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Lessons in how to become more creative, from INSEAD and SUNY faculty members

Creative geniuses aren't always born that way. An INSEAD associate professor and a SUNY department chair say creativity can be learnt. The key is to respect practical as well as unusual ideas.

May 27, 2021 / 06:11 PM IST

Most people easily slot their colleagues into two categories – left- and right-brained. The numbers and analytics folks are left-brained, while the creative ones are said to be right-brained. And while the right-brained can learn some left-brain traits, it isn’t easy to do vice-versa.

But two professors with credentials have recently said that creativity can be taught. One is Gerard Puccio, who chairs the department for creativity and change leadership at SUNY Buffalo State College, US. The other is Ella Miron-Spektor, an associate professor of organisational behaviour at the INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France.

“Many people simply don’t know that creativity is a trainable skill,” Puccio told the BBC.

Puccio has a creativity-training program called Thinking Skills Model. It stresses on the need to juggle two types of thinking: convergent and divergent. Divergent thinking is free ideation, even if some of the ideas that emerge seem crazy. Convergent thinking is the opposite. It relates to realistic ideas.

According to Puccio, both types of thinking are essential.


At INSEAD, Miron-Spektor tracked seven years of employee data at a company to chart their ‘creativity trajectory’. Their growth depended upon whether they were performance-oriented or learning-oriented.

The performance-oriented, Miron-Spektor said, are the sort that see most things through the success or failure prism. How they compare with others is also important to them. They feel their skills are fixed, and like to continue doing tasks that will regularly bring them success.

“They tend to take feedback more personally,” said Miron-Spektor. “They think that if you are unable to perform well, it's because of the lack of capability – and it's not something you can develop.”

On the other hand, the learning-oriented are keen to gain more knowledge and broaden their horizons. And making mistakes helps them grow.

In her study, Miron-Spektor found that the learning-oriented employees displayed greater improvement in the number and quality of ideas they contributed to the scheme. On the other hand, the performance-oriented stopped trying after they had faced a disappointment.

“It's not just that the people with the learning orientation are more creative, on average; we saw that they learned faster, so they were able to improve their creativity over time,” said Miron-Spektor.

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Moneycontrol News
first published: May 27, 2021 05:54 pm
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