Ireland must Foster Creative Thinking Skills

20th February 2024

Posted In: Be In The Frame

Ireland must foster creative thinking skills in students or fall behind socially and economically, according to the team behind award-winning educational initiative, The B!G Idea. Publishing its Impact Report 2022-2023, Kim Mackenzie-Doyle, CEO and founder of The B!G Idea said that cultivating creative thinking is not just beneficial, it’s a critical skill for society recognised by influential organisations like the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Forbes.

“Creative Skills enhance confidence, empathy, collaboration, well-being, and intrinsic motivation for learning,” said Kim Mackenzie-Doyle.

The B!G Idea is a unique and pioneering educational programme that aligns with the Department of Education’s commitment to integrating creative thinking into the curriculum. The HundrED Global Collection 2024 which features 100 of the most impactful and scalable education innovations from around the world, recognised The B!G Idea last year – a significant accomplishment as the only Irish initiative featured in the top 100.

Facilitated by secondary schools teachers, usually during Transition Year and Leaving Cert Applied, as well as Youthreach programmes, the initiative connects 15-19 year-old students with industry professionals (The B!G Idea ‘mentors’) who share their experience, knowledge and methodologies used in their professions. The programme ignites student’s creative thinking as they work collaboratively to develop innovative solutions to societal challenges. The professionals (or mentors) are supported to share their experience and skills before taking part in the programme, providing them with an opportunity to gain valuable mentoring and coaching experience.

Since 2021 100+ schools in 23 counties across the island of Ireland have participated in The B!G Idea educational programme. The initiative’s 2022-2023 Impact Report outlines how 6500+ 15-19 years have learned new life skills – transformative creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. 750+ industry mentors from every sector in Ireland have participated.

Kim continued,

 “Creative thinking is the top skill required by 2025, as identified by the WEF, LinkedIn and Forbes, yet we do not teach it in our schools.

We simply must think differently about education. We currently teach our students in silos or subjects with an emphasis on rote learning. This is detrimental to creative thinking, building barriers to neurological pathways. Our vision is a world where our young people, no matter what their background, have the creative thinking ability to tackle and solve the complex challenges that they will face throughout their lives.”

Niamh Cooney, Head of Development and Sustainability, The B!G Idea said, “We want to democratise creative thinking so that every young person in Ireland is empowered with critical skills for life. We want to bridge the gap between industry and education so that young people learn and apply cutting-edge methodologies, gain advice and feedback directly from industry professionals on their co-created projects.

“With the right support, these skills should enable students to adapt to change more easily, gain a greater understanding of people and the world around them, and ultimately progress further in their chosen career. Creative thinking enables different ways of thinking and learning and facilitates absorbing of information and is often overlooked in our traditional education systems.

Creative thinking is participatory and inclusive – it’s about discovering and building solutions together not simply regurgitating information. Best of all – it’s fun, exciting and inspiring!” continued Niamh.

Since its establishment just three years ago, The B!G Idea has already had a significant impact on all those who took part in the programme. The initiative aims to cater for 9,500+ students across Ireland, the UK and internationally annually by 2026.

Kim concluded, “The demand for creative thinking has taken precedence as the most sought-after skill in today’s world, outshining even Big Data and technical literacy. In a society grappling with critical issues, our approach serves as a dynamic intervention, backed by industry and academia

Creativity will provide answers to Climate Change, Mental Health, Cost of Living, Racism, Wellbeing, Conflict, Poverty, Inequality, Diversity & Inclusion, Social Justice, Lack of Education and AI – pretty much every challenge the world is facing right now.

Our rapidly evolving world widens the gap between the skills our young people learn versus the skills they need. Creative thinking is a transformative skill that can be taught and it is a skill our decision makers of the future need now.”

The B!G Idea is supported by Mercury Engineering, Autodesk, Linesight, RIAI, Nostra, Amdocs, Zendesk, Big Motive, UCC and MTU. Partners and mentors who wish to get involved and support this innovative and award-winning initiative should visit

Pictured: The Big Idea Creative Thinking Programme Competition Winners ’23 – Students Clodagh Farrell, Abhainn Cody, Roisin Joyce and Aideen O’Keefe of Team Community Cara from Borris Vocational School in Carlow (image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy).