Creativity in Careers Work: Pictionary anyone?

I recently attended a training session called “Creativity in the Classroom” mainly because I deliver workshops in a classroom or when required more formally ( imagine yourself saying this in a posh voice ) in a “lecture theatre”.

Some great concepts, ideas and discussion were generated over the 2 hours and I scribbled some notes and thoughts as we got through the content and activities.   Certainly the creative vibe that was fostered by the group got me thinking about the relevance and application of creative tools to my work as a careers practitioner.

So first off, what is creativity? Rather than bombard with static definitions I’ve gone with a short video to explain this from Sir Ken Robinson.

“the process of developing original ideas that have value….applied imagination”.

Some important themes emerge from video such as creativity being an evolving process we are all capable of and born with but much like a muscle is something we need to nurture and exercise to get the best results.  I also like the way Ken describes how creativity “comes with the kit” of what we are imbued with at birth.  This is perhaps why I tend to distance myself away from the TDI models/tests that are still in common usage or matching models such as Holland’s RIASEC that attempt to put people in boxes.

There is certainly creative innateness in all of us but much like play it is something that convention, time and let’s face it, the whole adult world almost drums out of us as we enter adulthood.  The causal link between play and creativity is well established and if Einstein said it then it must be true surely?

Maybe he's onto something....

Maybe he’s onto something….

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the most popular Ted Talk of all time also happens to be Sir Ken Robinson’s take down of accepted, modern (well circa 2006) education in the titled video “Do schools kill creativity?”

The act of creativity has boundless applications for our life and career.  Making new cognitive patterns of who we are and what we can achieve can be considered demonstrations of this.  For example, from our experiences we can sythenthise a completely new and often profound understanding of ourselves that alters existing perceptions of our place in the world.  This could lead us to new career goals and opportunities never previously considered.  Indeed, it may lead to creative acts such as developing our own innovative business idea or associating our current role and skillset with another seemingly unrelated one.

Widening opportunity understanding and developing self-awareness are two of the cornerstones of effective career management but often  – for the careers professionals amongst you – we are always aiming and pushing clients to think more radically and divergently from often narrow, pre-existing knowledge and perceptions of what can and should be followed.  What we are asking or wanting very often is for clients to think more laterally about about themselves and their situation to create their own solutions for life and career.

But if we take the view, as offered by Ken Robinson, then creativity is an evolving process and as such are we really expecting solutions to problems to originate in a single guidance interview?  The question should be then, how can we set the creative process in motion through a framework that encourages rather than inhibits creative thought patterns?    For example, I’d never even considered the possibility of fun or play within a guidance setting.  Obviously a client may feel slightly perturbed if you were to whisk your prize board game Pictionary out at the start of an appointment but actually, would it be that crazy an idea if it helped the client to start thinking more laterally rather than conventionally?

However, there are  tools and techniques other than Pictionary you can use with clients to encourage creative thinking which I jotted down in the session (as well as adding a few I found) that have applications in life and career  – not to mention guidance appointments for the careers people reading this.

Provocation (questioning)


Problem Reversal

Lateral thinking

Parallel thinking


Ideation techniques – brainstorming


Our own task is to try and incorporate the opportunity for creative thought processes to form and evolve in the spaces we interact with clients.  This requires some creativity on our own part in tailoring and refining our tools and communication to each client and group.

The ones I’ve leaned to and used already include mind-mapping, ideation and provocation questioning.  I quite like the idea of trying parallel thinking (role play) and problem reversal in more frequency.

I’d be keen to know if anyone out there can feedback on their experiences of these techniques and what results were yielded (for yourself or anyone you worked with).  Just reply in the comments with your thoughts.

Reading: Edward de Bono Serious Creativity