The Creative Process


Edward De Bono is a business management consultant whose primary focus is in fostering creativity in businesses and indivduals. To anyone interested in creative thinking (and everyone should be), I would highly recommend both "Lateral Thinking" and "Six Thinking Hats" as seminal works on purposefully creative thinking.

De Bono would appreciate the transformation going on in the Kelley Evening MBA program. In order to foster creativity, one of the techniques that he suggests is to examine a process, but purposefully omit a key part of it. That is, as a thought experiment, he would we look at the educational process and ask, "How could we have college courses without textbooks?" Then you would spend time coming up with alternative ways to accomplish the educational mission without something that is considered central to the current process. This creative pursuit may lead to a better and more creative way of teaching.

While we are not abolishing textbooks, the MBA program has begun a transformation of its core classes by reducing the number of classroom hours in half. A 1.5 credit hour course meets only 4 nights over an 8 week period. As a professor of these courses, I have had to make some major adjustments to how I teach.

For the last six months, I have asked myself, "Why do I teach in this way?" and "Why do students need to be in the same room with me to learn this material?" This self-reflection and analysis has led to an adjustment in every part of the curriculum of my courses. I now rely on videos, podcasts, and exercises to engage my students much more strongly outside of class. While the number of hours we meet has decreased, the content and learning have remained strong.

Creativity doesn't just come from sitting around and trying to think up great ideas. Rather, there is a process, and one technique is to restrict what we already do. By restricting one aspect of my class (the number of times we meet), I have been forced to creatively come up with a different way of teaching.

And it is one that I believe will improve the educational experience of our Kelley Indianapolis MBAs. When all of the faculty have gone through this process, we will have dramatically improved the overall curriculum of one of the top part-time MBA programs in the country.

De Bono would have predicted it.