By Andy Burnett
Knowinnovation has run its fair share of two-day training workshops during which people get very enthusiastic about creativity, but when they return to their jobs and their busy lives, the excitement wanes. The immersive experience of a workshop is a fine way to start, but it’s probably not enough. Creative thinking is a skill, and skills are developed by sustained practice. The idea that someone could actually develop a skill – rather than just begin to understand it – by taking one intensive workshop is a bit like trying to learn to play tennis like a pro in one single weekend.
That’s why when we facilitate any kind of creativity training, like the Catalyst programme or a customized session for an organization or a university, we always encourage the participants to continue practicing what they’ve learned with our on-line program, The Creative Thinking Course.
TCTC was born a little more than five years ago, when we were working with a group of micro-entrepreneurs. At the time, KI had one of the first video iPods, and we showed a lecture to some people at a London development agency. They thought it was an interesting delivery mechanism, which made us think there was potential. The chapter headings came together very quickly, and over time we’ve figured out how to best chop the material up into small chunks to make it easy for people to practice on a daily basis.
Since then, TCTC has been through a number of iterations, gradually improving the animation and the audio. We started out thinking it would be self study. Then we saw a need for a course that’s guided by a teacher. Now there’s the option for both, and we’re wondering if there are other delivery methods we ought to consider, too.
Skills to use Tools
The following is an excerpt from one of the video lessons. This one explains how to use one of our idea generation tools. TCTC provides concrete explanations about several tools for generating ideas and for evaluating them, yet the real purpose of the course is to provide the fundamental principles that underpin the core behaviour of problem solving. It’s not a course about tools, it’s a course about developing skill and and positive, productive creative behaviours.
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Nathan Schwagler, Creative-In-Residence & Instructor of Entrepreneurship at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg uses TCTC on-line training with undergraduate business students. “It’s cleverly scaffolded, scalable and platform-accommodating, friendly to the moderator and the end user,” said Schwagler, “and the students really appreciate the change of pace.”
Joan E. Strassmann, Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis signed up for the self-study TCTC after experiencing a KI-facilitated workshop. One of the tenets that stayed with her was the idea of postponing judgment. “Now I just delay judgment even longer than before. I use this for ideas for projects, as in the grant proposal we just wrote. I use it organizing conferences and thinking of whom to invite. I use it in planning my teaching.” She said it changed the way she worked with her undergraduate students. “The course helped me think harder about what they knew, and I could use the creativity techniques to help them clarify their thinking.”
In the US, a Michigan school district used the children’s version of TCTC. Their feedback was very encouraging, reporting lots of behaviour change. An academic at the Open University did an earlier version of the course, then applied the ideas, and won her first £0.5M grant!
Many people have taken the TCTC taught course, and have found the topic so interesting that they’ve enrolled in the masters degree program at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC).
People can learn when and where suits them.
When the course is combined with mobile phone delivery it has the potential to truly revolutionise creativity training. We can train millions of people, anywhere, anytime, for pennies.
TCTC can help organisations to get a consistent message out to everyone; creating a common language among colleagues. It also allows people who are really interested in creativity to self identify, and those who aren’t as interested can pick up enough of the basics so that they don’t kill ideas.
Because it’s animated, KI can reproduce this course relatively quickly in any language. Schwagler has also used TCTC with Chinese middle school students at an International school in the Guangzhou province.
The course does require a certain amount of self-discipline and time management. We have found that offering too much flexibility can actually be unhelpful for some people.
It can be difficult to get the content through corporate firewalls which are often set up to block videos and social networking sites.
The animation, which we’ve purposely made simple and gender neutral, might be perceived by some as “not serious.”
Part of a Strategy
“Creativity is what sets great, cutting edge, forward-looking, transformative science apart from solid but incremental science,” says Michelle M. Elekonich, Science Advisor at the National Science Foundation and someone who just finished TCTC. “So anything that fosters individual and group creativity can only help to foster great science.”
KI has always thought of TCTC as a way to transmit a broad understanding of creative thinking principles to a large number of people, cost effectively. If an organisation really wants to boost its creativity, this is a comprehensive way to do it.
The capacity to generate creative options is a fundamental skill for life. It’s becoming more and more important to KI that we help people to move beyond a cursory understanding of creativity to a point where we can really help them build the long term skill set necessary to be consistently creative.