Creativity in Action
Shortly after 8 am the first people began walking into a hotel conference room in Montreal. They were greeted by the outline of a dead body on the floor, and that likely gave them a clue that the day-long pre-conference workshop they were going to attend might be different than what they expected.
No one had really died; the outline of the body was a metaphor for a training activity that had died. From 9 until about 11, the 27 people who came from around the world learned some information about the design of training games and simulations. They discussed some aspects of them, why they can fail, and how to make them work most effectively.
Then they were left to design a brand new game or simulation that they would test among their peers - in just three hours. I and my co-facilitator remained in the room as resources, and the participants themselves were talented people with experience that would help them succeed, but still they were on their own. Beyond the knowledge and expertise, they had to use something else, something that many of us don't think we have much of. They had to rely on their creativity.
By the end of the afternoon six new promising training games and activities had been invented, tested, and critiqued. The participants left tired but largely satisfied with their results.
The next day conference participants had a number of great choices of sessions to attend. Many chose to attend a session on creativity - and to learn tools for enhancing their personal creativity as well as the creativity of the groups they work with. During part of this session participants built objects using mostly balloons to illustrate key ideas about creativity and the creative process.
At the closing banquet, people enjoyed their meals and anticipated the fund raising auction that traditionally follows the meal. As the auctioneer I had been wondering if we would have enough auction items donated and given this concern, I wanted to come up with a creative addition to our auction tradition.
While others ate, I went from table to table carrying a large envelope and asking people to donate to an experiment. I encouraged people to anonymously put any money into the envelope if they felt so led. I then explained that once everyone had the opportunity to contribute, the envelope would be sealed and this envelope, with the unknown amount of money inside, would be one of the auction items.
After collecting the money, I counted it (no I won't tell how much there was). There were donations of paper money and coins from five countries, and a package of Trident gum. I sealed the envelope and later auctioned it off for $600. A little idea, and enough gumption to go ask people to donate "created" $600 to go to good causes and forward the work of an organization we all cared about.
These were three of my experiences last week at the annual conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association - the 11th consecutive conference I have attended. While I have met lifelong friends, and built clients at these conferences over the years, perhaps the most valuable thing about this annual gathering for me is the creativity that flows during, and as a result of, these events.
I have been spending a lot of my time thinking about and writing about creativity lately - in part to get ready for leading the sessions mentioned above. I learned or relearned several lessons during the week, including:
- We are creative. Some of us don't recognize it, or don't exercise it enough, but creativity is a part of what makes us unique as humans. When we allow ourselves the chance to be creative, we will be.
- Tools help. There are tools we can use to become more creative. While we all have innate creativity, there are tools and techniques that we can employ to become much more creative.
- Focus accelerates the creative process. Our minds are able to be more creative when the goal is clear. Some teams in each session struggled for a bit until they got their goal in focus. Once they did that, they were able to move forward with success. I was focused on raising as much money as I could with my limited auctioning skills. A clear goal makes a big difference.
- The environment matters. Environment can mean many things. In the two workshop settings, I was reminded that laughter, encouragement and openness can be great fuel for an explosion of creativity.
If you are a long time Vantagepoints reader, perhaps you find this one different than others you have read. This illustrates another lesson about creativity. In order to find new ideas, we must be willing to try new things, make adjustments, and tweak our past success. Because of this willingness to change, I believe all future Vantagepoints will be better - whatever form they take.
I hope these reflections are useful to you. If so, that is great. My goal though is bigger than that. My goal is for you to apply these lessons of creativity to your life and the situations you are facing this month, this week, today!
Think about how you will apply these five simple lessons right away. The sooner you apply them, the more new ideas and opportunities will be around you.
Yours in Creative Learning,
p.s. To learn more about how to greatly enhance your creativity over the next month, please go to Million Dollar Skills and click on Creativity.
p.s.s. To learn more about the North American Simulation and Gaming Association.
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