Kindergarten Con(sultant) – developing corporate creativity

The world economic forum have published a fantastic article about how 98% of children are ‘creative geniuses’ when they are in kindergarten but that this skill is reduced dramatically as they go through the formal schooling system where at age 25, only 3% remain ‘creative;. This is even before they join a consultancy company and spend their first year on a PMO engagement and I doubt the trend improves for directors updating weekly pipeline reports to astounding levels of pointless detail.

What the article also says is that the skills required for jobs as early as 2020 has ‘creativity’ in the number three spot after complex problem solving and critical thinking. The big loser in the list from 2015 to 2020 being ‘quality control’ which disappears completely. Now, there is loads of investment in education going on to try and build those skills better in children – see children in Finland starting school only when they are 6 or in New Zealand where tests show that kids who learn to read at 7 have better coFuture skills.pngmprehension skills aged 11 than the ones who learn aged 5 so children will be fine.

So Please will someone think of (someone other) than the children!

My concern is not for the future generation of workers but the current ones like me aged 37 who are still going to be around in 25 years time. I worry that I’m a coal miner in the 80s or a horse manure extraction specialist just before Henry Ford. We need to be looking at ways to teach us old dogs new creative tricks or we’re destined to be overrun by Burning Man visiting, co working, boat shoe wearing, hipsters called Rafi.

Before my skills are completely redundant though, let’s do some consulting on this issue. Starting with identifying the problem

1) SEE WHAT YOU HAVE – The results above for children are based on the application of ‘Torrance Tests of Creative thinking’ for kindergarten students – read this : We should run the tests for corporates to judge where the pool of talent sit against a creativity score. This score will at least give a baseline for a Corporate Creativity Score CCS(TM, Patent Pending- Keith Logan). What you want to do is to get a sense of how people approach creativity and having ideas, because once you know that you’ll be able to have the evidence to do something about it. (which is required is any corporate to gain any meaningful support).

The simple test given to children is to take a simple paperclip and ask them what you can do with it. The score is then based on;

Fluency. The total number of interpretable, meaningful, and relevant ideas generated in response to the stimulus.

Flexibility. The number of different categories of relevant responses

Originality. The statistical rarity of the responses.

Elaboration. The amount of detail in the responses.

Take a practical example of how this is applied day to day with design thinking. As part the ideation phase, we commonly ask adults for a large volume of ideas and then wonder why not everyone is good at it.

2) CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT FOR CREATIVITY – there has been a huge amount of money invested in Innovation centres and corporate co-working spaces but they commonly fit into a few categories;

1) a beautiful shiny, technology space run by militant ‘ innovation types’ the whole room humming with the raw processing power of the live demo equipment no one uses more than once a week and kept immaculately clean in case clients come in

2) A trendy spot with a funky name ‘the junction’, ‘the jungle’, ‘the ideas jetpack jamboree juice bar’ always with a ping-pong table than is only used once a week on a Friday when people book it or

3) A repurposed couple of walls with white board material usually stained from the ERP project plan that was written on it 3 months ago and no-one bothered to rub it off.

What you need is a ‘Corporate Kindergarten’ where the activities are constantly moving around and where people can invest time that they choose in the things that interest them. They can be engaged entirely in what they are doing both individually and with others. After a while, anyone with children will testify that these spaces are rarely tidy and organised. So why not create a space with games, puzzles, music, water, plants, toys where there is no objective to be met, you have to leave your phone outside and the environment is constantly changing. You create an adult ‘creche; where you are essentially dropped off by your manager to spend some time? Children learn by playing and we shouldn’t be any different, if you’ve ever had a good idea in the shower it’s because the brain helps itself when it’s focussed on something else.

3) INSERT THE MADNESS (AND SOME STRUCTURE)- To be avoided is the ‘invasion of the Creatives’; the UX/UI, creative teams almost always move themselves into the place in the room which looks the most collaborative, visual or visible. If you have high-desks and comfy seats, they will soon be overrun with people in t-shirts with large noise cancelling headphones and no-one else gets a look in. You want to care about the whole group not just the people who already are creative and imaginative. What if all the training budget went on people who already knew the subject? Accordingly, you do need some process behind using the space. Time by team, by project, nominations for individuals, rules about phones, work, clearing up etc. Rather like a kindergarten, it might seem messy after a while but the start of everyday is neat and tidy (and different). There is also a rough plan to what the children do, it’s not a complete free for all whether it’s ‘animals week’ or ‘naptime’.

There does need to be some ‘madness’ added to the mix. People have the have the psychology safety to be creative which means you have more fun and have more ideas in a pub than you do in a library . Furthermore, if you want to create an atmosphere where anything can be imagined, you have to create something wild enough to set the range. If you see your CEO playing twister with the leadership team, you give everyone permission to be braver, wilder or ultimately more creative.

There is a point for most of us where the desire to play, be creative and to have fun is eroded by process and structure. If there is a change in what’s important in work towards creativity, Emotional Intelligence and problem solving then perhaps we all have to go back to Kindergarten and start again.


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