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Creativity Precedes Innovation: The Rhythm of Creativity and Innovation

Over the past few days I’ve received several emails offering to “help” Winebrenner Seminary in light of the Coronavirus (for Winebrenner’s response to COVID-19 click here).  These emails are from organizations that I’ve never heard of and who likely purchased my email address with no prior knowledge of our seminary.  While I fully appreciate the adage “don’t let a crisis go to waste,” I find these emails overly opportunistic and tasteless.  Attempting to exploit a serious and life-threatening crisis doesn’t jive with our organizational culture. Each email offers some innovative approach to online education, student success, or managing crises. My criticism of the marketing approach taken by these organizations is that they are so focused on innovation that they have lost the heart of the creativity that provides inspiration.

The premise of this short blog series is that specific innovations emerge out of times of creative thinking.

While the rush to innovate can hinder the holistic expression of creativity, the reverse is true as well. We can linger so long in our creative phase that no innovation emerges. Our creativity is challenged to morph into innovation or we risk spending all of our time talking and dreaming and never actually doing anything. There is a time for dreaming, and perhaps it is true that the more chaotic the circumstances the more dreaming and discussing that should occur.

Expanding upon this distinction between creativity and innovation, I believe that creativity is the energy and thinking that occurs during times of real or perceived crisis or chaos. Creativity is the idea while the innovation is the actual step taken. Creativity emerges out of relational play and conversation while the innovation is how we operationalize, or implement, that creativity.

We are designed by God to be in relationship. We are designed by a creative Creator to be creative (follow all that?).  What was lacking in the emails I received is any effort at creativity because it lacked an effort at building a relationship.  They were merely trying to get me to buy something cloaked by an effort to “help.”

So, in this rhythm of creativity and innovation here are some things we have been thinking about at Winebrenner Seminary:

Creativity:
We’ve been thinking for several years about the relationship between theological higher education and the local church.

Innovation:
Highlighting Collaboration: Kingwood Church of God & the Allegheny Region Foundation
A Denominational Community of Learners

Creativity:
We’ve been thinking about international education and ways to carry out our mission more broadly

Innovation:
Highlighting Collaboration: Voice of the Gospel Ministry, Kenya
Winebrenner Seminary Equipping Servants in Haiti

Creativity:
We’ve been thinking about the cost of education.

Innovation:
Affordability

Creativity:
We’ve been thinking about the role of a physical building structure in present day theological higher education.

Innovation:
Winebrenner Theological Seminary and University of Findlay Announce New Partnership

Creativity:
We’ve been thinking about serving those who are often overlooked in God’s kingdom.

Innovation:
Men of Marion Embrace Change

The consistent pattern that has emerged for us at Winebrenner is that creativity precedes innovation. And, each of these innovations has emerged from conversations about creativity that involves others; nothing is done in isolation or void of relational sensitivity. This may not be the case for everyone, but it’s serving us well.

What are you thinking creatively about?

Dr. Brent Sleasman, President

Image by Alex Wong, accessed via Adobe Spark