“It looks OK, but can’t you come up with something a little more creative?”

Most of us have probably heard this or a similar comment when designing digital learning solutions. Our response is typically the thought, “Well, I’m just not that creative,” and feeling lost. We beat ourselves up over not being creative enough, resulting in an end product that isn’t what we wanted it to be.

We need to find ways to return to our roots. When we were children, we didn’t think twice about being creative. We simply sat down and drew a picture or pretended to be someone else in a story we made up on the fly. The question is, where did our creativity go, and can we see the world through a child’s eyes again?

What Is Creativity?

When we hear the word “creativity,” we tend to think “artsy.” But there are many ways to be creative, and they don’t have to include the ability to draw a masterpiece. Creativity is simply the development of original ideas and the ability to turn them into reality. It’s about perceiving the world around us in new ways, making connections between seemingly unrelated elements and coming up with new solutions for a problem.

Creativity requires a mix of fresh perspectives and discipline as well as originality and functionality. “New solutions are often the combination of two or more existing concepts. If you had a videotape store and combine it with Amazon and Priority Mail, you get Netflix,” says Richard Foster, a lecturer at the Yale School of Management. “It’s all about constructing associative networks of ideas.” He adds that creative ideas are generative: When you come up with one creative idea, more will follow.

How to Include More Creative Tasks into Our Days

How do we see our creative potential? First, think outside the box. Don’t think about a possible creative solution by only looking within your own field. For example, consider what L&D can learn from marketers about engaging an audience, and bring this knowledge into your digital learning solutions. Or, take advantage of the methodology of user experience and user interface design by applying it to your e-learning modules. Once you are in the right mindset, there are a few techniques you can use to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Doodle something. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; just have fun with it.
  • Create the right environment; make your workspace as open and creative as possible.
  • Move around, and take short breaks.
  • Brainstorm ideas with other people.
  • Come up with really “crazy” ideas.
  • Ask for someone else’s opinion.
  • Write your notes by hand.
  • Daydream

For creative ideas to take hold, it’s best to sleep on your ideas and revisit them the next day. We experience two different sleep phases that work together to help us to identify unrecognized links between what we know and to discover out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Take a step back, rest and look at your ideas again the next day.

How Does Creativity Help Your Training Solutions?

We need to judge ourselves less when it comes to creativity. For L&D professionals, that means thinking outside of the traditional training box. How can we engage our audience better and get them excited about a learning solution? What other fields, related or not, can we borrow from to create learning experiences that stick? Being open to other ideas will help elevate our work. It will lead to better results and engaged learners. It will help us bring the digital L&D “world” closer to the actual digital world our learners live in every day.