Creativity: Insights from a Class Activity

As part of the “Innovation and Design Thinking” course, we conducted an activity in the classroom with my bunch of uber-loving and enthusiastic students. It emerged from our discussions on traits of creative people and their process of creativity. In this article, I am sharing details about this activity, in case anyone is interested in replicating it in the class, and the collective insight we drew from the activity. The context, steps, and outcomes are described ahead, followed by a discussion.


MBA 2nd Year Classroom with 30 students from more than ten different cities in India who pursued various undergraduate programs, including engineering, physical and social sciences.


To begin with, each student was given one blank sheet of white paper. Each student was asked to draw a children’s park on the paper. Since they came from different cities, I intentionally dropped a few leads like- “you must have seen a swing in the park”, “you may draw a see-saw”, “do you remember old people sitting on benches” and so on. I collected all the sheets after students had completed drawing the parks.


It was fascinating to see that the drawings scribbled by students were similar. One of the drawings can be seen in the above image. The parks drawn by adult, postgraduate students from very different socio-cultural, economic, regional, and educational backgrounds were almost identical. Each park had one see-saw, one slide, a pair of swings, and a couple of benches. Some drew grass; a few added a merry-go-round or a set of birds and stray dogs. But the layout was almost the same.

Twist in the Tale

Following the class activity, I contacted a seven-year-old girl and asked her to draw her idea of a park. I have never encountered a more exciting park than the one drawn by her. It is shown in the below image. Following are the key design features of this park, as explained by her:

One, the park has a house which flies as soon as a child sits on it.

Two, a staircase is hanging in the air; as one steps on one rod, an invisible force pushes one to the next.

Three, there is a magic zone; any child can visit the zone and become a magician.

Four, the park has a genie floating in the air who asks the children, “What can I do for you, my lord!”

Five, a music zone plays children’s favourite YouTube video songs.

Image of Children's park drawn by a seven year old child in her notebook

Insights from Classroom Discussion

We drew various insights from this activity. Some of these follow.

Exploring the Impossible Ideas

Although astonishing and exciting, the child’s idea shall face skepticism and dismissal from the adult perspective. Adults tend to label ideas as "imaginative" and seemingly impossible. Challenging the constraints imposed by conventional thinking and being open to ideas that may initially seem far-fetched may lead to unknown creative outcomes.

Breaking the Pattern

Societal norms and learned behaviors influence creative thinking; encouraging divergence, followed by convergence shall create space for creativity. There is a need for an environment that encourages individuals to be aware and break free from conformity and uniformity.

Framing the Problem

The way a problem is presented influences the solutions. I led students into drawing those parks; they also fell for the patterns in their minds. Problem identification is at the core of creative solutions, and how the problems are framed shall decide the quality of solutions.

Empathy with the User

Understanding and connecting with the end-user shall lead to creative solutions. An adult must reach out to the child and become a part of the child’s world to draw a park. One must not build a park without going to different parks daily, one after another.

Unlearning about the Problem

Unlearning can be a powerful tool by allowing individuals to approach problems with a fresh and open mindset. An honest, curious, almost a child-like mindset can explore amazing, hidden possibilities.

As a closing remark, I wish to share that I remember being taught to draw a straight line, first horizontally and then vertically, in the first class at my school. Then, we drew a slanting line. Finally, we drew an A. Looking back, I realize there are so many ways I could draw an A, but we all followed the same way. Probably, it is time to find my way to draw A!

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Assistant Professor, Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur. PhD, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.