We need space to innovate

By Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning and Development at CIPD

I have to confess that having initially undertaken a design degree I sometimes hanker after times spent quietly musing with a pen, blank sheet of paper, my own thoughts and the opportunity to doodle and dream. In fact a recent purchase of a sizeable man-shed which is currently being constructed in the garden may be linked.

In our dynamic world, many things are changing fast and yet organisational processes often lag with the need for creative thinking. The same goes for the world of learning and development. On one hand new technologies seem to offer much scope but we somehow get stuck with old models of delivery.

Daniel Pink, a current and much quoted guru, in his book "A Whole New Mind" [1] argues that we are entering a new age where creativity is becoming increasingly important. I totally agree!

So, how can we release creativity?

Are some people just more wired for it, or are some just better at fostering the process?

There are many models that explore creative processes but during this last week my mind has jumped back to Getzel's five stage model [2] of the 1960s, popular in my undergraduate studies. Getzel proposes that creativity requires the following stages

  • Insight: the initial awareness of an idea, issue or problem
  • Saturation: immersion in the field to find out more
  • Incubation: thinking or working through ideas often unconsciously
  • Illumination: Ah ha! The eureka moment of understanding
  • Verification: checking the validity of the new

This week the Career and Capability Directorate team at CIPD, of which I'm a part, took part in a "Find and Seek" activity in which you have half a day free to explore something of interest to you.

Some benefited from taking time to think, to read something that they just couldn't get time to look at or to spend time with people in different roles to gain a fresh perspective. The email feedback about the invested time was incredibly positive.

So, back to Getzel ...

I wonder if often we are striving to try and find the illumination and "Ah ha" to organisational scenarios but we miss investing the necessary time in Getzel's second and third stages to saturate ourselves in the topic and perhaps most importantly to take time to incubate.

This week's "Find and seek" activity has shouted that I need to be quiet or create space if I want to innovate.

In the midst of our meetings, packed diaries, heaving email IN boxes and competing priorities it's essential that we step back and have sufficient time to incubate the innovative solutions that our organisations desperately need.


[1] "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future", Daniel H Pink, (2006), Riverhead Trade; Rep Upd edition, ISBN-10: 1594481717, ISBN-13: 978-1594481710. http://www.danpink.com/books/whole-new-mind/

[2] "Creativity and Intelligence", Getzels J W and Jackson P W (1962), Wiley & Sons Inc, ISBN-10: 0471297151, ISBN-13: 978-0471297154.

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  • Good post Andy. We have a page on the creative process here: www.creativehuddle.co.uk/creative-process

    James Webb Young's model seems to be pretty much the same as Getzel - and your observation that people try and go straight to 'aha' is something we find too. Often you'll have an idea if you go this shortened route, but it won't be nearly as good.

    It's important that we give ourselves time and space to explore and probe problems before we try and dive straight in with the solution.

  • Anonymous

    Great Blog Andy, cant agree more and just what I have been saying this week we need time to get above all the trappings of the day job in order to give challenges time and space to be properly thought through and solutions agreed.  

  • Great post - love the whole debate of innovation and creativity, especially in the field of learning and development.  

    I am firm believer that creativity is something we can all learn and develop and channel.  One of my favourite "basics" is looking at the world through "holiday eyes".  When we are on holiday we tend to be more relaxed and notice new things.  We tend to have a heighten sense of colour and smell and are more observant.  Think also when we come home from holidays and notice the neighbours newly painted door, the tree pruned and the new car up the road (my wife normally comments - "they have had that ages!").

    So the challenge is to ask ourselves how we can view the world through holiday eyes far more often!  Challenging our routine is one way, challenging our mindset is another.

    Taking time out is key to creativity and innovation and giving ourselves permission to do it underpins the success.