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Learning or Unlearning Creativity?

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

I recently learned about Louis R. Mobley, the creator of IBM's Executive School, and my new creative hero.

Wait a minute, you're thinking. IBM? Corporate culture? What on earth can this have to do with creativity? It turns out, a lot.

Mobley was visionary in his approach to teaching creativity. When he was tasked with training top executives, his research led him to the understanding that only unconventional methods would yield the creative results necessary for a true, dynamic leader to emerge. He arrived at six tenets for his training.

1. Traditional educational methods will not lead to creativity. Most of what and how we are traditionally taught leads us to answers. To be truly creative, emphasis has to be put on questions. Radically, non-linear questions.

2. This second point is the one that really stood out to me. Mobley discovered that unlearning, rather than learning, is the key to creativity. That we need to radically shift our minds from the comforts of past routines and learning techniques. That we need to think so differently that we find ourselves completely uncomfortable. Only then can we reach the "Wow, I never thought of it that way before" moment that leads to creativity.

3. We do not learn to be creative, we must become creative. This points back to the unconventional techniques and radical questions necessary to move towards creativity. You must do and try, not just read or listen to lectures about creativity. I see this as creativity being woven into everything that we are. It becomes part of us, rather than something we only observe outside of us.

4. Spending time with creative people is vitally important. Even if being with creative people brings out your insecurities, the exposure is key to building your own creative muscle.

5. Creativity and self-knowledge are deeply connected. Understanding who you are at your core helps you overcome any inner obstacles or biases that stand in your way of embracing your creativity. This is where a Creativity Coach can really help. Using creative tools is a great way to reflect and learn more about yourself.

6. Finally, here's an idea that is sometimes hard to come by in work or school settings. Mobley embraced the importance of letting his students be wrong. In fact, when working on the experiential exercises he taught in his classes, he emphasized that there were no wrong or right answers. The doing was the answer.

All of these ideas can be used in creative settings other than the corporate classroom. In fact, I use them every day with my clients. If you are interested in delving into these ideas or learning more about your creative self, reach out to me. Or join my creative newsletter community so that you can get weekly creativity tools, resources, and ideas. You will also get a copy of my Creative Practice Toolkit when you sign up! You can join here.

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