Leaders and learning and development (L&D) professionals are quickly discovering that traditional learning solutions no longer cut it in today’s constantly evolving workplace. In our global and widely connected world, leadership and L&D must come together to create an innovative workforce that is resilient, agile and highly adaptive.

Whitney Mortimer, partner and chief marketing officer of IDEO, advocates for the importance of creativity in design thinking in order to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced market. Design thinking allows companies to respond quickly and effectively to the complex problems presented by the now global scope of organizations. The benefits of cultivating creativity in your organization are infinite, and the challenges presented are certainly surmountable. Let’s examine some common questions surrounding design thinking, creativity, and the challenges and benefits that accompany them.

What Is Design Thinking?

Mortimer defines design thinking as “the mindset and activity that typify the work of designers.” Ultimately, the work of the instructional designer is to meet the “articulated and unarticulated” needs of the learner. Learners are often vocal regarding what they need to succeed in their professional development, but it is the job of the designer to anticipate those needs in order to maximize the organization’s productivity and drive business outcomes.

By ridding your training portfolio of outdated, traditional learning solutions, your designers have an opportunity to find innovative ways to meet the demands of your learners. In addition to being able to anticipate the needs of learners, by instilling creativity in design thinking, your designers will be prepared to anticipate new trends and threats. Mortimer shares, “Systems need to be highly adaptive, and they need to be able to move quickly against threats and opportunities, and the old way of doing things is too slow.” By approaching design thinking with these needs in mind, designers and organizations can build a resilient and adaptive workforce that is competitive in today’s global market.

How Can I Implement Creativity?

IDEO defines creativity as “the ability to have, hold and execute against new ideas.” Creativity is not simply the ability to come up with innovative ideas; designers must be able to actualize and execute their ideas as well. Mortimer states that, in today’s work environment, companies are faced with the task of strategically aligning themselves, while also allowing room for adaptation. “Organizations need to find ways to align themselves,” Mortimer says, “and yet have more flexibility in terms of how they identify and move against opportunities and threats.” Creativity can play an integral role in your company’s ability to remain resilient, adaptable and competitive.

Mortimer identifies storytelling as one creative element of design thinking that designers can implement in a variety of methods and situations. “Storytelling captures the emotional import of an idea,” Mortimer states. “There are different ways to use storytelling to explore ideas, communicate ideas, onboard people and align teams.” Storytelling allows an organization to be strategically aligned while also conveying the importance of adaptive, agile behaviors to its employees.

What Role Do L&D Professionals Play?

L&D professionals play an integral role in implementing creativity in design thinking by communicating the needs of learners to executives and senior managers. Mortimer states that L&D professionals are “the ones who are going to be in dialogue with leadership about what skills and capabilities need to be discovered and enhanced for the organization to thrive.”

L&D professionals also play an important role in facilitating and advocating for creative learning solutions. By creating a dialogue between management and L&D teams, L&D professionals have the opportunity, and responsibility, to recommend innovative training that can drive their company’s success.

What Challenges Can I Anticipate?

Implementing creativity in your organization’s instructional design can present many challenges. Mortimer identifies one of the most prevalent challenges as the demand for measurable ROI: “In the information age, we’ve all gotten really good at demanding a measurable ROI for everything.”

However, innovative and creative solutions are often difficult to measure, or their effects are latent. Mortimer says, “In innovation and creativity, there has to be room for creative leaps that can lead to a meaningful breakthrough or meaningful differentiation … and sometimes those things take time and patience.”

Pressure from business executives to see data and metrics may be daunting, but be patient, and stick with it. Results may not be immediate or easily measured, but they are there.

Is It Worth It?

Absolutely. When creativity is cultivated in organizations, better business outcomes are sure to follow. Organizations with innovative and creative solutions will be better prepared to react and adapt when they encounter new obstacles and opportunities. Additionally, when creativity is implemented in design thinking, your instructional design team will deliver training solutions that resonate with learners and drive behavioral change and productivity that will benefit your business.

Mortimer describes creativity as “a muscle that has to be cultivated and developed through practice.” Start exercising those muscles now!

For more insights on creativity and design thinking from IDEO’s partner chief marketing officer, Whitney Mortimer, attend her keynote presentation at TICE 2019.