often extends beyond the confines of the physical environment.

Creativity is a renewable resource that fuels learners’ ability to navigate the unknown.  Developing creative capacities among learners will improve schools, communities, and workplaces throughout Wisconsin.