How to Inspire Creativity and Lifelong Learning for Everyone

June 9, 2015 — 14 Comments


I was chatting with my colleague Suzanne recently and she told me about a friend of hers.

Adam is a creative soul. He’s well-read, plays music, cooks elaborate meals, and is highly engaged in arts and culture. He’s an engineer by training, and has worked in senior roles in multiple companies, but he’s frustrated that he hasn’t been able to find the space to be creative at work.

In his late 40s, Adam was musing about going back to get another Master’s degree. But with two kids on their way to college, the idea does not seem feasible financially.

I’ve met a lot of people like Adam who are craving new challenges and new ways of thinking and working. They’re lifelong learners, and they’re interested in amplifying their craft — whether they’re doctors, engineers, designers, researchers, filmmakers, architects. These are motivated leaders who want to stay nimble and sharp, and are finding ways to do it despite their busy schedules.

For this group, there are a number of different offerings. They can take business and design courses at places like General Assembly, or get retraining in technical programs like Udacity’s Nanodegrees. Khan Academy is great for anyone to learn just about anything – from art history to computer science to finance. And for a hit of inspiration, millions of people go to TED Talks.

Traditional higher education is also finding a way to stay relevant to lifelong learners, with online schools like HBX CORe and Stanford’s NovoEd.

Some of the most intriguing opportunities are coming from private sector businesses. For example, the New York Times has announced it will provide communications classes with CIG Education Group. The Economist is also sharing its trove of knowledge through online courses.

With LinkedIn acquiring, we will likely start seeing closer alignment between people learning new skills and companies finding relevant talent.

This is just the beginning. As the breadth and variety of online learning keeps growing, we are exploring this as well, with the launch of IDEO U. We understand that learning has to accommodate people’s lives in a realistic context. We still have much to learn about how best to deliver learning experiences about creativity in an online environment. No doubt there will be more innovation to come in this arena, but we hope many people like Adam will benefit from learning how to unlock their creative potential and sharpen their problem-solving skills.

What are some ways we can create learning experience that fit into people’s lives and serve deep desires, such as being more creative?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Tim Brown


14 responses to How to Inspire Creativity and Lifelong Learning for Everyone

  1. has been a good resource for me, with free online classes offered from universities and companies.

  2. Dear Tim Brown,

    My name is Jessica Min, and I am writing to you on behalf of the sixth annual Harvard College Igniting Innovation Summit on Social Entrepreneurship, which will be held on November 7th, 2015 at Harvard University. The Summit, the largest undergraduate-run conference on social entrepreneurship in the nation, strives to empower young student leaders by uniting them through a passion for positive impact and growth.

    It would be our pleasure to invite you to serve as a speaker on the Design Thinking In The Modern Age. We were particularly inspired by your work at IDEO, the leading company of social innovation, as well as IDEO’s important role in shaping Harvard’s iLab. We seek to promote innovative ideas within the student community, the Boston area and beyond, and believe that your extensive experience in the area would be perfectly suited to speaking at the Summit to inspire future change-makers to make their ideas into reality.

    Thank you for your consideration, and we sincerely hope you can join us!


    Jessica Min
    Finance Chair
    The Igniting Innovation Summit on Social Entrepreneurship

  3. A good article can inspire learning and communicate

  4. Jack Jackalope July 20, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Genius, creativity, innovation, design, brilliance, etc. are normal aspects of everyday thinking. Everyone without a severe intellectual deficit is pretty much equally capable, given the chance. Taking the chances away is the job of formal education, to prepare mindlessness, a requirement of employment.

    That gal or guy who has found a way to fit into your lower-than-you and dumber-than-you expectation, is putting on an act. On their own time, you would be surprised at what they can come up with when they think. It is like slavery was, because it is the same thing.

    There are two worlds we live in. One is all about money. The other is reality.

    In the money world, society is organized by force, same as always. Some things never do change. Private property is a claim that must be defended through threat and use of force. You can compete and own things, or you can cooperate and share things. Our money world is in the compete and own things mode. In this word, society is organized to do exactly what it does the best. It channels wealth from broad sources into just a very few private bank accounts. The economy, and the world of money, is better now for that purpose than at any time in recorded history. To fit in, like if you were born on Earth and have not yet died, you have a place in the society that is ordered for money purposes. There are a certain number of spots you can fit into that allow you to be thinking creatively at work. The rest of the spots don’t allow for it, and you will be punished for it if you think creatively. You will be fired, demoted, cast out, left to starve.

    In the world of reality, which means where you are other than at work or school, your mind is free to think anything you want. Just keep it to yourself if sharing what you think would put your job at risk. You can create, innovate, learn, discover, and all of that great stuff the schools say they want, but crush, and that companies claim to encourage but actually punish. In the world of reality a mind can think without having to first ask for permission, and will not be punished for thinking well.

    When I see a fad like “design thinking”, I remember watching as my fellow students in school were punished for thinking intelligently. I saw their gradual indoctrination into the intellectual prohibitions of the money world, as they were taught to fit in, to prepare for employment. Those students were my friends. Outside of school, everyone was equally smart. In school, most gave in to the futility that is preparation for employment. Then as adults with jobs, settled into the Big Lie, which is easiest done by believing it. Everyone else believes it…safely, obediently. The Big Lie is reinforced and reaffirmed daily. In fact, maintaining that belief system is the bulk of the work done by people at work.

    Then, let’s all be creative innovators! Let’s all think outside our boxes!

    Ummm, why?

    Because, we have to do even more to channel that wealth into those few bank accounts, for the people who own the companies where we work, the stores we buy from, and the land we live on.
    Or. let’s not all be creative innovators, giving away million dollar ideas for free. Let’s not think outside of our box, which is a box designed to think only inside of it. Let’s let someone else stand up to get shot down.

    Here is a creative idea:

    As long as billions of people do work, to meet the needs of billions of people, how about we organize our societies to promote reality, instead of making a few people rich? How about we always think the same as we do when we are not at work trying to avoid losing our jobs? How about we don’t work at jobs where we can be fired? What if we went back to being friends, and let the Big Lie die off, and we moved on beyond serving as wage slaves on the world’s money plantations?

    Or maybe that is too creative an idea. Maybe the call for design thinking just wants something like, how to make it cheaper to set a dozen eggs into a carton on a conveyor belt, or gaining market share for a cell phone carrier.

    Box dwellers who worship box creators and shop at big box stores, daring to have playful ideas at work. It will ruin work. Nobody will take work seriously if it gets fun to do.

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  6. Thank you Tim and everyone for the great resources! This post definitely addresses my situation. I am in business but would be really happy to have a career in design strategy. I’ve been using for free through my local library. It’s such a great resource. I would also recommend finding meetup in your area, they are perfect for networking and learning new things through info session. After everything I think my dilemma is learning and practicing design strategy while working a full time job. I am a member of OpenIdeo, are there any good bootcamp, in-person projects anyone would recommend? Thank you in advance!

  7. Siyun, I am also in the same boat with a career in project management but hoping to move to design strategy. I have been looking at a few coding bootcamps and have found Bloc, which is online, to be pretty solid. Check it out and let me know what you think.


  8. Love this post! Just FYI: Kahn Academy is mispelled and the link is wrong.

  9. Love this post!

  10. I’m interested in design thinking subject so much that I will write my master thesis related to design thinking. Also because I’m a web designer I want to learn the ways how the design thinking can be used in web design processes.

    If you have seen an article (doesn’t need to be academic) where these two subject are used together please point me to it!

  11. Great Post. Innovative and thought provoking, thanks…

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  14. I think a key could be to help people learn how to take the great resources or videos found online at TED (or for a collection more innovation focused) and make their own courses out of them. Which videos can they find and sequence together to help them learn and gain the specific innovation knowledge or competencies they would like to develop? Who could they form a team or partnership with to go through the learning journey together? How might they reflect on what they are learning in a unique way (journal, mindmap, or some new app)? How might they design a project or activities to go alongside with the videos they are watching or articles they are reading to help them put the insights into practice in real way in their lives. Unlike a Coursera or EDx which brings them the course and activities…it would be a great skill to develop to take resources and make your own “Coursera-like” course out of it that you designed yourself for your own unique purpose!


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