When you think of “learning”, what comes to mind? School classrooms? Hours of revising as a student? Highlighting, note taking, pouring through piles of books as high as houses? Or perhaps painful life lessons – grazed knees or dodgy haircuts that didn’t work out as planned. We are constantly required to learn at work and in our everyday lives but learning doesn’t have to be boring, daunting or painful. Quite the opposite in fact. So how do you achieve the results you want without dreading the learning process of getting there?
That’s where creativity comes in.
Everyone possesses both a creative and logical part of their brain. We engage with our creative abilities all the time in many aspects of life. Take for example this joke:
Lady Astor once said to Winston Churchill “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your tea”, Churchill replied “Nancy, if you were my wife, I’d drink it”
We enjoy a good joke because it requires us to use our creativity on many different levels. In telling a joke you are performing; that is to say taking a story and presenting it. The way that you do this requires you to call on story telling skills, it requires you to play with timing and delivery, and even to take on different roles (if you really want to push the boat out!)
It’s often easier to recall a joke even months after you’ve heard it (compared to say, people’s names or directions), this is because you’ve engaged with a joke on many different levels - you have exercised the creative parts of your brain. Creativity simply helps things stick!
However in understanding a joke you must also use creativity. It takes a stretch of the imagination to enter into the circumstances of jokes. In this instance you might imagine the setting of war time Downing Street. On hearing it you may picture Churchill’s bull dog features or picture Lady Astor’s jaw dropping to the floor in shock as she is delivered the witty put down. You may imagine the tone in which the dialogue is delivered or what it would be like to be a fly on the wall.
Jokes get us to engage with a story, to construct and understand a situation in our heads which is then altered by the punchline. It’s what makes them funny. After all without investing our imagination into a joke we just wouldn’t get it.
Think about an activity typically considered creative; painting, writing poetry, performing, dancing, comedy. What does it mean to undertake these pursuits? Creativity requires you to: interact, think differently, explore, take the path less travelled, and stretch yourself. It’s rewarding, stimulating, new, untamed, unique, personal but most of all it’s accessible to anyone.
If you have 30 seconds to play a game while you are reading this I’d like you to try something. Grab a few colleagues if you want, it can be done anywhere – at your desk, the kitchen, Pret a Manger. You just need scrap paper and a pen.
Holding your pen in a fist, set yourself 30 seconds to draw a self-portrait with your eyes shut. Don’t worry about the end product just see what happens. Ready, set, go! … when your 30 seconds is up have a look at your creation.
If you’re just having a quick browse at this blog let me tell you, the result is often hilarious, conceptual (which, let’s face it is a posh word for bizarre) but strangely intriguing. But this game wasn’t ever about the result it was about the process.
Too often people obsess over “the correct answer”, focusing on the result and not the process. If I’d asked you to produce a self portrait the likelihood is that you wouldn’t enjoy the process – not because you’re a bad artist but because you would agonise over the result, making sure your nose is the right size and your eyes are level. What’s more you would probably think “I’m no good at art and wouldn’t want to do that again”, therefore never reaching “the correct answer”.
Creativity in learning isn’t about doing silly things for the hell of it. It’s about maximising the enjoyment of a stimulating, relevant learning process in a safe environment. Get that right and the results of your learning will look after themselves.
Different Duck is a drama based training company specialising in unique customer interactions and engaging with consumers on a human-to-human level. We implement lasting change and instantly applicable ideas. It is run by drama makers who act, direct, write and produce work professionally –and creativity is the key to everything we do.