Creativity and Innovation as Learning

In, hybrid work­places, employ­ee engage­ment, the great attri­tion and WFH, lead­ers and employ­ees have a new shared vocab­u­lary, and new demands.  Not only do peo­ple need to become flu­ent in using these terms, they also need to become skilled in under­stand­ing and man­ag­ing them. This will require cre­ativ­i­ty, inno­va­tion, and learn­ing from experience.

This month, thanks to our Learn­ing at the Edge pod­cast guests Kate Craw­shaw and Tru­di Boatwright, we are explor­ing cre­ativ­i­ty and its impor­tant role in learn­ing and devel­op­ment. Our pod­cast guests remind­ed us of the impor­tance of play, envi­ron­ment, and psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty - all of which pro­mote creativity.

Cre­ativ­i­ty some­times gets pigeon-holed, they said, and is seen as sim­ply the abil­i­ty to draw or paint. How­ev­er, every sec­tion of the learn­ing cycle has a cre­ative thought process, they point­ed out. “Cre­ativ­i­ty cre­ates the space where deep learn­ing can happen.”

Cre­ativ­i­ty has been linked to inno­va­tion and learn­ing by expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing prac­ti­tion­ers with inter­est­ing results. In their 2011 paper The Socio-Cog­ni­tive Dynam­ics of Entre­pre­neur­ial Ideation, Robert M. Gem­mel, Richard J. Boland and David A. Kolb looked at tech­nol­o­gy entre­pre­neurs and how they use social behav­iors, tech­niques and cog­ni­tive process­es to come up with ideas for new prod­ucts, process­es or ser­vices. The results revealed a com­plex, mul­ti­level social process that empha­sized active and social experimentation.

“Great­est ideation­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty occurs when trust­ed part­ners exchange and refine ideas through a form of shared cog­ni­tion,” the arti­cle said, remind­ing us that cre­ativ­i­ty is an indi­vid­ual and a social process. Cre­ativ­i­ty is enhanced by the qual­i­ty of our rela­tion­ships and the trust we feel around others.

Do you feel at your cre­ative best around your work colleagues? 


Do you make oth­ers around you feel safe enough to be creative?

The Imag­in­ing learn­ing style is most eas­i­ly linked with ideation and cre­ativ­i­ty. Cer­tain­ly, the Imag­in­ing style calls forth our open­ness and inclu­sive­ness, our abil­i­ty to diverge before reach­ing a con­clu­sion, and an abil­i­ty to see a sit­u­a­tion with fresh eyes. Yet, we believe that all learn­ing styles bring their own ver­sion of cre­ativ­i­ty.  After all, don’t we all need a form of cre­ativ­i­ty in analy­sis, strat­e­gy, judge­ment and our behaviors?

In the work­place, cre­ativ­i­ty and inno­va­tion can only flour­ish if it is incor­po­rat­ed into the busi­ness’ prac­tices. McK­in­sey reports that the top per­form­ing com­pa­nies use four key prac­tices to trans­form cre­ativ­i­ty and inno­va­tion into busi­ness value:

1. Dai­ly prac­tices for cre­ativ­i­ty.  This includes pri­or­i­tiz­ing cre­ativ­i­ty, inno­va­tion and marketing.

2. Cus­tomer fanat­ics.  This includes observ­ing cus­tomers in their own envi­ron­ment and under­stand­ing their problems.

3. Feed speed.  Mak­ing quick deci­sions, embrac­ing some risk, and hav­ing spe­cif­ic deliv­er­ables, clear goals, and accountability.

4. Adapt quick­ly. An atti­tude of ongo­ing improve­ment and learning.

At the Insti­tute for Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing, we believe that the qual­i­ty of one’s learn­ing empow­ers choice and trans­for­ma­tion.  It starts with mak­ing the process of learn­ing explic­it.  We guide indi­vid­u­als and teams to improve the qual­i­ty of their learn­ing and to apply it to what mat­ters most to them.  In the process, they will also improve aware­ness, con­nec­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion, judg­ment, and creativity.

We sug­gest, right now, every­one needs to be a cre­ator and innovator.

For more on cre­ativ­i­ty and inno­va­tion, see The Growth Triple Play: Cre­ativ­i­ty, Ana­lyt­ics and Pur­pose in McK­in­sey. And for anoth­er per­spec­tive, see Cre­ativ­i­ty is Not Enough in Har­vard Busi­ness Review.