Can You Be Trained to Be Creative?

Can You Be Trained to Be Creative?

by Digitalknowledge in Inspiration on May 11, 2022

Can You Be Trained to Be Creative? Researchers have developed a new method for training people to be creative, one that has the potential to be significantly more effective than existing techniques for fostering innovation.

This new method, based on narrative theory, enables people to be creative in the same manner as children and artists: by imagining alternative worlds, shifting perspective, and generating unexpected actions through the creation of stories.

Angus Fletcher, a professor of English and a member of The Ohio State University’s Project Narrative, explained that the narrative method is effective because it acknowledges that everyone is creative.

Fletcher stated, “We as a society drastically undervalue the creativity of children and many others because we are obsessed with the notion that some people are more creative than others.”

The reality, however, is that we are not training creativity properly.

Fletcher and Mike Benveniste, both of Project Narrative, recently published an article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences discussing the narrative method of training creativity.

The two researchers trained members of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College using a narrative approach. Fletcher wrote a training manual for officers and advanced enlisted personnel that was based on his methods and was available to the public.

They have also taught creativity to the staffs and students of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Ohio State College of Engineering, and several Fortune 500 companies.

The technique known as divergent thinking, which has been in use since the 1950s, is the current foundation of creativity training. According to Fletcher, it is a “computational approach” to creativity that treats the brain as a logic machine.

Exercises are designed to, among other things, increase working memory, foster analogical reasoning, and promote problem-solving.

Fletcher stated that divergent thinking has not produced the results that many had hoped for. A significant issue is that its computational approach relies on historical data and information about problems and successes.

“What it cannot do is prepare people for new challenges about which we currently know little.” It is incapable of devising truly original actions, according to Fletcher. However, the human brain’s narrative apparatus can.

The narrative method of training creativity employs a number of the techniques used by authors to create stories. One is to create new worlds in one’s imagination. For instance, employees at a company might be asked to consider their most unusual customer, and then to imagine a world where all of their customers were unusual. What effect would this have on their business? What would be necessary for their survival?

Perspective-shifting is another method. A company executive may be asked to solve a problem by adopting the mindset of another team member.

Fletcher stated that the purpose of these techniques and others like them is not to bring about the imagined scenarios.

“Creativity is not about correctly predicting the future. It’s about being willing to consider radically different possibilities,” he said.

“By doing so, you will be able to respond more quickly and nimbly to any changes that occur.”

Fletcher observed that the narrative approach to training creativity by telling stories is similar to how young children are creative — and research indicates that young children are more imaginatively creative than adults.

According to studies, children’s ability to perform creative tasks declines after four or five years of schooling. At this age, children begin intensive training in logic, semantics, and memory.

Fletcher stated that the narrative approach to creativity can assist individuals in regaining the creativity they may have lost as they advanced through school.

He stated that organizations that train their employees to be creative no longer need to seek out “creative people” to hire.

“Attempting to employ creative individuals is problematic because the individuals that leaders identify as creative are almost always similar to themselves.” Therefore, it promotes conformity rather than originality,” Fletcher explained.

“It is preferable to employ a diverse group of individuals and then train them to be creative. This creates a culture that recognizes that your organization already has creative individuals that are underutilized.

Fletcher and his colleagues have begun a more formal evaluation of this narrative method of creativity training, which has already been well-received. More than 600 U.S. Army majors attending the Command and General Staff College are participating in randomized controlled trials of the creativity curriculum.

Additionally, they continue to collaborate with new organizations, including the Worthington Local School District in Ohio.

“Teaching creativity is one of the most useful things you can do in the world, because it is nothing more than coming up with new ways to solve problems,” he said.

This new method of training creativity, according to Fletcher, “could only have originated from Ohio State’s Project Narrative.

“Project Narrative focuses on how narratives function in the brain. It is the foundation that helped us develop this new way of conceiving of and training for creativity,” he said.

“Project Narrative itself is evidence of the creative power. It was created by Ohio State University and would not have existed otherwise.”

Categories: Inspiration

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