Can creativity be learned?
In a recent fascinating article in The Atlantic the question was posed can creativity be taught?
In this article various theories and research seem to suggest that yes it can be taught — up to a point.
To be sure, actually practicing one’s creativity in whatever realm will lead to improvement.
But there are some people who have a personality type called “openness to experience” for example which seems to correlate with enhanced creativity.
This personality trait is one of the big 5 personality traits in all people.
The upshot seems to be that like most abilities the combination of talent with practice seems to be a successful or winning formula.
Perhaps a more interesting question for anyone that works in an organisation is:
What are the barriers to group creativity?
The reason this is important is that increasingly creativity and innovation is a team sport.
Perhaps a useful starting point is to determine what stops groups or teams from being creative and innovative in the first place.
If we can remove these barriers then new ideas and solutions can flourish.
Some of the group barriers to creativity might include:
– The lack of diversity of experiences & perspectives in the group
– A dominant leader
– Group Think
– A lack of collaboration, interaction and trust
– Little interest, motivation or encouragement to being creative
– A general lack of openness to new ideas and
– The lack of group creativity skills & tools
How to overcome the barriers to group creativity
For a group or team to be creative you need a team of diverse perspectives, experiences and mindsets.
What you want is a team of people that see the world differently.
This will encourage a range of different and fresh ideas and solutions.
But there is a caveat.
You also need to have people that get on with one another.
If the group is too similar then people will agree more readily but lack originality.
But a diverse group that cannot collaborate will end up imploding in frustration.
The ideal situation is a diverse group that interacts with respect and frequency.
This will overcome any group think (i.e. a sameness in the group and a belief in the group’s invincibility).
Another way to enhance the creativity of the group is to ensure that group members are encouraged to think for themselves and to have the courage to voice their opinions even if it goes against the group norms.
This takes a special form of leadership.
One in which the group leaders ideas are open to be challenged.
The leaders role in this context is to build a culture of openness and idea receptivity.
And the best way to do this is to role-model it.
Another problem with group creativity are the tools being used.
For most groups and teams the only tool they use is brainstorming.
This approach has many advantages (e.g. social, fun, simple) but it has many disadvantages (e.g. it is slow, time-consuming, extroverted people can dominate, people have to wait their turn to contribute).
Other more creative and productive group tools like Ideas Blitz for example can be used — particularly with smaller groups.
The key point is this however.
With the right encouragement, leadership and practice any group can learn to be more creative and productive.
And most importantly the creativity of the group when properly harnessed can be more than the creativity of the individual members.