Fireside Chat:  Nurturing Creative Confidence

I’ve had the joy of meeting so many bright-eyed, big thinkers in our learning community, true superstars in their respective fields of education and entrepreneurship.  Dr. Karen Bartuch is one of those rising stars, rocking her own career at the intersection of entrepreneurship and academia while inspiring and empowering the next generation. She teaches in the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University, directs the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at North Central College, and just co-launched the first Startup Grind chapter in the Chicago suburbs.

Exploring Creativity as a core skill for students

I jumped at the chance to collaborate with Karen as I explore students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) and soft skill development through innovative, experiential high school entrepreneurship curriculum. After connecting for coffee and geeking out over potential research ideas, I discovered that in addition to our shared love of improv comedy and humor in general, Bartuch is also an expert on creativity and creative self-confidence, in particular. My curiosity was sparked, so I invited Bartuch to a virtual fireside chat on creative self-confidence to learn more.

  • Ashley Blackburn (AB): How did you come to research creative self-confidence?
    • Dr. Karen Bartuch (KB): I got interested in studying innovation because of the vastly different cultures I experienced while working at Motorola Solutions and PwC. Motorola was very innovative and collaborative while PwC was driven by metrics and rules which isn't great for innovation. So I really wanted to understand what drove innovation from an individual perspective.

  • AB: What have you discovered so far?
    • KB: Creative self-efficacy (aka creative self-confidence) is a big driver of our innovation behavior - which makes sense - the more confident we are in our creative ability the more ideas we will generate and showcase our creative efforts. I also found that women rate themselves lower on their creative self-efficacy so that is something I am looking into more to understand better why that happens.

  • AB: Why is creativity such a critical skill for high school graduates to have before entering college or the workforce?
    • KB: The World Economic Forum lists creativity as the number three desired skill in business by 2023 preceded only by critical thinking and problem solving. And given the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, it will be even more important.

  • AB: How would you design a course differently if the goal is to encourage creative self-confidence? What are some specific teaching strategies you'd recommend?
    • KB: I recommend creating an environment that welcomes and supports all ideas - the crazier the better. I like this Einstein quote when it comes to different ideas: “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” If the classroom is such that ideas are welcomed and embraced then the students will be more willing to put forth their ideas which over time, will bolster their creative self-confidence. If ideas are immediately judged or shot down, then of course, the students will be hesitant to raise their ideas. It is also important to have an environment that stimulates creativity which can include the use of color, artistic tools, and even toys in the classroom.
      • AB: INCubatoredu curriculum fosters exactly the type of classroom you’re describing, where students are emboldened to embrace their wildest ideas - and taught how to brainstorm so they can stretch their imaginations in new directions.

  • AB: So what does "creative self-confidence" look like in action? What does a creatively confident student and/or teacher do differently?
    • KB: They have an inherent curiosity and are always seeking to understand things better. One of the best examples of this is how Velcro was created -  the inventor went hiking and his dog came back covered in burrs. He wanted to understand why the burrs were so sticky so he looked at them under a microscope, saw the loop and eye structure, and Velcro was born.

  • AB: That’s a great example of entrepreneurial mindset in action. So I’m wondering, how does entrepreneurship specifically build creative capacity?
    • KB: An entrepreneur can build creative capacity with curiosity as well. Most entrepreneurs are really good at recognizing opportunities and solving problems. If you are constantly questioning and seeking to understand, you will find problems that need solving or things that can be done better. Also, entrepreneurs have to realize that being told “no” is part of the game and not a reflection of their creative ability. Over time, entrepreneurs learn to persevere despite being told “no.”

  • AB: What's one thing you want K-12 leaders to know about creativity?
    • KB: As we get older, our creativity tends to get squashed for a variety of reasons, so let's make sure we keep it alive and nurture it during K-12.

Meet Dr. Karen Bartuch

Karen Bartuch Head ShotDr. Karen Bartuch's experience spans more than 17 years in both the public and private sector at the second largest police department in the country, a Fortune 500 telecommunications corporation and a top consulting firm in the world. She spent almost a decade as a Chicago police officer in a variety of assignments including patrol, gang team, intelligence and counter-terrorism and most notably as a policy adviser for the superintendent of police. In 2011, she successfully transitioned to the private sector joining Motorola Solutions, Inc., where her work included developing advanced analytics solutions for law enforcement as well as communications, marketing, portfolio and project management. In 2016, she joined PwC in the advisory business. She is an avid volunteer with organizations such as Girl Scouts and serves on the auxiliary board of the Chicago Police Foundation. Bartuch's research interests include gender, humor, innovation and communications.


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