Can you learn to be creative?

by Kati Kaarlehto

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This question was asked from our lecturer Katja Tschimmel at the very beginning of our contact days of the Design Thinking study module. This question in my mind I chose to read  Creative Confidence – Unleashing the Creative potential With Us All by David and Tom Kelley as my very first book in my Service Innovation and Design MBA-studies at Laurea. I was soon to find out that the question of creativity is definitely one of the profound questions in the “Design Thinking Universe”.

Why and how to be creative is the core of the Kelleys’ book. We often perceive that only artists, and designers are the privileged ones to be creative. Too often parents, teachers or study counselors categorize us into the “uncreative” and blog our creativity. However, being creative is something more than just drawing or writing a poem and can be unbloged in all of us. What we really need are creatively thinking engineers, doctors and government officers who are creative in the way that they face their everyday life problems and challenges, in the way that they design new solutions and develop their services in their own work environment.

The Kelleys have a very simple solution to the question in the caption. At some point, you just make the decision to be creative. Then act according to your decision. And how is that done? Design Thinking methodology and tools are designed and develop to assist in that.

You should ask questions, especially Why-questions. You should leave your desk and office to observe your customers or end-users and thus learn true customer empathy. You should get surrounded with same-minded creatively thinking people and to keep up with all the possible trends and phenomena around you – a not just related to your own field of business but beyond.

In her article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation Katja Tschimmel also concludes that Design Thinking is not merely the designer’s mental ability, but can be developed and trained by anybody who wants to solve problems in a creative way, who wants to conceive new realities and who wants to communicate new ideas.

The Kelleys emphasis open mindedness and liberation from your preconceived ideas and assumptions. They quote Mark Twain who once said “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so”.

I recognized that too well during the work shop sessions led by Katja and where the Design Thinking tools of the Mindshake Design Thinking Model were applied. Our task was to perceive the Laurea world through an International student´s eyes with some chosen Design Thinking tools. As I have worked with international university students, way too often in the group I captured myself thinking or even saying “this would not work or this has already been tried out or this Laurea would not support”.

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If I felt a slight shame about my narrow-minded, not-so-creative thoughts during our work shop, I also felt that something truly different could take place in this class with these tools, some familiar and some new to me, and with these mates representing so different professional backgrounds and experiences.

While reading “Creative Confidence” I also felt splashes of joy and confidence – by applying and starting these studies I have definitely taken right steps to unleash my creative potential. I have definitely made the decision: I am creative (always been!) and want to shake my ways of thinking and perceiving this world and my work – with the help of Design Thinking tools but also of all my lecturers and wonderful class mates.

Let the journey begin!

 

2 thoughts on “Can you learn to be creative?

  1. I didn´t have a chance to read David and Tom Kelley´s book about Creative Confidence – thanks for the great post and sharing their views. Interesting point is that on some point you just have to make the decision to be creative – be open minded and ask Why-questions to get the right creative mind-set. And at the end the Design Thinking methodology and tools help you to get all the creativity out from you. That is so true!

  2. Thank you Kati for sharing your thoughts! I could relate to the challenge you expressed about the first group assignment: I was in the habit of quickly evaluating the feasibility of my ideas before I share them with others. This is not the way to do it according to design thinking – they are two different phases of the process.

    First you discover opportunities as wide as you can (divergent), and only then evaluate and narrow them down (convergent). Until now I was used to doing both phases at the same time, which limits creativity and can thus prevent you from finding unexpected solutions.

    So in the future I will continue to resist my urge to comment on the feasibility of the ideas too soon =)

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