Can creativity be taught?

I’ve been teaching special events management for several years now.  I spend a lot of time reviewing concepts like objectives, timing, logistics, sponsorships and networking.  I drill into my students’ heads the five phases of the event leadership process.  I nag over and over about understanding the concept of economic impact.  In the end most students feel as if they’ve learned something about the world of special events.  By the time the course is over they laugh and say, “yeah, yeah we learned the special events world is not about ‘Cigs and Martini’s’ “ and for the most part I’m happy with that response. They get it.  I did my job. Bravo. On to the next group of wide-eyed college students interested in this wildly “fun and sexy” career. By the end of the next eleven week quarter they too find out special events is about ordering portta potties and arguing with the police to shut down a street.  And the cycle repeats.

A few quarters ago I read my course evaluations after a group of students had completed their final exams and grades were posted.  A student (who is anonymous in the evaluations) said that he/she was overall happy with everything they learned in this class but one thing I never taught them was “how to be creative”.  The evaluation went on to say that my course demanded creativity but where in the curriculum was the lesson on how to do that?

It takes a lot to stop me in my tracks.  I stopped.  I guess I just assume that students walk into my course with a certain amount of creativity.  Wasn’t that a given? Why would you sign up for a course in special events without an inkling of creativity? Didn’t everyone have a bit of Mad Men’s, Don Draper, in their blood? I spent a lot of time thinking about this as I prepared for the following quarter’s class.  Should I create a lesson in creativity? Should we review the definition of creativity? Is that creative? I’m creative or at least I think I am.  What if I’m unable to teach creativity because I myself am not creative? These were all the thoughts running through my mind as I starred at a blank computer screen.






After days of thought, the sky opened up and the creative light shown down on me.  I will not teach a section on creativity but instead provide students with ideas on how to inspire creativity.  When I talk to my event colleagues I hear some very familiar concepts.  They read articles about events, they follow other creative people on social media, they associate with fun people who do fun things, they explore new events, plays, concerts, movies and other forms of inspiration.

My official answer on creativity is that it can’t be “taught” but it can be “inspired”.  Yes, I think some people are born with a more creative mind than others but that doesn’t mean that aspiring event planners have to be born with a vision for the newest event layout to be successful.  It means they have to learn to generate inspiration.  Art teachers, English teachers, music teachers, history teachers and language teachers provide the introductory framework.  It’s up to you to live.  It’s up to you to seek out the awesome and inspiring elements in your surroundings and see all of them as possibilities to be inspired.  Read, Volunteer, Work, Design, Explore and Participate in all of the cool and interesting things there are to do in the world and without a doubt, you will be up for a promotion as creative director when Don Draper finally retires!


Leave a comment
  • A person more in touch with him or herself will generate natural creativity. Sometimes the creativity can be awakened if the person reaches into himself and feels it, but that does not mean it can be translated into a creative or meaningful "event" for others.

    You are right: creativity cannot be taught, only known and experienced and sometimes translated to a bigger audience.

  • fb_avatar

    In my experience the best teachers are the ones who inspire. You are more like a librarian of sorts, you show us that section in our brain of creativity and sometimes we realize we have it or not so much as the next person. As Einstein said," Imagination is more important then Knowledge." That's why myself and everyone else that takes you learns and enjoys that class because you go outside the normal routine of education. You do not just teach us to memorize things! Cheers Sir.

Leave a comment