If you’re reading this, chances are a little higher that you do compared to the general population, but how often to we lament the lack of creativity in our students? Or even worse, how often do they self-label as being “not-creative”? This can be fixed!

I recently came across a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson that spoke about the importance of fostering creativity in our schools and how the history of the education system has increasingly stamped out creative thinking in our students. It made me stop and think. Does our education system, as it is, dampen the creative spirits and imaginations of the 4 and 5 year olds that enter it?

Don Wettrick, a fellow entrepreneurship instructor, spoke on his Podcast, StartEd Up, about a study where students of all ages were asked to identify their strengths. Around 3rd grade, there was a huge shift in students no longer self-identifying themselves as being “creative”.

The culprit isn’t one single factor in most likelihood, but you have to imagine the high value placed on academic achievement and test scores must play a large part. When we look at the most valued subjects in schools, the core subjects are Math, English, and maybe Social Studies or Science. Business education falls into the elective category and can often be a single person department in schools.

One of the biggest barriers to starting a business for many people is “I don’t have any ideas”, or “I don’t have the entrepreneurship gene”. They believe that only certain people can be business owners, or that it is a space reserved for elite inventors who must have a special way of thinking that is inaccessible to the average person. Like the learned-helplessness I find in some of my math students, I get the same responses in my Simple StartUp students.

So how do we overcome this? Hopefully your students have been introduced to the idea of a growth mindset already, but if not, start there. Anyone can learn a new skill or piece of information with varying levels of mastery with enough time and practice. Unless there is a physical limitation to the task, such as asking a 5 foot tall person to dunk a basketball, there shouldn’t be any reason why we can’t all learn how to spot business ideas and start businesses. Creativity is a muscle. It has atrophied from years of neglect at times, but it can be built.

In my classroom, I love to discuss problems with my students and then ask them for ways to solve the problem. We start with personal finance and I love using case studies to get their rusty problem-solving gears turning. We approach different situations as a class, and then eventually pair down to small groups, partners, and eventually as individuals.

Our approach to starting a business is no different. We think about problems in a specific market, such as our school, together. We list as many challenges and difficulties as we can. Then we try to find solutions to as many of the problems as we can. Afterwards, we look for which ones could be business ideas and what those businesses would look like.

From there I introduce our Simple StartUp project. Along the way we will pose problems and challenges faced by the different businesses, and train the class to think about the problem in different ways. Asking students to find multiple solutions or consider different points of view gets their creative muscles flexing. This repetitive training sparks to life their ability to think outside of the instructions and processes that they have relied on for years. I see so much growth in my students and it translates across to their other classes as well I’m sure.

If you are a parent or you don’t have a standalone Entrepreneurship class, how can you get students to work on their creativity? Share some ideas in our Facebook Community and let’s work on our own creative muscles.

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