IMAGINATION FOR INNOVATION

Written by JEANNENE S. for Who’s Teaching the Babies?®

My husband and I thoroughly enjoy that we have a little boy who, more times than not, thinks outside of any box we could imagine. He quickly turns a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” into “Crab Claw, Underwater Sea Goggles, and Lava,” without blinking an eye. While we enjoy this quality about him, and the most amazing, creative imagination he has, it can be difficult in traditional or structured environments to have him stay within bounds. While we highly value the importance of having him learn self-control, learn traditional skills, and function cohesively in a group; we also recognize the importance of giving opportunities for that creativity to have an expression and to grow—even if it’s outside the box. We know the benefits these opportunities will reap in his future—especially the opportunity to be the personal expression that our God has created him to be.

Analysts have discovered that we are moving from the Information Age into the Innovative Age as a society. What does this mean for our young people, their educational environments, and even for the Church? There are several implications, but to start, it means that society is recognizing the importance of imagination and creativity—however not in the traditional sense we are used to. In many schools across our nation, we offer educational opportunities to be exposed to the arts. However, for those that do not seem to have as much of an aptitude for certain arts, they eventually give up interest in these areas resolving that they simply just weren’t “artistic” or “creative.” They do this not realizing that creativity is actually a much broader term, encompassing any ability to use the imagination to think of new ideas.[1] It is actually one of the synonyms for the word, “innovation,” which means “the introduction of something new…a new idea, method, or device.”[2]

What analysts are finding with the shift into this Innovation Age, is that we are having to expand our methods of teaching and opportunities to make room for the new age and the new generations. The technological advances around us that are growing exponentially have vastly changed the way we think and live. There are no longer the limitations of the Information Age. Solutions to problems are more complex and more varied than a simple A, B, or C right answer. We now have limitless options based on a number of variables due to the technology at our fingertips. Where the Information Age may have streamlined processes or thought in order to kick-start opportunities, we are now realizing the importance for more than one way to solve any given problem. Limiting solutions to one right answer without leaving room for discovery can hinder creativity—or the creation of new ideas—as this ability actually grows with use and is not limited to simply genetics.

So, what does this mean for the church that has its responsibility in influencing society? There are many examples throughout the Bible of people who—with the use of their God-given imaginations—created solutions, recreated what they saw in heaven, shared revelation, spoke in parables, or built new structures, to name a few examples. It seems from the very first Biblical accounts, God gave and even encouraged His people to use their imaginations instead of just giving them an answer. It was personal, and their unique expressions of new ideas glorified Him. Sometimes this freedom of choice had good results; sometimes it didn’t. Ultimately, God gave us our imaginations to create, to discern, and to provide solutions just like our Creator, and we can use those imaginations for good or for evil.

And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts…” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Through the process we begin to change the way we think, not just the information we know. We grow and transform as we seek Him allowing our thoughts and ways to align with His, and we become empowered to offer unique solutions to meet needs outside of ourselves.

The beauty is that there is room for experimentation, unique expressions, growth through empowerment, and even mistakes; when our hearts are aligned to the way our Good God thinks. God designed it that way and gave us the choice, and now our society is embracing the possibilities more than ever. Since we, the church, are carriers of God’s blessings to the world, it is our responsibility to train the up and coming generations how to create solutions with God…

What are some ways you can encourage your children to offer creative solutions to the needs around them? If their ideas seem unrealistic with the means you have available, what materials or options do you have that they can start with to explore and grow their innovative abilities?

To find out more about implementing innovative learning to prepare your children or students to influence their society creatively, check out Sharon Sakai-Miller’s book, Innovation Age Learning: Empowering Students by Empowering Teachers. She is currently the Director of Technology Integration Services at the San Lorenzo Unified School District near Oakland, CA.

[1] “Creativity,” Merriam-Webster, last accessed on January 30, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/creativity.

[2] “Innovation,” Merriam-Webster, last accessed on January 30, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovation.

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