Organizations today spend great sums of money on creativity training, hoping that it will spur innovative and entrepreneurial thinking among the ranks. Unfortunately, most of this training just doesn’t work. Why not? Because it puts too much faith in the powers of “divergent thinking,” or the random generation of new ideas, a process most of us today call brainstorming. A better approach, the author argues, is to stop relying on the overrated power of randomness in fostering creativity, and instead adopt a more method-driven approach. In this article, he describes three new training techniques, which, as he puts it, overturn the “most common creativity practices employed by modern businesses.”
Almost every business, of every size, across sectors, employs creativity training, from whiteboard brainstorming sessions to design thinking. It’s a billion-dollar industry, and with good reason: Creativity is the main engine of innovation and entrepreneurship, and a major driver of resilience.
But there’s a problem: The training doesn’t work. Instead, it perpetuates expert bias and pseudo-innovation, and although it can temporarily boost morale, it does little over the long haul to reduce burnout. On the whole, research has shown it to be at best inadequate and at worst counterproductive.
To understand what’s broken, and how to fix it, my lab partnered with teams at a variety of organizations, among them Silicon Valley startups, U.S. Special Operations, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Fortune 50 companies. What we discovered surprised us by overturning much of the conventional wisdom about how to foster creativity. We’ve just published our findings in the New York Academy of Sciences. In this article, I’ll sum them up and explain what they mean for your business.