Creativity as an L&D capability

Rethinking creativity is creative in itself! Jeff Kortenbosch shares some examples and ideas for technology, design and conversation.

Photo credit: E.J. Harris/AP/Press Association Images


When thinking of modern day skills for learning and development (L&D) professionals you quickly think about things like informal learning, performance consulting, digital literacy and learning analytics. All important capabilities to have and certainly important future skills. But have you ever considered Creativity as a capability for the modern L&D professional? I bet you haven’t!

I believe creativity is a key skill to have and to develop in our field. Why? Well let me answer that with a question of my own. When in your career did you find everything you could possibly think of at your disposal when looking for a solution for your clients? The budget, the resources, the tools and platforms, time itself even….

For most of us the answer would be ”never”. So what happened? You turned your client away? You failed your internal client? No, off course you didn’t. You got creative!

Here’s an example: this year I’ve been focusing a lot on performance support solutions. I’m a firm believer of the 70:20:10 reference model by Charles Jennings. When looking to extend our standard formal training solutions one of my first thoughts was looking into an electronic performance support system (EPSS). I’ve had discussions with several vendors but in the end did not have an internal project with the budget to run a pilot. I could have left it at that, but then we would still be serving formal training only. I decided to see what we could do with the tool we have; SharePoint.

I quickly sketched out the layout of one of the performance support platforms I’d seen and tried to recreate it in SharePoint. This was actually fairly simple and meant we could still set up a performance support structure and deliver our content. Is it an ideal solution? Absolutely not. It’s quite a bit more work to setup and maintain and it lacks the context sensitivity modern EPSS have, but it was a means to an end. Without creative use of existing platforms we would not have been able to make the step into performance support.

Creativity doesn’t stop there. It’s everywhere in our line of work: when we are influencing stakeholders or convincing clients that their suggested solution won’t have the desired impact; when we want to make sure we’re doing a proper (performance) needs assessment before starting a project; to find the resources we need for our projects; how we are able to communicate to the target audience; how we get buy-in from managers. You name it, creativity is how we deal with everyday situations.

We can train ourselves to be more creative when we start looking beyond “can’t do” and “not allowed” and look for alternative means to achieve our desired results.

Here’s another example: while our Global Learning & Development department was waiting for the Global Communications department to select a corporate newsletter tool (and complaining that we couldn’t send out proper newsletters) our L&D co-workers in India had no such issue. They just recreated the look and feel from a previous corporate newsletter in Powerpoint and were communicating with their employees without any issues.

Our creativity is what drives us forward. No designer at hand? Try looking for free downloads that don’t breach copyright, check out sites or common themes on Pinterest. Need a social platform? Check what’s available outside your organisation. Talk to peers in other organisations to learn how they solve issues you’re running into. Our solutions may not always be perfect, but as long as they work and make a difference… who cares?

We all have our own creative solutions to share and I’d love to hear about situations where you had to get creative to get things done. Please share an example in the comments section below and/or tweet it with the hashtag #tjideas


About the author

Jeff Kortenbosch is Senior e-Learning Specialist and learning advisor at AkzoNobel and can be contacted through Twitter @eLearningJeff


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