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College of Professional Studies Course Teaches How to Bring Fresh Thought, Energy and Progress to the Workplace

Innovation and creativity have always been desirable traits, positively impacting the ability of organizations to be forward-thinking and successful. But, in the global context of the 21st century, they have now become essential, according to a number of surveys of company leaders, including Fortune 500 executives. Developing these traits is also the basis for a Villanova course titled “Cultivating Innovation and Creative Thinking in the Workplace,” offered online through the University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS).

“Today’s workplace changes rapidly and successful ventures (both commercial and nonprofit entities) need to adapt quickly to survive,” says II Luscri, an adjunct professor in CPS and the former Executive Director of Villanova’s Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Institute. “Bringing creativity and innovation front and center into a venture’s ethos is one way to do so.”

How does Luscri define creativity and innovation? “Put simply, creativity is about developing new ideas and innovation is about ideas that have impact/value,” he said.

The goal of the course, which is taught online in Blackboard, a leading learning management system, through weekly meetings via Zoom, a web conferencing tool, is to examine how innovation and creativity can be facilitated, managed and sustained in a work setting. Through their study students develop the tools that enable them to apply lessons learned in the course to their organizations.

CPS Course

“Our students put creativity into action in their workplaces. Examples include [everything from] developing reward systems designed to motivate their colleagues, to developing spaces and places to allow open exchange of ideas and iteration,” Luscri noted.

The course requires students to submit pre- and post-assessments regarding their role and behaviors as an innovator in the workplace; actively participate in class, lead a discussion board and engage in other students’ discussion boards on a weekly basis; complete three blog posts; participate in a group presentation; and assemble an innovation and creativity portfolio for presentation and review by the class. Guest speakers from industry also share their experiences promoting creativity and innovation in their organizations.

Clarke Pollard, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Support Network (ASN) in Naples, Fla., and a senior majoring in General Studies through CPS’ Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Program, believes the course could be beneficial to anyone, no matter his or her field of study.

“‘Creative and Innovative Thinking’ encourages students to develop a wide range of skills that can be applied immediately,” Pollard said. “I would encourage everyone to take this class.”

Creative and innovative thinking, he added, is his favorite subject area.

“There is almost no area in life where these skills can't be applied,” Pollard added. “Learning how to marshal creativity and develop means to think in ways that spur innovation changes your perception of the world. It allows you to focus on finding solutions not just seeing problems.”

Pollard’s entire staff at the (ASN) has adopted lessons from the course and made them part of their everyday practice. “Seeing creativity as not only a goal in and of itself but also as a process, we make time to engage in activities that are part of that process,” he said.

Pollard’s team’s creative activities focus on utilizing the concept of play by creating moments of fun (the sillier the better), he says. This is especially important in an organization such as the ASN that deals with profound grief and loss.

“From an origami contest to a game that quickly earned the name ‘the big bang’ (tossing darts at balloons), these moments of fun take us out of the humdrum,” Pollard said. “These playful moments are akin to hitting the refresh button.”

And, such playful moments in the workplace have generated ideas that the Network’s families routinely use as stress busters as they care for their loved ones with Alzheimer's, he added.

Pollard, who has taken numerous online courses, said those new to the platform shouldn’t hesitate to try it. “Professor Luscri creates a friendly and fun environment that promotes learning.  It was really one of the most entertaining classes I have taken at Villanova.”

“Students go on a journey of self-discovery in this course and work to improve their creativity insights and level of comfort with innovative practices,” Luscri concluded. “Students enter the course with different experience levels, and all advance their skillset in a way that can be utilized in their individual work environments – be they in technology, finance, government, etc.”

Opportunities for creative thinking and innovation can be transformative. Christine Kelleher Palus, PhD, Dean of the College of Professional Studies, wants both to be a hallmark of courses—in person and online—throughout the College.

“In CPS, we must be nimble and forward-thinking to provide the cutting-edge academic programs our students expect,” said Dr. Palus. “Only by embracing creative thinking and innovation can we continue to be a leader in higher education for adult learners and working professionals.”

“Captivating Courses” is a feature introducing readers to some of the unique classes offered at Villanova University. Numerous courses across the University’s six schools and colleges provide students the opportunity to examine interesting and relevant topics. These features will give you a glimpse into some of these courses and the experiences they provide students. Find all of the Captivating Courses here.