Researchers have created a new way to train people to be creative. It is more effective than the current methods of inducing innovation.
This method is based on narrative theory and allows people to be creative the same way that children and artists are. It involves creating stories that create alternative worlds, shift perspectives, and take unexpected actions.
The narrative method recognizes that all of us are creative. Angus Fletcher is the creator of the method. He is a professor of English as well as a member of The Ohio State University’s Project Narrative.
Fletcher stated that “We as a society radically undervalue the creativity of kids and many others because we are obsessed with the idea that some people are more creative than others.”
“But the reality is that we’re just not training creativity in the right way.”
Fletcher and Mike Benveniste of Project Narrative also discussed the narrative method of training creativeness in a recently published article in the Annals of New York Academy of Sciences.
They successfully used the narrative approach for training members of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Fletcher created , a publicly accessible training guide that was based on his methods and tailored for officers and senior enlisted personnel.
They also collaborated with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Ohio State College of Engineering, and other Fortune 50 companies to help their students and staff learn creativity.
Divergent thinking is the current basis of creativity training. It has been used since the 1950s. Fletcher described it as a “computational approach” that treats the brain like a logic machine.
It does this by using exercises that, among other things increase working memory, promote analogical thinking, and encourage problem-solving.
Fletcher stated that divergent thinking has not produced the desired results. Its computational approach is based on data and information about past successes and problems. This is a major problem.
“What it can’t do is help prepare people for new challenges that we know little about today. It can’t come up with truly original actions. But the human brain’s narrative machinery can.” Fletcher said.
Training for creativity through narrative methods uses many of those same techniques writers use to create stories. One of these is to create new worlds within your mind. One example is asking employees to imagine their most unusual customer and then creating a world where all customers would be like them. What would this do to their business? What would they need to survive?
Another technique is perspective-shifting. A company executive might be asked to solve a problem thinking like another member.
Fletcher stated that these techniques are not meant to guarantee that your fantasies will come true.
Creativity doesn’t mean predicting the future accurately. He said that creativity is about being open to new possibilities.
“When you do that, you can respond more quickly and nimbly to the changes that do occur.”
Fletcher observed that storytelling stories, a narrative approach to creativity training, resembles the way young children are creative. Research has shown that young children are more imaginative than adults.
Studies show that children’s creativity drops after about four to five years of schooling. This is when children start intensive logical, semantic, and memory training.
Fletcher stated that the narrative approach to creativity can unlock creativity that people may have lost as they moved through school.
Organizations that train their employees to be creative have an advantage in that they don’t need to look for “creative people” to hire them, he stated.
Fletcher stated “Trying to hire creative people causes problems because the people that leaders identify as creative are almost always people just like themselves. So it promotes conformity instead of originality.”
It’s better to hire diverse people and then train them to become creative. This creates a culture where you recognize that there are creative people within your company that you don’t take advantage of.
Fletcher and his coworkers have begun a formal evaluation of the narrative method for creativity training. The Command and General Staff College has 600 U.S. Army Majors that they are currently conducting controlled randomized trials of the creativity curriculum.
They also continue to work with other organizations such as the Worthington Regional School District in Ohio.
He said, “Teaching creativity can be one of the most valuable things you can do in this world because it’s just coming up with solutions to problems.”
Fletcher stated this new method of training creativity “could only have come from Ohio State’s Project Narrative.”
Project Narrative focuses on how stories work in your brain. He said that it was the foundation that allowed us to create a new way of thinking and training for creativity.
Project Narrative is a prime example of the creativity power. It was created by Ohio State, and it would not exist without them.