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Creative design demands courage to tolerate uncertainty

By engaging Creative Agency Krea students in creative design challenges, we help them to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to become courageous creative planners in charge of their own learning and development.


Tarja Autio

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 24.03.2021

Distance learning has brought with it the challenge of creating learner-centered pedagogical solutions and learning materials that are inspirational and meaningful for students working online and in virtual teams.

At Haaga-Helia´s Creative Agency Krea, an international group of students has been actively involved in designing their own learning. According to feedback, it has required a lot of courage from students to adopt a completely new perspective to learning and assume greater responsibility over their own learning process.

Krea Spring School designs sustainable customer experiences

In spring 2021, marketing and communication students’ Creative Agency Krea organizes an online/virtual mobility course Krea Spring School – Inspirational Storytelling together with several European partner universities.

Over 40 students and coaches from all over Europe take part in the course, and the course project this year is to engage students in researching and analyzing the sustainability challenges of chocolate production and consumption. The students will work in multicultural teams and collaborate with two local craft chocolatiers. Supported by an interdisciplinary group of university experts, the students will co-create inspirational ways of encouraging customers to make more sustainable chocolate purchasing decisions.

An organizing team of 15 international students have been involved in testing and designing learning solutions for Krea Spring School 2021. The students have been going through various learning materials, assignments, platforms and tools, giving feedback on their pros and cons and suggesting modifications and improvements. They have also designed interactive assignments for the course themselves.

Finally, the students have critically considered meaningful and relevant assessment criteria and methods. The aim of these is to support and guide learners in co-creating stories of sustainable customer experiences in collaboration with a multicultural team of students, university experts, and company representatives.

Creative Agency Krea encourages learners towards autonomous decision making

According to student feedback, being actively involved in designing one’s own learning solutions has been

  1. a completely new experience,
  2. motivating and empowering,
  3. challenging and consuming, requiring a lot of uncertainty tolerance.

Becoming a designer and creator of meaningful learning solutions was considered a unique experience by the students. Having more responsibility over learning was regarded as highly motivating, as the students felt they were truly able to shape their own learning experience.

This involvement makes us more motivated because we feel like we work towards our own goal.

In addition, students felt that taking part in learning design empowered them as collaborative autonomous learners and decision-makers.

This project has made us think about the learning process and how we act as students, helping us become more creative and confident in autonomous learning.

However, despite feeling motivated and empowered, the students were struggling with the high demands of uncertainty tolerance connected with creative planning and autonomous decision-making. Designing their own learning felt “exhausting” and “confusing” at times, requiring a lot of encouragement.

Courageous creative planners

Being able to cope with confusion and radically open challenges is part and parcel of creative work. According to Stoycheva (2003) ambiguity tolerance and creativity are interrelated and creative fields of work require strong personal abilities to tolerate uncertainty. Creative professions also seem to attract people who are able to perform “in uncertain or vague situations” and “cope with the grey area that comes with an ambiguous problem definition” (de Jong and Özcan 2016; cf. Stoycheva 2003 and 2010).

Ambiguity tolerance can be developed through practice, education, and training that support creativity (de Jong and Özcan 2016; Stoycheva 2003). By engaging Creative Agency Krea students in creative design challenges, we help them to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to become courageous creative planners in charge of their own learning and development.

When the international group of Creative Agency Krea students studied articles on ambiguity tolerance in creative work as part of their learning design and course planning, they regarded the following practical guidance by de Jong and Özcan (2016) as especially useful for boosting their courage and confidence:

  1. Let go of control: Force yourself to abandon control and open yourself to uncertainty.
  2. Act curious: Be open-minded and ask questions to get to the bottom of the design challenge.
  3. Experiment with many options: Play with many ideas and learn by trial and error. Don’t get annoyed or overwhelmed even when you have to work without the complete picture.

To support learners in sustainability competence development and collaborative autonomous learning, Krea Spring School 2021 is fully integrated with two RDI projects ongoing at Haaga-Helia: KESTO (Ethical Sustainability Expertise in cooperation with working life partners, university students, and teachers, funded by The Ministry of Education and Culture) and CORALL (Coaching-oriented Online Resources for Autonomous Learning of LSP, funded by Erasmus+).


  • de Jong P. L. C and Özcan E. 2016. Tolerance of ambiguity – Its implications for creativity and design practice. Amsterdam Celebration & Contemplation, 10th International Conference on Design & Emotion, 372-377
  • Stoycheva, K. 2003. Talent, science and education: How do we cope with uncertainty and ambiguities? IN Science Education: Talent Recruitment and Public Understanding. Csermely, P. and Lederman, L. (Eds.). IOS Press, 31-43
  • Stoycheva, K. 2010. Tolerance for ambiguity, creativity, and personality. Bulgarian Journal of Psychology, (1-4), 178-188.