Creativity is an elusive beast: turning up in the most unusual places, but also liable to be scared off like a rabbit at the first sight of a dog. You can’t just assume that it will turn up and, once it’s there, you can’t assume it will be good. In terms of project management, it’s like a flood: something you can kind of plan for, but don’t really fully appreciate the severity of until the cold water pours over the top of your wellies.
Good learning solutions are often creative ones. Creative within a framework that is: according to a great learning methodology. Whilst learning doesn’t have to be structured, often within corporate settings it is, and in this context we want learning to be creative, to make it interesting, but rigorous, to ensure it’s valid and actionable.
So what is creativity and how do we capture it?
Creativity may mean ‘not just doing it the same as last time’. It may mean coming at a subject from a different angle. It may simply mean great storytelling or great technical design. In fact, it means all of these things and more. It doesn’t mean ‘expensive’, and it certainly shouldn’t just mean using lots of flashy animations or special effects. Creativity may mean we use lots of clever features, but just using clever features doesn’t make something creative. It may just make it incoherent.
If it’s so hard to define creativity, how can we capture it? Who is responsible for the creativity within your project? Is it one person, or is there a shared responsibility and, if so, can you manage collective creativity? Or are you being too creative and need more of an anchor in structured reality? It’s easy for the cart to overrun the horse and pull us along in a frenetic and slightly terrifying ride!
At a practical level, i think we need to recognise that creative solutions are often more engaging than uncreative ones because they capture our interest and attention. Having accepted this, we need to ensure that we create space for creativity to flourish. We may not be able to guarantee that it grows, but we can help to ensure that it’s not choked by weeds.
The things that typically stifle creativity are process and review. Process can deliver the structure for a piece of learning without ever thinking about creativity and review can easily take something creative and neuter it.
So we need to counter this by retaining a broad perspective: we need process and we need review, but we need to be able to rise above this and look down to ask the question: is this still creative? Is this still effective?
Creativity should not be something we seek to deploy, it should be at the heart of what we do: creativity but with rigour. Producing learning experiences that feel attractive, that capture your imagination and attention, but which also have the structure that helps us learn. They set a context, they demonstrate what we have to do and give us room to explore and reflect on this. They just do it in a creative way and then help us take individual footsteps from the learning back into our everyday reality.