Creativity Can Be Taught: How Flexible, Social Learning Can Foster a More Innovative Workforce

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LinkedIn recently analyzed the profiles of users who were getting hired at the highest rates to identify the top skills companies are looking for in prospective candidates this year. One of the most sought-after skills of all, according to the analysis, is creativity.

While creativity is in high demand, it’s also in relatively low supply. Finding creative types can be a challenge, but part of the problem is that most of us misunderstand how creativity works.

The notion that creativity is an abstract ability you either have or don’t is a major misconception. Contrary to popular belief, creativity can be taught. To bring more creativity into the workplace, companies don’t necessarily have to look outside their own walls.

That said, creativity can only be fostered in current employees through engaging, dynamic training programs. Businesses that prioritize learning and development initiatives that emphasize creativity and adaptability above all else will gain a powerful competitive advantage in the age of automation.

Ditch the One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Traditional training formats like instructor-led classes, lengthy reading materials, and other one-size-fits-all approaches to learning will not do. If you want to encourage employees to think outside the box, you’ll need to get creative with your creativity training.

Consider leveraging adaptable training technology to facilitate impromptu collaborations, training sessions, and brainstorms. These are great alternatives to rigid, structured training programs when it comes to fostering creative thinking internally. For example, a shared digital platform where employees can participate in peer reviews or connect with colleagues in different office branches can establish an environment of social learning that supports the constant exchange of ideas. Take social learning into the physical world, too, by creating spaces in your office where employees can hold focus groups, work collaboratively, and safely ask questions.

Your most creative employees already want opportunities to contribute their knowledge and offer their input. Provide them with resources that facilitate and encourage interactive work and learning. This not only creates the conditions under which creativity can flourish, but it also helps employees establish themselves across the organization as subject-matter experts to whom other employees can turn when in need.

Give Employees the Tools to Carve Their Own Learning Paths

A big part of thinking creatively is being able to ask questions, challenge norms, and seek input from colleagues. Traditional training programs that focus narrowly on specific sets of tactical skills don’t teach participants how to do these things. On the other hand, learning technologies rooted in social learning can offer employees opportunities to ask questions, engage with their peers, and share their own expertise.

Businesses looking to foster more creativity must provide personalized, adaptive learning experiences that arm workers with the unique skills they need both to succeed in their individual roles and to make the most of their careers. Training technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can be especially helpful here.

For example, AI-powered training programs can identify an employee’s skills gaps or areas of interest, and then guide the employee to relevant courses based on these insights. This approach ensures the employee feels engaged in learning by allowing them to customize their process. Because the training program is tailored to the employee’s individual preferences and weaknesses, learning becomes truly meaningful, allowing the employee to embrace their own creative processes.

Traditional training programs centered on technical skills development don’t empower employees to take creative license in their learning. If employees cannot be creative in their training, how can you expect them to be creative in their everyday roles? Give employees a training experience that sets the standard for how they should operate in the workplace in general.

Training Should Be Accessible 24/7

Employees want to learn — particularly millennials, 93 percent of whom look for jobs that offer lifelong learning opportunities.

Critical to a successful training program of any kind is that employees view the program as a valuable resource instead of a time-consuming mandatory commitment. With on-demand training, you can encourage employees to leverage training where and when it makes the most sense to them (e.g., during their commute, vegging on the couch after work, etc.). This shift in approach allows employees to tailor not only the content of their training, but also the circumstances in which they engage in training. Again, that customizability is key to creativity.

Employees are no longer chained to their desks. They are on the move and can access content on their smartphones throughout the day, no matter where they are. In fact, 65 percent of all digital media is now viewed on smartphones. Employees want their training to be mobile-friendly, too, with 64 percent of workers saying mobile training content is “essential” or “very useful.”

On-demand, mobile-friendly training is more than just a matter of convenience. When employees know supportive resources are always a click away, they can be more confident about taking risks in how they approach their work.

Ultimately, learning programs that support social interaction and personalization are essential to fostering creativity at work. Employees already have a thirst for continued education and professional development. Organizations can meet that need while also training for a creative outlook, thereby producing a happier, more engaged, and more innovative workforce.

Nate Madel is head of enablement, global customer success, at Docebo.

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