I find creative thinking and creativity to be a seriously interesting set of things to be thoughtful about. Being creative isn’t easy, and often it’s fraught with challenges about gettings things done. I like exploring in myself how creative I can be and what creativity looks like for me. In that self-learning I gain insight into my own workings and use this to see what I can design for others.
In that design of helping others to learn things, I’m mindful of an array of tools and techniques at my disposal. I’m also highly mindful of adult learning processes. We’re all busy people these days. Gone are the days January could be a quiet ease back into work, every day is at pace.
With a group of senior managers I worked with them on developing their problem solving and creative thinking skills. Back to that thing of adult learning processes and in the design of the session what I focused on was the outcomes and usable tools.
In problem solving we talked about how to use lean thinking, SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis, trial and error, the use of technology, using Five Why’s and root cause analysis.
We also spent a lot of time talking about how we allow for mistakes to be made and how we show to our teams it’s ok to own the mistakes when they happen and together solutions can be created.
Unsurprisingly, we talked about brainstorming, we talked about how to use post-its for idea generation, we did mind-mapping, we had a chat and we went for a walk.
Now, those last two are what interest me. We had a chat. Actually we had dialogue. Views were challenged, thoughts were expressed, and ideas were generated. It was free-flow, I kept a close eye on time, and when it drifted I brought the discussion back into focus. It was fascinating to watch it unfold, and to see how the group responded.
And we went for a walk. I explicitly gave people instruction to not talk to one another as we walked and to just take notice of things as we walked. I took the idea of Street Wisdom and played with it. I didn’t label it as anything, just that we would go do this, and we’d then talk about our observations.
There was some big learning for me in all we did yesterday. Prime of these is that I’m reall railing against PPT as an aid for delivery of content. I just don’t see the point of it anymore. Learners don’t need to see a well designed slide deck, they need a good learning experience with relevant content. Does that come from a slide deck or from the prep I do to be present with them?
As I’ve been advocating tools and techniques for much of my L&D career, I’m also now advocating the ability to talk well with groups. I have a fundamental belief in using the wisdom of the crowd to create learnings and useful outputs. Where that gets stuck I can intervene with things I think might help. Where it’s working well, I see no need to do anything further in terms of content.
Giving people that time to think and to connect with each other in the room seems to be a regularly sought after experience. Not to connect around things like work flows and projects, but to share thoughts, experiences and develop insights. I pay careful attention to how I develop this as a facilitation skill, and what that experience means for the people I’m with.
Finally, a thought on creative thinking tools. As useful as they are to help people generate ideas, insights and solutions, that’s just not how ideas happen for people. These things happen when people are in a series of circumstances that support their ability to develop something different and unique. The adage goes “necessity is the mother of invention”. That doesn’t happen with a set of tools. It probably won’t happen in a classroom environment either.
Dialogue, though. Now that can happen anywhere.