Today's training professionals have probably never had a tougher economic time than today's business climate. We are challenged to develop high-quality training programs with fewer resources in order to deliver a more quantifiable return on investment. But this chaotic time also gives us an opportunity for innovation and creative problem solving. Most of us tend to look for that one big idea. However, by constantly creating a large quantity of ideas, we can net the one elusive big idea. From this, we can develop a customized solution, product, strategy or action plan.
In this frenetic world where we seek immediate satisfaction, there is fortunately a tried-and-true repeatable process to provoke creativity and imaginative change. The Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process—developed more than 50 years ago by educator Sid Parnes and Alex Osborn, founder and partner of BBDO, a global advertising agency headquartered in New York—has been applied to everything from "where should we go for dinner tonight?" to "how do we resolve the apartheid issues in South Africa?" A learning organization that trains its people in CPS reaps many benefits. Using this process will provide a simple, repeatable process for groups (and individuals) to generate effective, even breakthrough, solutions. It will develop everyone's innate creative talents and tap employees' creativity, which empowers them to solve problems, be accountable and work as a team. Best of all, it will enable a company to move from imitation to origination.
Want to ignite creativity and imaginative change in your training programs? Try this:
1. Blow it up. When you think you have achieved a fair level of success with your program, it is time to recreate it. Pablo Picasso once said, "Every act of creation begins with an act of destruction." Look at your programs and destroy them from the inside out. Imagine the possibilities of a new, bold and totally off-the-hook approach to experiential learning for your trainees.
2. Promote playtime. Adult learners are more self-directed and must take control of their own learning. Because of their life experiences, they are more goal-oriented, practical problem solvers. While many companies reward such behavior, it should be balanced by reverting back to child-like thinking. This will elicit more creativity. Bringing out adults' playfulness during idea generation produces more successful solutions. Then get them to be adults again and make appropriate choices from their action list.
3. Add edu-tainment. In a world where people suffer from information and advertising overload and attention spans are measured in microseconds, comprehension and retention are achieved only through dynamic edu-tainment—a multi-sensory marriage between education and entertainment. To reach its full potential, the subject matter must be engaging and relatable or it's a waste of time for both the learner and the teacher. This is a lesson often missed in e-learning.
Using multimedia to create engaging training is relatively easy. Keeping it relevant is the real challenge. Unrelated fun doesn't effectively achieve the ultimate goal of having adult learners comprehend and retain the desired key learning.
4. Do it in style. Many training professionals ignore the impact of well-designed materials and visuals for their meetings and workshops, whether it is an e-learning module, PowerPoint presentation, workbook, poster or handout. Make it stylish and visually appealing to your learner. How might you make it appeal to visual, auditory or kinesthetic learning modalities? Apply some feng shui to your space. Get out of your boring training room and trade spaces for a more exciting learning environment.
5. Just do it. Subscribe to the ideology that action beats the pants off sitting around and thinking about action.
6. Go to the Creative Education Foundation's 50th Annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI)—started by Osborn and Parnes. If you want to learn to risk, to question, to collaborate and to celebrate the creative spirit, consider celebrating 50 years of teaching deliberate creativity at CPSI 2004, June 20-25, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Mike Ford is director of coaching for Clear Channel University, the corporate training division of Clear Channel Worldwide, San Antonio. For more information about CPSI, go to www.cpsiconference.com.