Out of Our Minds


Monday 14 March 2011

Sir Ken Robinson

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative

The Imagination Gallery, London

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Looking out over the rooftops of Bloomsbury and beyond, The Imagination Gallery is aptly named to host Sir Ken Robinson, one of the world’s leading thinkers on innovation and creativity. This exclusive event marked the release of the revised edition of Robinson’s first major book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.

Why was it necessary to update the first edition? Well, as Robinson highlighted to the London Business Forum (LBF), an awful lot has changed over the past 10 years but still many governments and organisations don’t have effective creativity strategies in place. The latest edition is a comprehensive revision of the original – a greater commitment to what Robinson had initially anticipated would be “a weekend with a spell check and bottle of Bordeaux.”

“We are living in times of revolution,” Robinson explained. His words having particular resonance in March 2011, with the outbreak of unrest and protest in the Middle East and North Africa the idea of revolution is no longer “just a figurative idea.” The rate of cultural, economic and technological change gives Robinson reason to believe that the challenges facing humanity now are unique and there is an urgent need to transform our thinking to cope with our increasingly complex world.

Creativity, he believes is vital in this re-think. It is, after all, creativity that allows us to “challenge some of the assumptions we take for granted.” Yet, in Robinson’s opinion, we are educating creativity out of young imaginations. Education systems, he argued, are still firmly rooted in the past. The old industrialised economies, such as the UK, have failed to design curriculums that are more compatible with modern society. Instead, stuck in an out dated “industrial mindset,” they continue to educate for efficiency and conformity.

Businesses too are guilty of looking backwards. Robinson argued that healthy companies, like plants, are those that “live in synergy with their environment.” What businesses need now are people who are flexible and adaptable to change. The remarkable thing about Out of Our Minds is the way in which Robinson stresses the interdependent relationship between business and the world’s education systems. They are he told the LBF “intertwined.” Both educators and employers have a responsibility to nurture creativity and imagination.

How then, asked Robinson, “do you create a culture where creativity and innovation are reliable, routine and systematic?” We must, of course, start with people as it is people who have ideas. “The role of a creative leader is to create a culture in which everybody has ideas,” suggested Robinson. Diversity is subsequently vital to idea generation in organisations; a successful leader is able to form creative groups from the right people, for the right length of time and set them to the right task.

Ten years on from the first edition of Out of Our Minds, it is clear that there is still much that needs to be done by companies and schools to release the talent in people. There is a sense of urgency in Robinson’s message; now more than ever, the re-think he champions is needed as the world changes before our eyes.

It is clear that Robinson’s message has deep resonance - “We love you!” shouted one audience member. He concluded with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “All humanity is divided into three classes: those who are immovable, those who are movable, and those who move!” Robinson urged that those “who move” do it now to “shape the future that we’ll all want to live in.”