International Educator - September/October 2019 - 45

right by. Like Edison, Grazer has learned to
remain open-minded and detached from
personal opinions and assumptions, to be
present, and to expect to be surprised.
At Bay Path University, some of our
best new program ideas have resulted from
Grazer-esque "curiosity conversations."
Several years ago, I spoke with one of
our criminal justice and legal studies
double majors about her plans to enroll
in a cybersecurity master's program at a
university in the region. I asked several
leading questions about her decision to
pursue this career path and eventually
concluded that there was something
to this specialty area. The result of that
conversation? Bay Path University is
now one of the leading institutions in the
country in the education of cybersecurity
professionals at the undergraduate and
graduate levels.

3. Formalize opportunities for
idea creation.
One of my colleagues at another
institution has a standing agenda item
for her weekly deans' meeting labeled
"crazy ideas." Each week, someone is
assigned to share an outlandish idea with
the team, with the only rule being that
there are no bad ideas. Invariably, the
ensuing discussions lead to breakthrough
thinking, and more than a few new
programs have been generated because
of someone's "crazy idea." Alternatively,
someone could be asked to restate a
problem from different perspectives or
turn an issue upside down to consider an
implausible scenario.
The point is that new ideas typically
don't just emerge on their own. And
the higher education environment is
one where it is always easier to consider
why something cannot be done versus
considering what it might take to do
something differently. There are many
tools that can be used to spark creative
thinking and generate new ideas in group
settings, so that the entire group develops
the habit of creative thinking. We must
formalize the use of these tools so that
creative thinking becomes an important
and expected part of ongoing meetings.

4. Connect the dots.

6. Embrace fear and failure.

I used to believe that creativity was all
about coming up with original ideas, but
what I have since learned is that the best
new ideas typically come about because
of connections that someone has made
between existing ideas. What this means
is that anyone can learn how to connect
the dots.
When asked for his definition of
creativity, Steve Jobs offered similar
thoughts: "Creativity is just connecting
things. When you ask creative people how
they did something, they feel a little guilty
because they didn't really do it, they just
saw something."
A fellow provost at a neighboring
institution keeps a large white board in her
office to capture ideas that are generated
at her monthly council meetings. She
structures time each month for team
members to review the sticky notes and
see what connections or patterns they
can find. The result: "Some of their best
ideas have been right in front of them on
the board, but invisible until someone
connected the dots between two or three
sticky notes," she says.

According to psychology professor and
creativity researcher Keith Simonton,
the number of creative breakthroughs
one has is directly linked to the quantity
of effort inputted, as well as a tenacious
and persistent attitude. From his research
on individuals across many occupational
fields, Simonton found that creative
individuals simply generated more ideas-
including many that were dead ends-and
demonstrated extraordinary resilience and
an acceptance of failure as simply a part of
the process.
Being creative is like throwing spaghetti
against a wall and seeing what sticks. It
takes courage as leaders-especially within
academic organizations-to squelch
the urge to search for the right answer
and instead create a culture that values
and encourages prolific and uninhibited
spaghetti throwing.

5. Get out of the office.
For most of us, very few, if any, new
ideas are generated while sitting at our
desks processing paperwork. Those who
exercise regularly can attest to the way
thought processes change when in the
aerobic state of flow. Ideas emerge as if
by magic, and the filters that sometimes
keep good ideas out are relaxed. A friend
of mine likes to hold walking meetings
and claims that the outcomes of these
meetings are invariably more positive
and productive than meetings held in his
office. Given that an increasing body of
research confirms that exercise can in fact
increase creativity, I think my friend is on
to something.
We should develop the habit of getting
out of the office at least once daily, whether
it is to go on a walk or spend time working
from a coffee shop. Scheduling time each
day for those curiosity conversations with
students and others on campus can have
untold potential.

7. Mix it up.
Steve Jobs also suggested that the best
dot-connectors are those who have
had a variety of experiences: "A lot of
people in our industry haven't had very
diverse experiences. So they don't have
enough dots to connect, and they end
up with very linear solutions without
a broad perspective on the problem.
The broader one's understanding of the
human experience, the better design we
will have."
International educators may have
an edge on seeing issues from other
perspectives due to time spent engaging
with people from diverse cultures. The
same mix-it-up concept applies when
bringing the outside into everyday work
processes and experiences. Research
demonstrates that better, more creative
solutions emerge from diverse groups of
individuals-so the more we diversify our
faculty and staff, the better our odds are for
fostering cultures where creative thinking
is likely to emerge. n
MELISSA MORRISS-OLSON, PHD, is provost
at Bay Path University in Longmeadow,
Massachusetts. This article is adapted
from a blog post originally published for
Academic Impressions at bit.ly/2Mtr0bf.
S E P T + O C T.2019 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR

45


http://www.bit.ly/2Mtr0bf

International Educator - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - September/October 2019

From the Desk of
In Brief
Global Spotlight: Chile
Quick Questions
Feature: Countering the Forces of Change
Feature: Raising the Bar
Feature: Branching Out
Education Abroad
International Student Affairs
International Enrollment Management
International Education Leadership
Forum
Take 5
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Cover1
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Cover2
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 1
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 2
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 3
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 4
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 5
International Educator - September/October 2019 - From the Desk of
International Educator - September/October 2019 - In Brief
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 8
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 9
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 10
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Global Spotlight: Chile
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Quick Questions
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 13
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 14
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 15
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Feature: Countering the Forces of Change
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 17
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 18
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 19
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 20
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 21
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 22
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 23
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Feature: Raising the Bar
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 25
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 26
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 27
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 28
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 29
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Feature: Branching Out
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 31
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 32
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 33
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 34
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 35
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 36
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 37
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Education Abroad
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 39
International Educator - September/October 2019 - International Student Affairs
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 41
International Educator - September/October 2019 - International Enrollment Management
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 43
International Educator - September/October 2019 - International Education Leadership
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 45
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Forum
International Educator - September/October 2019 - 47
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Take 5
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Cover3
International Educator - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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