Are some people naturally more creative than others? In the digital economy, creativity and inventiveness can make all the difference. Europe can no longer compete with developing economies in terms of manufacturing and labour costs, but it can still innovate and try to stay ahead of the curve. In order to stay innovative, however, European industries need skilled workers with the right creative spark to turn their crazy dreams into reality. But can that creative spark be taught?

Schools teach young people the rules of society… but rules and creativity don’t always mix. The danger is that formal education institutionalises students, keeping them from thinking “outside the box”. Can clever teachers work around that? How can we encourage our education systems to place a greater emphasis on creativity and innovation?

Want to know more about innovation in Europe’s classrooms? We’ve put together some of the facts and figures into an infographic below (click for a bigger version).


We had a comment sent in from Inyange arguing that if children are taught to use technology at a young age, it will be easier for them to innovate when they are older. But can innovation really be taught, or are some people just naturally more innovative than others? To get a response, we spoke to Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost, Head of the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of Arts and Germany’s Digital Champion:

prof_joost_mI think it’s a mixture. On the one hand, some basic skills can be taught, such as thinking differently and having the courage to be innovative and think beyond the boundaries. But the second thing is that you need a specific environment encourage innovation, and this cannot be taught. You need role models, you need free and open spaces where you can meet people and engage with technology and innovation.

So, you need lessons, teaching, and role models on the one hand, and on the other you need open spaces, environments, and tech labs where you meet people and play around with technology.

For another reaction, we also spoke to Catherine Stihler, a British Labour MEP and e-Skills for Jobs Ambassador. What did she have to say?

CatherinStihlerWhy is it that Silicon Valley became this tech hub in the United States? I think it’s worth considering how important Stanford University was; Google, Hewlett Packard, Yahoo, Cisco, all of them came out of Stanford. It’s interesting that both Google and Facebook talk about their “campuses” to create that atmosphere of innovation, thought, and knowledge. It’s also interesting how important higher education is in that mix…

If we want European citizens to be able to reach their full potential in the knowledge economy and digital space, they need skills. You can use an iPhone, but that doesn’t mean you can code. We need to take the skills agenda much more seriously, including coding and digital literacy…

Can innovation be taught in a classroom? Are some people just born more inventive than others? Or can students learn to be innovative and creative? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – US Department of Education
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60 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    David Bisset

    We need to carefully define what we mean by “teaching creativity”. I don’t think it can be promoted by standardized means in standardized environments. We are all potentially creative – it is a way of operating involving childlike, playful engagement with something with which we are fully emotionally engaged. It is, therefore, highly personal and heavily geared to personal preferences, routines , habits and intelligence profiles.Teaching theories of creativity along with tips and tools is one thing. Provoking creativity is something entirely different.

  2. avatar
    Veronika Fričová (Inercia Digital)

    I think innovation can be taught, if you will give a nice opportunity to young pupils to learn new knowledge within the modern technology (PC, tablets…), you would see how easily they can work with it, how creative they are.
    The young people are the best group to be teach, and for it, they need good teachers, but nowadays you cannot find so easily experienced teachers in ICT, for it, are really good courses or trainings from the specialized organisations.
    So, for me the most important first step is to have qualified teachers, who can help young students to boost their creativity.

    • avatar
      Jenny Sendova

      Precisely! As Polya reminds us often: “The good teacher is like a midwife of ideas”…

  3. avatar

    It should be taught !!!
    and all aspects including imagination, alternative thinking and problem solving

  4. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    It can be taught. It is being taught. But not just with theory but with open mindsets and creativity. Is it “released” as opposed to “taught”? I think that is more a matter of semantics.

  5. avatar
    Bosiljko Đerek

    Innovation should not be taught as something special. It is always there. Children are creative / innovative, and schools need to do so as not to suffocate the inborn creativity and innovation

  6. avatar
    Zuzana Meszarosova

    Yes, a quality and strong STEM education supports students´creativity and develops innovation.

  7. avatar
    Mihai Agape

    I think that the creativity can be developed, each children could learn how to be more innovative, and the school has to be the most important place where this is happening. The children are very creative and natural inventors. Why? Maybe because they like to try new things and they are not afraid to fail as it happen to adults. But how to maintain and develop the creativity once they grow up? The school has to help students to reveal their creativity potential. That’s seems to be hard because the school is often accused that it destroys the children creativity. Probably is partially true, but in the same time, there a lot of teachers who stimulate their students’ creativity during their classes. Because the creativity was considered so important there were proposals (decades ago) to introduce Creativity as compulsory subject. This was not possible because there are too many subjects which compete to become compulsory one. But there are schools where the Creativity is taught as optional subject. I think that each teacher has to contribute to develop their students’ creativity during their classes, no matter the subject.
    In order to be the author of the next big invention it is not enough to be very creative. You also need a stimulating environment, you need to hard work, and maybe a little luck.

  8. avatar
    Paul X

    No, creativity is a natural talent.
    You can teach someone music but you cannot teach them how to compose brilliant original tunes. You can teach someone art but you cannot teach them how to paint stunning original pictures. You can teach people about engineering but that does not make them an inventor.
    Teaching can give the tools to be creative, but if there is no natural talent, then nothing will come of it
    Lets face it, If it could be taught, then the world would be flooded with creative geniuses

  9. avatar
    Miene Mathon

    Take a look at : Cie Egg’s Echo
    And comme to see us in Paris or Chaillol in France …

  10. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Let’s remain & concentrate on “political innovations”. Not educational nor dynamic ones in manufacturing & business etc). Who benefited most from all political EU innovation? The innovators, their backers or its voters & citizen? Draw up a scorecard & check! If political evolutionary innovations fail- revolutionary ones may/will replace them. They cannot be taught- but happen.

    The original vision of the EU concept required some political ingenuity! Vision can not be taught either. Some ingenious people have created the EU & the DE- as one of its tools- with enough innovative apparatchiks to grow this idea of an irreversible EU & never ending “innovative process”.

    Clearly, member’s sovereignty has become a hindrance towards this “genius” effort and perceived regressive innovation by the “EU political innovators”. By now, nearly all competences have been taken-given away, except a limited one in the area of education & defense. Its “innovative hands” to gain full control are everywhere.

    What values and for whom- with a cost of 56,000 people- who work for the EU (its admin costs of ~€9bn) have been created? To utilize comparative advantages and relocate to China instead eastern Europe or buy out or relocate poor farmers in Europe or Africa with capital & industrial farming methods is only progress for a few corporations & banks. To look & pay for all the fleeing or impoverished migrants & refugees from all over- are the consequences & the “voters rewards”.

    Who has the “ingenuity” to rescue Europe from the present dictated but failing political innovation process- rearing its head on ALL FRONTS?

  11. avatar
    Doan Cloud Kansrijk

    Teaching or education is a tool. Innovating sparking creativity is something that happens along the way. Challenges we faces we can face together or alone. The focus is the learn how to cooperate better. The solution can be found in any problem. It is in our genetic code. We are all differently wired. That is the most beautiful gift of life and we will find a way how to share our talents and passions. 💡💭 ™4©

  12. avatar
    Yordan Vasilev

    Yes, we can. We should teach pupils in the classrooms to express their individuality and teachers should work with each pupil. We should have new programs in the universities, which satisfy the individuality of the each student. And not at the last place, we should research the psychology of the creative thinking.

  13. avatar
    Nada Stojicevic

    It can be learned if we placed our students, constantly, in situations that activate creativity.
    For those who are natural talents, it will be easier.

  14. avatar
    Rui Correia

    You could start “innovating” by putting an end to the Schengen agreement, and restoring border controls all over Europe, for our own security, as Europeans… but arrogance and excessive pride prevents the European Comission from doing the right thing and respecting the European people’s voice :-(

  15. avatar
    Pietro Moroni

    If innovation was innate, the best policy would be combined marriage and genetical engineering.

    Of course it is learnt, duh!

  16. avatar
    Pietro Moroni

    If innovation was innate, the best policy would be combined marriage and genetical engineering.

    Of course it is learnt, duh!

  17. avatar
    Caetano Moreira

    We borne with something in mind, the school give as there’s concepts, the experience of live is important, the necessity of live make the finish.

  18. avatar
    Patrizia Baffioni

    Yes, it is possible to teach people to think in a more creative and innovative way, and design thinking is an example. Unfortunately the traditional education is far from doing this in schools, where students are asked to work more on subjects they are bad at and teachers don’t care about pushing them further in what they stand out. They are asked to exercise their left brain (rational), while leaving the right brain (creative) neglected.
    On a different note, I was wondering why the article is focusing on technological innovation only. According to Scott Berkun ( “Innovation is significant positive change”
    And teaching people to create positive change, that’s a whole other story

  19. avatar
    Tsetsa Hristova

    Innovation can be used for teaching both in the classroom and online training. I think many students can be motivated to use them, and even create their products. Of course, teachers need to be motivated and trained to use them. Very often, the students themselves suggest the use of various applications, which shows that they are interested in new innovations. I think we very carefully should combine both the old training methods and new innovative methods. Should not lightly be abandoned experience. There are many virtual laboratories and remote laboratories, which are free and it is unfortunate that very little is known about their capabilities. Moreover, we must not forget that all resources in the project Scientix are also free and can request to be translated.
    Very usefull details can be seen in online discussions of best practices in project Scientix. As an example I give the link to one of these discussions: Open source software and creative commons allowing derivatives resources in educationtuk: http: //

  20. avatar
    Hermann Morgenbesser

    I think innovativ teachers will use innovative tools for their lessons, they do not reflect on that usually. Students too bring in a lot of ideas and experiences into theirs lessons – if innovation will be trained , this guarantees that the next generation will be innovative too

  21. avatar
    Michael Mercieca

    I think that innovation comes about when there is a need to alleviate one’s life for the better. I also think that innovation cannot be taught as a topic set aside by itself but all students must be given the right atmosphere that promotes innovative thinking.
    This can be done by getting students to think on situations by predicting what will happen in certain circumstances, testing their ideas by experimenting and offer solutions (innovations) based on their studies.
    Teachers and educational institutions should move away from memorising facts to using the facts available to come out with novel solutions to the problems at hand.

  22. avatar
    Zuzana Meszarosova

    Definitely, the innovation can be taught, the question is: „How can schools teach students to be more innovative?“ In my opinion, one of the ways is to offer hands-on classes and not to penalize failure. To succeed in the 21st-century economy, students must learn to analyze and solve problems, collaborate, persevere, take calculated risks and learn from failure.

  23. avatar
    Tullia Urschitz

    I think it’s not about teaching innovation, but about learning to be innovative!
    Teachers can help students to become innovativ growing curiosity and asking them to work on questions, thinking out of the box, cultivating curiosity.
    It’s about giving youngster a code and asking them to create a project!

    • avatar
      Cornelia Melcu

      I strongly agree with you, Tullia. We cannot teach innovation but we have to encourage our students to find new solutions, to discover new paths and ways to knowledge, even to learn from failure. I strongly believe the teachers role nowadays is to open minds and giving wings for the future to the new generation. We do not know everything, but we know how to light the candle, Cornelia

  24. avatar
    Biruta Pjalkovska

    My first thought – YES! But it (so called teaching) should start very early, in family, to play with kid, to read, to work with colors … and so on. Later at school it is possible to go on, but we – teachers need to have special approach. Not to ask all children do the same things at the same time in the same way (however sometimes in public school there is no choice). So here is my second thought – it seems almost impossible to teach innovation in regular school. But things are changing, we are changing curriculum, we are changing materials for lessons.
    I have to agree with some colleagues above – special methods, special activities (and not only in STEM subjects) could bring the good result – innovative and creative kids.
    P.S. I have a boo by Edward de Bono “How to have creative ideas” and it is full of training methods which could be used.

  25. avatar
    Irina Vasilescu

    In my opinion, there is a difference between teaching creativity and developing it. Being taught comes from outside while developing, training your own creativity comes from within. So, judging from my own experience, creativity cannot be taught, but students can develop, train their own creativity and teachers’ roles would be to facilitate this development through the way they teach, the tasks and the tools they present students with and especially through the class environment and their own behaviour and example.

  26. avatar
    Biruta Pjalkovska

    I am still convinced – we can teach creativity! My opinion is based on what I have read about this topic during many years. The only thing – teaching methods should be very, very special. And … before teachers should be taught in creative way (not only bu reading in libraries and writing reports :)). Of course, so far many teachers (at least in Latvia) think that creativity should be inside and we are able only to develop it, but it is not true.

  27. avatar
    Paul X

    Creativity cannot be taught end of…..the most creative people on the planet have been those who have come up with ideas outside the accepted standard i.e what is NOT taught in the classroom…that is innovation, not just applying what someone else has told you but coming up with a completely new approach in how to use it…

    …..and if that can be taught then whoever is qualified to teach it wouldn’t be sat in classrooms earning a pittance, they would be a multi-millionaire living off the royalties from their innovations

  28. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    Debating Europe

    Do you mean ‘Europe’ or the EU ?

    Europe is not the EU and the EU is not Europe.

  29. avatar
    Chris Alexander Zervas

    If European Leaders especially German Leaders, decide to adopt the real Principles of Democracy ONLY THEN EUROPE HAS A UNIQUE CHANCE TO RECOVER…

  30. avatar
    Dominique Couturier

    L’idée d’innovation n’est pas neutre, et comporte une part d’idéologie. Il faudrait que je retrouve cette émission de FRANCE CULTURE qui en parlait récemment.

  31. avatar
    Rolando Knaap

    Be careful in thinking innovation can be planned, controlled. To some extend it emerges in some ocasions, a lot depends on context. Is there capital available for small entrepeneurs with creative ideas? Is there a mixed team that has the room to make mistakes?

  32. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Absolutely yes! But just like any other skill, some people are better at it than others.

  33. avatar

    Absolutely yes! But just any other skill, some people are better at it than others.

  34. avatar
    Matheus Mansour El Batti

    I think not even that. The world already has USA and some countries in the far east a long way ahead with technology than these social innovations in Europe.

  35. avatar
    Marco Franck

    Yes EU can and should lookout for the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.
    They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you cant do is ignore them.
    Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we s – See more at:

  36. avatar
    Oli Lau

    An administration teaching innovation? Lol. The real issue in europe are precisly these states trying to do everything. you end up doing nothing good. Focus on your core “business”, security, justice. Don’t mess with the rest.

  37. avatar
    Chris Paulidis

    When you provide a fixed box living to your people you can not expect out of the box thinking & creativity at its best. In addition the head that can not get advantage of the enormous euro asset must go home ASAP.

  38. avatar
    Enric Mestres Girbal

    The only thing Europe can compete is in idioticy…or maybe, with 50 milion immigrants, manufacturing may be as cheap as in Bangla Desh.

  39. avatar
    Pirvulescu Florin

    I disagree, if EU is not good enough for companies to manufacture their goods here maybe we aren`t good enough for them to sell their goods here.

    It`s not just a question of production costs, it`s a question of SOCIAL costs as well and the impact it has on EU`s population.

    For EU to keep buying goods and all kinds of services it has to generate wealth, from manufacturing included.
    Even with all the technology we have today, manufacturing can employ a sizeable part of the population.

    By employing within EU, the local employees have money for everything they want, from buying a car to a vacation to buying a house.All of those means money spent INSIDE EU.
    It translates into a bigger purchasing power for an important part of the population.

    At the individual level the general population might buy the Chinese good who is 50% cheaper rather than the one made in EU but the money goes to the owners of the factory and the Chinese workers, not the European ones.
    This is a very important aspect to take into consideration by the state.

  40. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    «Europe can no longer compete with developing economies in terms of manufacturing and labour costs, (…)» RUBBISH. Developed economies are «more productive» and «more efficient» than developing economies: that why they’re developed in the first place. Germany is more efficient than Tanzania. Tanzânia can’t compete with Germany, not the other way around.

  41. avatar
    Toni Soto

    I think that innovation attitudes can be fosterr from Schools. I’m not talking about teaching to be creative or innovative but to facilitate conditions to this can happen. Allocate time in our subjects to invite students to think about how to solve real life problems or improving their daily lives.

    In addition to this it’s also important to facilitate tools to play and try because innovation comes very often after a iterative cycle of trials and errors

    How to deal with failures and learn from them is something that teachers can help (teach) so much.

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