You CAN learn to be creative

This is the fourth in a series of articles which have been designed to explore the employability skills needs of those affected by Covid-19. Skills Forward, alongside key colleagues, stakeholders and employment specialists at NCFE and beyond, are working together to try and support them with our ‘go the distance’ initiative.

What is creativity?

When creativity is mentioned, it usually conjures up images of great feats of artistry like the Sistine chapel, the sculpture of David or an arrangement of a symphony. With so few of us able to make claim to anything quite like this, ‘being creative’ can seem like an exclusive club that is near-impossible to become a member.

The arts often get the lion share of recognition; however, you’ll find creativity in what we believe to be truly functional factions. As creativity is a form of problem solving, areas such as science, psychology, engineering, and maths all demonstrate their own brand of creativity. And who’s to say that a CGI double helix, the Collatz conjecture or complex computer code is or is any less creative or beautiful than the Sagrada Família? Which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited.

Creativity in the workplace

When considering creativity in the workplace, many of us do ourselves a disservice and categorise creatives as the ones with the crazy ideas, that choose the visuals, or can easily turn a phrase. We count ourselves out because we’re convinced that we’re not part of that club. In reality, creativity goes far beyond aesthetics. Anyone has the capacity to apply creative thinking once they know where to start.

Creativity is powered by curiosity. Asking questions, unpicking processes and making observations are the buds of creative thinking. After which comes the desire to make something better, faster, easier, or more efficient. Often the product of creativity, the “I wish I’d thought of that”, is preceded by an awkward adolescence of false starts, failures, and experimentation. It is a fear of failure that stops many of us from truly engaging in our own creativity. When we shake off this fear, and see setbacks as a learning opportunity, we give ourselves the chance to make a creative connection between problem and solution.

Communicating creatively  

Our management of relationships with colleagues calls for us to engage our creativity. Our approach to communication must be as diverse and varied as we are as people. How we reason, deliver, debate, and persuade will vary from one person to the next. And, when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll meet someone who has you stumped until you find a way in which to communicate efficiently.

Unlocking the power of creativity in three steps

If it can be argued that creativity is everywhere, then it can also be argued that it is in everyone. It is certainly amongst people trying to juggle home schooling and working from home. So how can everyone join the club for creatives? We’ve covered the notion that creativity starts with curiosity and questions, and that you need to shake the fear of failure to access your most creative ideas. Alongside that, here are my 3 other top tips for engaging your own creativity.

1.Write things down

You may have noticed that those who scribble way in meetings also tend to pitch the most creative ideas. Many argue that these two actions are correlated. The act of writing things down allows you to examine the detail, find pattens, pitfalls and possibilities. When your thoughts or notes are written down, you can revisit your initial thoughts with a fresh perspective later – essential when time is tight, and you have a jam-packed schedule.

2. Find the space and time for creativity

Speaking of jam-packed schedules, is it any wonder that we find ourselves too busy think creatively and choose to stick with the status quo instead? It’s true that many meetings could, and should, be emails but ideation sessions, away days or even 15 minutes of time blocked out in your diary for quiet reflection should all be given their proper credence. Pairing this with a new environment, which may just be stepping outside or away from your desk, helps to break the same-old cycle and creative the physical room needed for fresh thinking. 

3. Exercise creativity like a muscle

It’s not true that creativity is a thing that you either have or you don’t. Increasing your exposure to things outside of your comfort zone, new thoughts and ideas and new people and experiences will all help you to flex your creative muscles and unlock strength you didn’t know you had. Whether it’s shadowing someone in a different role or using your spare time to pick up a paint brush for the first time, you may surprise yourself. You’re unlikely to become an expert, but you never know, however you will gain a new perspective and that is where new ideas can spark.

Creativity skills are a key component of Skills Work, an employability skills test from Skills Forward and NCFE’s ‘go the distance’ initiative. You can test your learners’ individual starting points and skills set and support them with resources to help them give them confidence and get ready for the workplace.

For more information, email gothedistance@ncfe.org.uk or visit ncfe.org.uk/gothedistance.

Which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited.

It is certainly amongst people trying to juggle home schooling and working from home.

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