Training Creativity

Importance of creativity in training and development

Bridge the Gap Between Process and Innovation 

When you imagine creative employees, who do you see?  If you’re picturing a graphic designer, a copywriter, an architect, or an illustrator, it’s time to expand your horizons. Creativity in the workplace is no longer the purview of purely creative industries. In fact, creativity has gone beyond a bonus skill on a resume to become an essential skill for anyone looking to succeed in business. 

We’re currently experiencing a turning point across most industries, one that will define careers for decades to come. The idea of computers “stealing” jobs has been a specter looming over the workforce since computers became synonymous with work.

But we’re now experiencing the rapid onset of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and with it, new approaches to staying relevant. Chief among those approaches? Mastering the “soft” skills that can’t be replaced by a computer or become obsolete. That includes creativity. 

When it comes to training, you may wonder how to incorporate creativity. Perhaps the concept of training such a seemingly nebulous skill is new to you- and that’s okay. It is possible to teach creativity and to incorporate it into nearly all facets of training and development. 

Why Teach Creativity? 

In his blog post on why creativity is the “single-most important skill in the world,” LinkedIn Learning expert Paul Petrone cites this definition of creativity, dreamed up by Stefan Mumow (a fellow LinkedIn Learning instructor and director of narrative strategy at a story and experience design shop): 

“Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.”

That is to say, a creative person goes beyond simply trying to solve a problem. They’ll look at that problem and find the solution that is most applicable to the current situation (relevance) in a way that is unexpected or unprecedented (novelty). By this definition, strengthening your creative skills means learning how to approach problems with innovative, unique solutions. This is a welcome trait for any employee. 

As mentioned before, AI and other technological advances have contributed to a decrease in process-driven tasks. Yet decades of pushing towards process standardization and improvements via popular project management movements like Six Sigma means that there are actually a lot of habits around increasing efficiency and repeating the same task again and again that should be effectively “unlearned” in order to create an environment where creativity can flourish. 

An overwhelming majority of CEOs agree that creativity is the #1 factor in future success. Yet 78% of college-educated workers over 25 wish they had more creative ability. Bridge the gap by learning creativity like you’d learn another vital workplace skill. 

How can Creativity Be Taught?

Many of us have been told that we fall into one of two categories.

Right-brained people are the logical, rational thinkers who like to analyze and calculate, while left-brained folks are imaginative, impulsive, and swayed easily by emotion.

But according to science, everyone uses both the left and right hemispheres of the brain equally.

In order to begin training yourself to think more creatively, start with the concept of lateral thinking- thoughts that cross both the left and right sides of our brains. “Lateral thinking deliberately distances itself from “vertical” or logical thinking (the classic method for problem-solving: working out the solution step-by-step from the given data) or “horizontal” imagination (having many ideas but being unconcerned with the detailed implementation of them by deferring judgement).”

To nurture the skill of lateral thinking, try approaching something you do regularly – tying your shoes, signing your name – in literally the opposite way. Do you usually write left to right across a page? Practice going from right to left. Bunny ears method for shoelace trying? Loop under and over instead.

Another simple way to practice using your whole brain is to execute regular daily tasks with your non-dominant hand. These exercises will help train your brain to think outside normal parameters and foster creativity. 

It’s also important to develop creativity as a type of habit. Psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD, has conducted numerous studies showing that by focusing on 4 core skills, you can see an increase in creative ideas. He recommends capturing new ideas in a notebook or voice recorder, taking on projects that are a challenge- things you don’t know how to do-  in order to force your brain’s old ideas to compete and generate new ideas. Learn new things – sit in on a class or research something outside your area of expertise. Finally, surround yourself with interesting people and things- something that’s key in the workplace as well. Keep your walls full of art and your friends well-rounded, and stay social. 

Who Benefits from Creativity Training? 

It’s overly simplistic (though true) to say that anyone looking to feel happier at work will benefit from creativity training. But it’s also important to highlight the business benefits. In short, anyone looking for new ideas – which translates into any business seeking longterm success. One study showed that in creative problem-solving sessions, groups with even a small amount of creativity training generated 350% more ideas than groups without similar training, and the ideas were 415% more original

Employers also benefit from higher retention. People at workplaces where creativity feels supported and valued are 50% less likely to be actively seeking another job

How Can Content Be Used to Train Creatively?  

Once you’ve taken the step to foster a workplace where creativity can flourish, and in turn begun actively teaching creativity, it’s important to begin using creative content to transform your training and development offerings. Again, frame it as appealing to the whole brain rather than simply the left or right brain.

Think of content that will spark inspiration for both visual and audio learners –opt for interactive video over written content for e-learning, noting that viewers retain 95% of a message via video, versus 10% via written content.

Steer away from information presented in a traditional poster or brochure format and instead, develop highly shareable and visually engaging infographics.

Relevant visuals can improve learning by up to 400 percent– plus, they encourage imaginative thinking. 

Finally, shake up your training or seminars by adding a human element. Instead of relying upon the old standby of a speaker at a lectern, add a live illustrator or graphic facilitator.

This is an unexpected way to customize a virtual or in-person event, with the added bonus of potential print or digital takeaways unique to your experience.  Above all else, it transforms a training session from run-of-the-mill to creative!