There has been a lot written lately about the poor job schools are doing in teaching innovation. What they teach is compliance and conformity.Â I agree that school can and should do a better job of teaching student to think and not just mechanically follow a set of rules. However, the unstated assumption of these writersÂ is, conformity to rules inhibits creativity and innovation. That is, conformity to rules is bad and breaking the rules is good.Â I must say I disagree.
Rules can provide a framework to communicate, keep us safe and to create. They provide an understanding of the world around us. The English language has certain rules. These rules allow us to communicate and understand that communication. Understanding rules in this case does not inhibit creativity or innovation it provides a framework to express it. Think of the beautiful poetry or the wonderful storiesÂ you have either hear or read. Without rules of grammar and spelling nothing would have been communicated.Â It is understanding the laws of physics that keep me from stepping off a cliff. Following these rules keep us safe. These same laws of physics that provide us the framework to invent. The rules of etiquette allow us to have a civil discourse. So conformity to rules does not necessarily inhibit creativity. Rather it can make creativity possible.
It is not compliance to rules that inhibit creativity it is the assumption of invalid assumptions. So what is required is critical thinking skills. Thinking and challenging assumptions with the rules of logic is to source of creativity. The choice is not between innovation and compliance. Rather the challenge is to think.