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.

3 thoughts on “Can Creativity be Taught?

  1. A few years back at my previous practice, the board decided it needed to innovate. It setup a committee to innovate and held regular meetings to assess how we could do that.

    Needless to say innovation (and indeed creativity) only come out of desire to achiever a goal, to be able to think without boundaries and be truly passionate about what you hold to be true, whilst keeping an open mind for other ideas.

    • Thanks Simon – when thinking about creativity within a company, I totally agree that everyone needs to clearly understand what is trying to be acheived, and that common understanding relies on there being open and honest communication.

  2. interesting article. It links to one of the article that I wrote some weeks ago for the newspaper but I have not published it. My point is that excess kills and too much social media is a distraction for creativity. I’ll send you the link when I publish the article. Hope you will not torment me after reading it. 🙂

    Creativity/Innovation Vs Distraction of gadgets/social media. Something to tease you: “No Time to Think”, by the father of Positioning Marketing.


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