Can Creativity be Taught?

I was asked recently to give some thought to a planned creativity session for a company away day. I think Paul was probably hoping for a response that read something along the lines of: sounds great Paul! Unfortunately he found himself on the receiving end of my waffle. So here it is:

Assuming you are using the IDEO video [I recommended that Paul and his team take a look at this video which I saw at a recent Arts Council workshop], I think its important to stress what makes it so inspiring. I think it’s because of the team – individuals, personalities, skills, approach – and why that broad cross section is so effective in making the process a creative one. In my opinion you can’t teach creativity, but you can:
a. inspire and
b. tap into the skills of individuals that they (or you) might not have thought were relevant to the day job.

In my experience, ideas and creativity come from questions. In other words, an idea evolves creatively through thought and analysis provoked by questions. More often than not, questions are asked by someone in the group that may not necessarily be the most creative thinker, but they may be able to see around the outside of an idea, better than the person who came up with the idea in the first place.

Feedback sessions from exercises are key. If you split your group into 2 teams a bit of competition could be really effective. You might want to consider assigning roles to members of opposite team – this is similar to the approach at the Arts Council workshop I attended. Maybe take it in turns with each exercise to take a different role. For example a ‘builder” would constructively critique an idea (it sounds a heck of a lot nicer than “critisiser”!) and give 2 criticisms and explain them. A “fan” might be assigned the role to come up with 2 reasons why the idea is good and again, explain why. An “operator” could take on the role of the person on the other side of the table and respond by imagining they are in the client’s shoes. The team presenting an idea will take on board all the feedback should reconsider their approach – feedback isn’t bad, it makes things better.

Approach, process and team are key – not necessarily the ideas themselves.

Away days are brilliant – we had one at BPN a couple of years ago (we went to Walsall Art Gallery), but the most useful part of the day was the debrief in the pub afterwards where we all relaxed and talked about what we were really thinking! I think that just about sums it up.

Live Blog: Talking Cities

This Thursday (15th April), I’ll be live blogging on behalf of MADE from the next lecture in the Talking Cities Series held at Birmingham Conservatoire at 6.15pm.

Obviously we’d love you to come to the Conservatoire in person and enjoy some networking opportunities with other likeminded folk, but if you can’t make it, then be sure to follow the live blog which will appear here just as soon as we go live (or if, like me, you are particularly forgetful, you can sign up for a reminder). If you have a question, either send it via MADE’s twitter account, or comment directly via the blog.

Talking Cities: Learning Cities
Prof John Worthington, Building Futures
Co-founder of DEGW, chair of CABE’s Building Futures, Deputy Chair for Regeneration
John Worthington will speak on Learning Cities and will refer to his pioneering methods of adapting urban and space planning techniques to meet the needs of the emerging knowledge economy. John is also Visiting Professor at both University of Sheffield and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, and co-author of the forthcoming new edition of Managing the Brief for Better Design.

This event is led by MADE and CUDOS, and is supported by RIBA West Midlands, CABE, Arts Council England and Birmingham Architectural Association.

Full details of the event can be found on the events page of MADE’s website.

Collaborative Working: Architects & Web2.0

This is an extract from an article I have written for the next issue of Area Magazine, the regional (printed!) newsletter for Chartered Architects in the West Midlands.

What opportunities can Web2.0 offer to Architects to support collaborative working?

For Architects, this evolution of the internet is proving to be a useful and effective way to support a collaborative approach to working. The recent RIBA debate highlighted the importance of a sense of ownership of a project and how collaboration contributes to this. The public enjoy being involved; they like their opinions to be valued and are more likely to use and take pride in a building or a public space when it’s complete.

Most local authorities have produced guidelines for methods of community involvement. For the most significant applications where there are considerable issues of scale or controversy, the methods suggested include public meetings and exhibitions, workshops and citizen / consultation panels. What’s particularly interesting is that these suggested methods could take place online – or at the very least be supported by a presence online. Discussion platforms and forums are an effective and low-cost way of reaching new audiences, particularly those who have difficulty attending public meetings in person. The simplicity of sharing data online through social networking sites or via email makes it easy to reach a wide audience.

I’ll publish the article in full just as soon as it’s published and distributed. Ironically, it won’t be available online.

As part of the work I’m doing with MADE, I popped down to the Building Centre last week to hear more about other architects who have begun to use StickyWorld, the online collaboration tool developed by Michael Kohn and his team at Slider Studio. Tools like this are precisely the sort of thing that I suspect will be supporting Architects in their day to day work, not only to communicate ideas to communities, but as way of sharing and reviewing ideas internally. StickyWorld is still in beta, and it’s free to sign up. To give you more of an idea of the application of online collaboration tools, there’s a useful summary on Building’s website giving a overview of both StickyWorld and Woobius (a collaboration hub aimed specifically at Architects and Engineers).