Training Is Innovation Accelerant

Viola Spolin had some interesting thoughts on the value of creativity training… for actors, and everyone else

I’ve neglected to write about a critically important aspect of creativity and innovation —  the value of training.

Creativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results.

And yes, you can train creativity. And by the way, if you want brainstorming that works — don’t skip training. Much of the research that says brainstorming doesn’t work (ahem) studied groups with no training.

You can also train people in the fuzzy front end of innovation. That difficult bit of  invention that analysis can’t quite solve on its own is especially challenging for corporations. Training can make a big difference in bridging the gap between market knowledge and… what could be.

You’ll see immediate and positive results with creativity training. Min Basadur did a rigorous study, see here, and that’s not the only proof. Individuals learn how to think and express ideas in a more positive, focused, and free flowing way with certain types of creativity training. Teams achieve breakthrough results when properly facilitated through through a rapid, flexible, but structured process at the front end of innovation.

Creativity training feeds innovation process like wood wool feeds flame.

The creative training many experts advocate is structured Creative Problem Solving training (CPS, aka ‘Osborn-Parnes model’) and Front End of Innovation process training (FEI). CPS is a time-tested framework. Many innovation consultants use CPS or their own modified versions of CPS (see my business novel about CPS, Jack’s Notebook.) FEI process training is about how to conduct and orchestrate a series of activities that happen before the classic stage-gate/pipeline of new product development. Stage-gate is in the textbooks. FEI training is being done, but is relatively obscure. CPS training is generally more available — but not ubiquitous.

Sadly, it’s notable that as an innovation budget line item it is often left out entirely, or, it’s the first sacrificial lamb to be cut. It should be the first thing done, because creativity and innovation training accelerates innovation in five strategic ways:

  1. Improved creative thinking leads to enhanced innovation capacity, and with action, results.
  2. Training helps instil structured creative thinking and innovation process as a cultural value and habit.
  3. CPS and FEI training provide innovation teams with a common language and framework to solve problems, improve communication, expedite complex problem resolution, and moving new business concepts forward.
  4. Training corrects many of the myths that surround creativity and innovation. There is a science to this that is largely ignored. For those that learn and practice the science — it’s a competitive advantage.
  5. Team efficiency improves because a lot of useless chatter, debate, and conflict is eliminated.

One of the reasons creativity training  is not more commonly done is that there is a misconception that you can’t train creativity. If you think of it as complex problem solving you can indeed train it and improve performance — dramatically so. Creativity is an innate human capacity that is squeezed out of us over time. You can put it back in the tube!

Creativity is intimately related to change, decision making, and problem solving — it’s not just artistic self-expression.

So here’s the teaching point. If you are in charge of an innovation program or initiative, do the training first. For you, and then your team. All activities that happen afterwards will be performed at a higher level, and from day one. Imagine creativity applied to research, platform question framing, idea generation, concept development, and management presentations. Imagine an innovation framework your team can get better and better at…

Training is the fuel for innovation fire.

Posted in Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Creativity and Self-Expression, Idea Generation, Innovation, Jack's Notebook