Can Creativity be Taught? Is that the RIGHT Question?

My Simple Framework:

We should NOT think that we have to have people go through
some kind of creativity training in order to “be creative.”

There is a long thread of 60+ comments in a LinkedIn group on Learning and Education and Training that generated a good discussion. In part, some of the people seemed to take the position that creativity needs to be taught and people can be taught to be creative. Some people think it can be “stimulated, encouraged, challenged and fostered” by environments that encourage people to share their ideas.

But others took the idea that creativity = imagination and that the latter was not something that everyone engaged in as much as some. In other words, there is a lot of creative thinking going on about creative thinking.

CJ Stape, for example, added this thought which I thought was excellent: “Creativity has several dimensions including: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.”

And there were thoughts around the reality that the workplace for so many people is just not working well in actually asking them for their ideas and thoughts on workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and involvement and motivation would tend to more than suggest that many workplaces are not very good when it comes to employee involvement on any kind of consistent basis. Large numbers of people are un-involved and dis-engaged.

And it is also true that not everyone can or will contribute equally to using creativity skills or doing creative problem solving to implement workplace ideas or innovation. But so what! That is what teamwork is for and what management should be doing, helping people make actual improvements and providing organizational support.

Should we really even be asking the question if creativity can be taught? That might imply that only some people have it and that one needs to go through some kind of training to be creative.

“Nope. Sorry. You are not allowed to be creative until you go through the Creativity Training Course offered by HR. We can get you into that in 2016. Should I put you on that list? Or, go online to the website: http://www.WeMakeMostThingsReallyInsanelyHard.com
(I wonder if there is such a website or if there should be!)
and sign up yourself.”

Seriously: I had a client — a big global bank you know by its initials — require people to go through a course on teamwork before they could be ON a team for process improvement. They HAD TO LEARN THE PROCESSES in order to contribute. Do you know how frustrated people were because they had ideas but were NOT ALLOWED to share them?

Everyone in the workplace can contribute good ideas, or help refine ideas to optimize their impact. The creatives can throw mud at the wire fence. The pragmatics can sort out the better ones from the less gooder ones and the Devil’s Advocate folks can help to challenge them from different perspectives to help refine them.

I often talk about Spectator Sheep as those who are not involved and engaged in the actual activity and who have perspective and who are not satisfied or agreeable to how things are really working.

Spectator Sheep Yellow round bordersYou can find two posts about engaging Spectator Sheep here and here.

For me, everyone is creative and just asking the question causes a problem. My approach is to share a cartoon and have people consider the possibilities. Then, they share their individual ideas as a small group and generate some consensus on the overall performance situation. Only then do we begin to even suggest that they consider ideas for improvements in their own workplaces! We allow the creative juices to flow with virtually no constraints — since NOT contributing ideas and being creative seems to be a learned response for many.

Only then do we allow the teams / tabletops to start thinking about performance improvement and process improvement in their work, sharing ideas about the best practices of individuals, the workarounds and ideas for roadblock management, etc.

We sell simple toolkits because we believe things are simple and straightforward when it comes to asking for ideas and allowing creativity to occur:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Is creativity a muscle that needs to be exercised? It is a ZONE that one has to achieve in order to operate effectively — do you have to be in the flow (link) in order to contribute? Can only some be expected to contribute to an organization’s process improvement process? It seems like that is a perspective held by some, but my view is that everyone can contribute to the group total, collectively and collaboratively — creative is additive and not exclusive.

I added some additional thoughts to this issue in a followup blog. You can access that by clicking on the TS Eliot illustrated quote below:

Square Wheels One and TS Eliot Shadow

Please feel free to ask for ideas and support at any time, within your organization or directly to me,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

One thought on “Can Creativity be Taught? Is that the RIGHT Question?

  1. Pingback: Can Creativity be Taught? Illustrated Thoughts | Performance Management Company Blog

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