Steve Jobs said, “The best way to create value in the 21st century is to connect creativity with technology.” As someone who flourished in both realms, Jobs recognized that value is an evolving concept. Its meaning and measure change by time and by context. Value may be subjective, but today, it is certain that the tools from which we derive the most value often have a technological component.
If value is the ultimate goal, creativity is the engine that gets us there. The institutions that excel today are those that integrate imagination and problem solving, exploration and deep expertise. Research confirms the importance of a multidisciplinary thought process. Increasingly, we find that educational technology helps us connect all of these elements. And the solutions that emerge can, in turn, open the doors to creative applications of all stripes, for all levels of learners.
An oft-cited survey by IBM found that CEOs — 1,500 of them, from 60 countries and 33 industries — named creativity as the quality that organizations will need most in a changing, complex market. More than hard work, discipline, vision and even integrity, the CEOs saw creativity as the vital force it will take to adapt and prosper.
Change and complexity have become hallmarks of higher education, and the need for creativity is no less important here than in industry. Data analytics is one example of a tool that marries technology and creativity, allowing colleges to go beyond student retention initiatives to improve financial planning, business operations and even fundraising.
Collaboration tools are another example. Rural colleges are employing them creatively and with great success to ensure faculty and curricula are on par with anything you’d find in an urban setting. The best ideas tend to cross-pollinate: Innovations and insights lead to more applications and better solutions.
Such strategies echo the wisdom of Jobs’s observation. Education in the 21st century demands that institutions deliver a new kind of value. What that means isn’t always clear-cut, and the answer will vary among institutions. But we know that technology will play a major role, and creativity will be the spark that makes it even more powerful.