InnCrea methodology is designed for academic staff who would like to boost their students’ creativity but do not know where to start. The InnCrea – Discovering and Developing Creativity Course was designed by a consortium of six academic institutions and companies from Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Italy, and Poland.

The methodology is a guide that will lead a lecturer through the different aspects of creativity, explain how the audit tool works, and give simple recommendations and tools for running a creativity course.

1.1 Conceptual Framework of innCREA Guideline

Aimed at bridging the gap between the training programmes provided by HEIs and the requirements of business, the innCREA project provides a comprehensive programme triangle that addresses each of the main labour market stakeholders: HE students, academic staff, and employers. Strengthening the students’ creativity requires promoting research on current best practices in the field of creativity, promoting the importance of developing those skills among students and providing academic staff with a suitable methodology that will empower them with ways of boosting creative thinking in both academic staff and students involved in their courses. Being a highly-sought demanded skill in the labour market, teaching creativity skills is important for students in different fields of study, which makes the results of the innCREA project important for a wide range of stakeholders who might be interested in the topic of creativity.

The innCREA Guideline shows how to implement new creative techniques when working with HE students. It starts with comprehensive information on the structure of the Audit tool as the main entrance to the innCREA project (chapter 2 of this guide: Creativity Audit Tool), providing a general description of the tool. Following the logical process of actual work on creativity, the second output of the project provides tips for diagnosis and analysis of four different spheres of creativity adopted in the project: individual, team, organisational, and leadership. Fully acknowledging the fact that these spheres are internally connected and merge at different points, the project consortium decided to keep them separated to enhance the training opportunities and the opportunity for targeted work on a certain type of creativity. 

Despite that, boosting creativity in one of the areas inevitably triggers creativity in the others. After going through the Audit tool in one or more areas, the respondents will receive recommendations for completing different creativity exercises in order to boost the soft skills most related to the specific type of creativity. This information should support Higher Education teachers when taking advantage of the crash courses developed under the innCREA project. It should be taken into account that dividing four areas of creativity does not diminish the fact that in real working life they influence one another. For example, there is a high probability that a lack of creativity in team, leadership, or organisational levels will affect a person who is creative on an individual level, or a person with strong leadership creativeness will inevitably influence their organisation, etc.

Logically, the process of bridging the gap between the skills cultivated by HE institutions and the ones required by business includes comparing the current best practices in the business environment, identifying the gaps in the skills and knowledge taught by HE institutions and finding the best ways to bridge them. This could be illustrated by the following graphics: 

For the innCREA project, the first step was to conduct desk research on world best practices and in-depth interviews in all partner countries, which aimed at collecting valuable working models of creativity applied in all the countries involved in the project. This information was carefully analysed and summarised in chapter 3 of the current guide “Our experience – research conducted by project partners”. This practical experience is an especially important part of the transfer of knowledge of working creativity models in actual companies towards HEIs and the process of diminishing the gap between business and HE institutions regarding the creativity skills required. The suggested real-life working practices additionally empower trainers with information that can be used in the form of case-studies and examples at any stage of implementation of the crash courses. 

The next chapter of the Guideline (Practical tips for assessing creativity with the use of the innCREA tools) goes through the actual process of assessing different groups of users of the project outputs including HE staff and students, as well as some business users. There is information on the preparation for the assessment, conducting the assessment, and analysing the results. Especially important is the part on analysis of the results and the ways to develop creativity using the information received. Separate advice is provided to different target groups that could take advantage of the provided 20 best techniques/exercises in the field of creativity with a focus on impact and benefits. Using the advice provided in the Guideline and following the recommendations received after completing the Audit tool, innCREA exercises, selected through desk and field research, can be easily applied in both academic and business environments, and used in the implementation of both individual and group training. 

Based on the experience gained from business, the developed innCREA methodology is universal and can be implemented at universities, companies, and other institutions that require creative work from their employees. Being a major tool in reaching a wider impact of the project, the innCREA methodology is not only targeted at university departments but also SMEs, R&D organisations, vocational training institutes, business associations, and other interested parties. The material is directed at academic staff and lecturers as well as people who do not have overall knowledge of the many-faceted elements of creativity and pioneering as a part of innovation management but who wish or indeed need, to know more about it. Therefore, we also address students or continuing professional development trainees who might use it as “a guide” for creativity and pioneering innovation related subjects. Business consultants might wish to use it as an additional tool to support their clients or to give them a general understanding of creativity and pioneering as a part of innovation management issues.

The innCREA methodology makes the provided creativity and pioneering programs more functional, providing tips for their further implementation and boosting the impact of the project. This methodology has been implemented, tested, and refined by the HEIs involved in the project (WSA, LUISS, VAMK), who fully benefit from this framework to support initiatives to develop students’ creativity in different areas. The tested methodology provides HEIs with a ready-to-use step-by-step methodology for how to implement the innCREA program and suggest real working examples. Thus the methodology itself is fully in line with the overall aim of the innCREA project to link education with business requirements in the field of creativity.

The innCREA methodology is part of the integrated set of knowledge resources and practical tools that contributes to lasting, sustainable engagement between the target groups of the project. It promotes better integration of graduates in the labour market, reducing youth unemployment and shrinking the gap between skills offered and skills needed in the present and future companies.

1.2 About the Project

The overall aim of the innCREA project is to transfer, adapt and develop an integrated training programme package (material and methodologies) for teaching creativity and pioneering in the working place aiming to support European HEIs and local companies to benefit from this knowledge and use it in a practical manner in their everyday activities.

The project is aimed at the following specific target groups:

  • HE Students from partner universities’ faculties/courses with lower levels of employability
  • HE Teachers and other academic staff
  • HE Stakeholders: companies, social economy organizations, local/regional/national authorities, students’ associations/representatives, previous students from the involved HEIs and EU organizations

The overall aim of the innCREA project: to transfer, adapt and implement an integrated training programme package (material and methodologies) for teaching creativity and pioneering in pursuit of innovation in order to develop HE students soft skills and, at the same time, contribute do diminish the gap between skills in demand in the labour market and the skills offered by HE courses.

 Other purposes and objectives of the project:

  • strengthen the entrepreneurial skills of HE students a
  • provide European HEIs with a fully documented training material in creativity and pioneering management,
  • provide HEIs with the necessary tools in order to better develop abilities to identify their obstacles to creativity and pioneering and take necessary actions,
  • increase the competitiveness and the innovation capacity of HEIs 
  •  increase the European business and high education community awareness about creativity and pioneering 
  • increase the adaptability of the business culture in the high education process
  • engage into systematic and permanent dialogue HE institutions, employers and all relevant stakeholders

1.3 Defining Creativity

 Although intuitively creativity seems a simple phenomenon usually defined as making something new, its essence is quite complex. However, setting a clear definition is a crucial starting point that should be made clear to anyone who wants to take full advantage of training materials and resources developed under the project. 

The concept of creativity has been studied in relation to many fields, including art, philosophy, psychology, science, artificial intelligence, etc. The perspective that the innCREA project would like to adopt is one of business. 

Main assumptions of the innCREA project are that:

  • Creativity can and should be taught. 
  • Creativity is a complex skill including a number of sub-skills. Working on these sub-skills can trigger the creative processes.
  • There are four spheres of creativity: individual, team, leadership, and organisational. Developing one of those spheres positively affects the others. Creativity is “contagious”. 

Creativity comes from the Latin term creates, literally “to have grown”, and its equivalents are the English words creator and creative. It is the ability to create new solutions. At the same time, it is a mental process that results in creating new concepts, ideas or new associations. Creativity refers to the activation of new perspectives and the creation of new possibilities. It is the process of developing and presenting innovative ideas to satisfy needs or solve problems. Features of creativity include: 

  • requires the use of imagination (originality and effectiveness),
  • creative action is a purposeful act, directed towards achieving a result,
  • the result of creative activity is an original work,
  • the effect should be valuable in the concept of the objectives set 
  • each individual has access to three components of creativity: knowledge, creative thinking skills and motivation. 

The following definition has been adapted in the development of the innCREA project:

Creativity is the ability to ask how something can be done differently, better, combined with the ability to design widely understood changes. It is the ability of creative thinking, adaptive flexibility resulting in finding creative, original solutions that go beyond the accepted patterns. 

Our current understanding of the concept of creativity, including the understanding that has been adopted in the innCREA project, is a result of a rather long historical development. Although the concept of creativity is an old one, it was discussed in terms of divine grace or as the innate capacity of a genius for a long time. Of course, this excluded any possibility for teaching creativity.

The scientific approach to creativity dates back to the middle of the 20th century and was triggered by rather political events. In the middle of the Cold War as part of the race for sending the first man to the moon, the United States launched a programme aimed at developing a scientific psychological creativity test that would permit the recognition and promotion of creative individuals. This was the first step toward the idea that creativity can be studied and eventually taught. A turning point in this process was the work of Paul Guilford who developed a creativity theory in which he described skills and attitudes that play an important role in creative thinking. That was a crucial point from which creativity was recognised as a thinking ability everybody has, and that can, at least to a certain degree, be improved.

The idea of creativity as a problem-solving ability dates back to the ideas of Alex F. Osborn and his book “Applied Imagination”. An important point in his work was introducing techniques and principles that can be used to improve the creative problem-solving process. From there on, various researchers developed methods and techniques known today as “creativity techniques”. The idea that creativity can be developed by teaching some effective creativity techniques is adopted in the innCREA project. 

Creativity techniques are activities that support the effectiveness of creative thinking, encourage development and support in undertaking creative activities. Creativity techniques include different types of activities (word games, written exercises and different types of improvisation or problem-solving algorithms and others). Among the most well-known and applied creativity techniques described in the literature is Brainstorming.

Creativity techniques are methods that encourage creative actions, regardless of field. They focus on a variety of aspects of creativity, including techniques for idea generation and divergent thinking, methods of reframing problems, changes in the affective environment and so on. They can be used as part of problem solving, artistic expression, or therapy.

Some techniques require groups of two or more people while other techniques can be accomplished alone. These methods include word games, written exercises and different types of improvisation, or algorithms for approaching problems. 

A further development in understanding the interactive character of the phenomenon of creativity, in which it is also assumed that a creative achievement is always reached through an interaction between individual thinking and a socio-cultural context, was developed at the end of the 90s. This theory considers creativity in terms of the interactions of the individual within a system, which recognizes the social factors which affect the creative abilities of the individual. This is also an important point that leads to the idea that creativity should be taught in areas that reflect the whole working environment. In the innCREA project these are respectively the spheres of team, organizational, and leadership creativity. 

Studying the concept of creativity from the perspective of business becomes even more important in the context of the changing requirements for employees. One of the most demanded skills is creativity but this is also the most challenging and vague one in terms of teaching and developing. 

In 2020, the World Economic Forum published the top 10 job skills of tomorrow, justifying the need to reskill and upskill people in the next five years. This is a widely recognized need on the European level. The the World Economic Forum list includes the following 10 skills that will be highly valued in the next few years:

Creativity has been classified as one of the problem-solving skills and combined with “originality” and “initiative”. A closer look, however, as well as everyday practice in a business environment makes clear that creativity cannot be defined just as a problem-solving skill. Moreover, creativity is inherent in some of its aspects in all the other skills that are expected to be highly demanded in the next 5 years according to the Future Jobs Report for 2020 of the World Economic Forum. Whether to update technological knowledge or to develop skills in problem-solving, leadership, or self-management, people need to think creatively. This vagueness and intersections with other skills and abilities make the definition of creativity from the perspective of the business especially complex. However, although having a clear concept of creativity is important, this is not a final objective of the innCREA project. That is why it is more convenient to define creativity as a complex skill including a number of sub-skills that are also important in the working environment. 

The innCREA crash courses have been organised using exactly such a comprehensive list of skills that have to be developed in order to trigger potential in one of four areas of creativity that have been chosen for the project. Each of the exercises/techniques that are included in the crash courses developed under the project is targeted to working on several of these skills. The innCREA list of sub-skills that are important in developing the more complex creativity abilities include the following:

  • Adaptability 
  • Attentiveness
  • Communication
  • Confidence
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Initiative
  • Inventiveness 
  • Leadership
  • Negotiating skills
  • Problem-solving 
  • Resilience
  • Self-discipline
  • Strategic thinking
  • Visualisation 
  • Others

 This list is a result of comparing data of both desk research and analysis from in-depth interviews with representatives of companies based in all the partner countries included in the project. 

Creativity, broadly conceived, is essential to all successful business ventures including developing new products, innovating services, defining markets, promoting, making unconventional deals with providers, partners and lenders, etc. Creativity is becoming increasingly important in the context of new markets demanding innovative products, and the technologies that minimise the need for the human touch in “non-creative” tasks in all professions. Narrowly speaking, there is a growing sector of `creative industries”, which rely on the increasing importance of the creation and exploitation of intellectual property. Regions with higher concentration of “creative people”, such as hi-tech workers, artists, musicians, etc. tend to show a higher level of economic development, which means that creativity is becoming a particularly important factor for the economic well-being of employees, companies, and even countries.

In many cases in the context of examining creativity in organisations, it is useful to explicitly distinguish between “creativity” and “innovation.” In such cases, the term “innovation” is often used to refer to the entire process by which an organisation generates creative new ideas and converts them into novel, useful, and viable commercial products, services, and business practices. “Innovation” is used to explain the organisational aspects of creativity, while the term “creativity” is reserved to apply specifically to the generation of novel ideas by individuals, as a necessary step within the innovation process.