Is Creativity a Learnable Skill?
Most people think of creativity as something obscure, mysterious and elitist, which comes as a gift to a few lucky ones who somehow manage to come up with all sorts of ideas and novel solutions to old and complicated problems. Like charisma or social skills, it is believed that you either have it or you don’t, it is innate and a privilege, and there’s no way to acquire or learn such a trait. But is this the truth or only a myth?
You can learn it, you can teach it
Tina Seelig, Stanford professor, speaker, and best-selling author on innovation entrepreneurship, says that creativity is a renewable resource that we can use and enhance throughout our lifetime and also a technique that can be taught and learned.
According to her, creativity can be defined as the process of generating new ideas. The business industry in particular values it as an essential ability, because the market changes fast and unexpectedly, therefore progressive and innovative ideas are necessary in order to remain competitive. It requires a lot of effort, variation and thinking outside the box, but, if mastered, this talent will lead to a flow of fresh ideas from individuals, teams and organizations.
Mrs. Seelig states that one can take several paths to reach creative ideas, and choosing one of them can actually be taught through certain tools and techniques, such as looking at subjects from different viewpoints, connecting and combining concepts and domains, as well as challenging traditional assumptions and creating for ourselves an environment that fosters innovation, all of which must be practiced extensively in order to be mastered.
Set the mindset
People are inherently creative — our brains are wired that way. But while some may be innately built for certain areas, such as sports or music, the rest of us can reach the same level of expertise through hard work and training. We must stop seeing problems and start visualizing potential instead, quit noticing obstacles and begin identifying opportunities for growth and modernization, and turn challenges into chances for exhibiting our newly gained talents and creating novel solutions.
Mindset is essential in this endeavor and we must transform our old manner of thinking into an open perspective that focuses on the bright side of things and a newly found space for development.
If we think about it, people are creative every day of their lives — we wake up and assess the ever-changing circumstances around us, try to find new ways to entertain ourselves or make chores easier, come up with new recipes and methods for improving our lives. We mix and match our responses so as to deal with each situation as it presents itself to us. Every sentence we put together is unique and expressed in a singular condition, every interaction between us and other people or objects or machines is distinctive, every decision we make is based on our free will, our background and the information we hold.
The fact that we are able to come up with an endless set of actions and reactions to the world around us is proof that we are naturally creative. These skills can be enhanced and expanded with the right tools and techniques.
The Innovation Engine
Tina Seelig has developed a model that she calls the “Innovation Engine”, which illustrates how creativity stems from the exchange between our internal world and the outside environment. Essentially, our knowledge provides the fuel for our imagination, which then turns information into new ideas.
This process is deeply influenced by numerous factors in our surroundings, including physical space, the teams with which we work, as well as implicit and explicit rules and rewards. The Innovation Engine is sparked by our attitude, which sets all the parts in motion.
We can do it
First of all, one’s knowledge base can be expanded, so as to inform new and more diverse solutions to problems and situations — read, take classes, go to lectures or seminars, do research and take advantage of any opportunity to find out new facts and insights.
Secondly, environments that facilitate creativity can actually be created or organized — modern office design, comfortable seating, perfect temperature, lots of breaks, comfortable and casual clothes, snacks, game rooms, ambient music, visual and tactile stimulation.
Thirdly, rules, incentives and rewards that reinforce innovation can be set up — titles (employee/innovator of the month), financial incentives, extra vacation time.
Most importantly, an attitude can be cultivated to see problems as occasions for creative results — pushing through roadblocks, going beyond the obvious answers, encouraging collaboration and communication, allowing sufficient time and risk-taking, providing freedom and flexibility. Moreover, we all live and work within communities with cultures that have a strong influence on how we feel, think and act.
If our culture does not support experimentation or value the production of new ideas, then it is unlikely that creativity will flourish.
Creative work environments have many different characteristics that work together to build openness, trust and innovation. These traits also allow employees with different skills, learning styles and personalities to adjust workplace practices to suit their needs. Creative work environments also ask for employee feedback and encourage a culture of mutual respect and appreciation of people’s unique strengths.
At TRISOFT, we always include these aspects into our business model, as we found it boosts employee satisfaction and productivity. And also, it always proves profitable.