Too many people think of creativity as something that magically happens: a Eureka experience of discovery and invention, an abstract inspiration of an artist, the genius of a composer or the brilliance of an architect. This kind of thinking – that creativity is a talent bestowed only upon the gifted – spurs self-deprecating comments like, “I’m just not that creative,” which makes us cringe, because our work is built on the premise that anyone can be creative and that it doesn’t always happen by accident.
Every person is, in some way, creative.
This is one of the tenants of Creative Problem Solving (CPS), the foundation of most creative processes and the framework upon which our Sandpit and Ideas Labs models are designed. Creativity extends beyond the arts, beyond science and invention – it can be expressed in so many different ways: developing a genius marketing plan, inspiring young children, designing a garden, cooking up miracles in the kitchen, engineering a more efficient manufacturing process, managing a team of diverse personalities. When we include problem solving as part of the practice of creativity, an entire universe of possibilities opens up, for anyone and everyone.
It is possible to be deliberately creative.
Creative ideas sometimes come as a surprise, but they don’t have to be an accident. Instead of waiting for good ideas to arrive at random or by luck; we can hunt them down. When you use a creative process – whether it’s during a short meeting, a 2-day or week-long workshop or a 3-year project – you can deliberately to take up the challenge to generate from scratch, and on demand, a creative solution. This is useful even for those accustomed to coming up with spontaneous ideas: to keep in the tool-kit and use when, for whatever exceptional reason, the creativity isn’t flowing. A creative process is also useful when applied to group challenges, where some level of consensus and group ownership will help to ensure the ultimate implementation of the creative solutions that are chosen.
People can learn to be more creative.
What does it take to be deliberate? Having a creative process and learning how to use it can significantly increase the level of innovative output. A research paper titled, A Review of the Effectiveness of CPS Training: A Focus on Workplace Issues (Puccio, Firestien, Coyle and Masucci) cites a number of research studies about CPS – which happens to be the most researched creative process – including several studies that demonstrate how the use of a deliberate methodology like CPS is enhanced if the group is trained. For instance:
In a study designed to measure the effects of CPS training on the communication behaviors that occur in small groups, Firestien and McCowan (1988) and Firestien (1990) found that groups trained in a semester-long course in CPS (approximately 33 hours of instruction) responded more, i.e. got more involved in the group problem-solving process; criticized ideas less; supported ideas more; laughed more; smiled more; and produced signiﬁcantly more ideas than the groups that did not receive training.
In this particular study, ideas were generated by two groups, one trained in CPS and the other untrained. The ideas were rated by two business representatives, without knowing which group generated them. The trained groups produced double the number of ideas, but also twice as many ideas that were rated as very valuable (the top 20% of quality) by the business experts.
With CEOs and University heads worldwide clamoring that innovation is principle to their growth strategy, it would be a shame to leave the creativity up to chance. It doesn’t have to be an accident, or some magic that’s bestowed in moments of grace. Everyone is capable of creative acts, and with a little bit of discipline – and some training – creativity can be summoned, deliberately, to generate valuable innovative ideas, on demand.
Know Further: Is everyone really creative? Not everybody thinks so. If you’re curious about team training, some research on how it improves team performance. If you’re inspired to be really deliberate about creativity, look into getting a Master’s degree in creative studies.