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an elusive beast

for those told to answer question 2, rather than question 1 (below). So what’s different? Question 2 gave them permission to think like a child, which cajoled a different ‘mind’ into action. We can take this further and ask why do kids draw pictures of monsters? Most adults doodle stick men at best; sales graphs at worst. As we mature, our intellect sharpens and we control our thoughts and desires. But as we’ve seen, thinking like a child improves creativity - something between school work and storyboard writing has filtered out our flair.

We are not prepared to be wrong Sir Ken Robinson has many amusing opinions on creativity, particularly around how traditional education batters it out of the classroom. His popular TED talk titled “How schools kill creativity” has had 32 million views 2

. At one point, he says and

slowly repeats, “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never be original”. For me, this is the unwritten challenge we learning designers face. The frenetic businesses that we work for have forced a set of creative constraints on us: time, resource, standards, processes, risk, IT, stakeholder clout and many subtle others. Serious organisations don’t let creativity run unbounded for solid business reasons I’m sure. Let’s be honest, a true creative genius is often unpredictable and impossible to work with. But surely we can give designers permission to be wrong a little more often?

How creative people spend their days True creative geniuses don’t worry about being wrong. Darwin was ridiculed in cartoon as a monkey and Edison slaved through 2,000 experiments before turning on his light bulb.

So I tried to find the elixir of a creative genius: exactly how do they spend their days? I found this rather wonderful site: which graphs the routines of creative people. I love the fact that Mozart took an hour to get dressed and Beethoven had his coffee with exactly 60 beans. The pattern we see here is that there is no pattern! Creativity happens at any point in the day. It certainly doesn’t happen solely between 9am and 5pm. So does this mean that we need to burn the midnight oil with our favourite authoring tool in tow? No, this isn’t practical, but I think we can blossom and live a creative life outside the office, as there is no sense in limiting our creativity to a grey-walled room.

Creativity in the workplace But hold on. There are practicalities to consider in applying great creativity to learning. Many of us work alone, in uninspiring offices, under the cultural constraints mentioned earlier. We can borrow the concept from design thinking that any great innovation must

satisfy the needs of people, the business and the technical infrastructure. Creativity is often focussed on desirability, but viability and feasibility must be considered or our ideas will fall at the first hurdle.

This is the reality of the business world with so many constraints how do we

find inspiration? It’s tough, but there are simple tools to challenge our mindset and, more importantly, the mindset of the people we have to sell ideas to.

Steal, because no idea is original “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” said Picasso. I think we have all copied ideas from the web. But have we then combined those ideas to create something unique? Starting with a blank sheet of paper is like walking underdressed into a

blizzard. So our designers kick off with a smorgasbord of styles at the start of a brief, these will explore the full creative reaches of a project. A board may go from abstract to realistic on one axis and from simple to complex on the other. Somewhere in amongst the assembled styles, a unique association may jump out that we can build on.

I’ve listed some of the sites I use for inspiration. Why not try going to Pinterest and searching for ‘data security’ or to SiteInspire and searching for ‘dark’ and ‘fun’ sites? There is no shame in stealing ideas, as most ideas have been used before, but new combinations of ideas are still out there:,,,, and, to name but a few.

Warm up to wake the child We’re more creative when we’re having fun. The research says so. But do we warm up before brainstorming a treatment for e-learning? I suspect not often enough. Time pressure and a perception that acting like kids in the workplace is not the done thing may account for this.

One thing I’ve learnt is to never tell people to be creative without warming up.

People have to be given permission to let go. Here are a couple of exercises that we use to get more creativity out of group sessions.

e.learning age april 2015


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