Thinking inside the box

I hate telling someone I studied languages at university and then having them say ‘ooh, say something in French’. There’s nothing worse than being put on the spot and there’s no surer way to scare all the fancy French words from my head and leave my mind blank. It’s the same with creativity. Inspiration strikes at the most random moments and more often than not eludes you when you most need it – like when you’re racking your brains for a new take on performance management training or trying to come up with a catchy course title. It’s not always easy to be creative on demand, day in, day out.

That’s not the only challenge though. We all want each new project to be an opportunity to do something fresh and innovative and we all try to ‘think outside the box’. But the fact is we often don’t have that freedom. We’re so often confronted with ‘we need it yesterday’ deadlines, ‘we can’t spend a penny more’ budgets and ‘our technology can’t do that’ restrictions. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut (or feel like you are) when faced with limitations like this and even easier to end up using them as excuses for simply churning out the tried and tested solutions time and time again.

But that’s the reality of what we do, our industry does require us to work within these considerations. What we need to do is see the constraints of budgets, timescales, resources and so on as an opportunity for even greater creativity. Sometimes, having a limited set of options or tools can actually result in a more creative output (one of my colleagues wrote a few months ago about how the reverse is true – too many options can be counterproductive to creativity) and working within a tight timeframe can also be a stimulus for creativity (how many students have written their best essays in the early hours of the morning of the deadline?).

We’ve recently introduced a new element to our team meetings, trying out some exercises to boost our creativity (you can find some starting points here) and we’d love to hear any other tips and ideas that we can try out. But I think a lot of it comes down to attitude. Rather than seeing deadlines and budgets as limitations on creativity, we need to rise to the challenge and find new ways to be creativity within those parameters. So rather than always trying to think outside the box, we need to start thinking creatively inside the box.

About the author

Stephanie Dedhar - Instructional designer
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