Creativity and Constraints in L+D

This week’s post was written by #chat2lrn crew member Holly MacDonald.

I recently read: Push Button Creativity and it really got me thinking about creativity and constraints in the L+D field. Push button creativity is:

“…outsourcing all the creative decision making and creative work to some software or another designer”.

Let’s assume that this is driven by business constraints. What constraints exist for us? What might push us towards push button creativity?

  • Time – more specifically the lack of time. Most people I talk to are under pressure to complete projects by a deadline. And they are often juggling many projects or demands on their time.
  • Resources – many people are also in a place where they have to skimp on budget or people to do the work. I think this is the most common constraint, and it’s really where push-button creativity is targeting. We are often pushing L+D folks to be multi-disciplinary in their approach (visual design, development, LMS Admin, change management) and it’s hard to do it all and to do it well when you are limited by money or people.
  • Skill – with the increase in WYSIWIG authoring tools and free or easily accessible creative elements, many people CAN create learning solutions. This is the real crux of the push button creativity problem. You don’t necessarily need to know much, you can use a template or a wizard that makes it so easy. But it can also mean you don’t have to learn or grow, you can just download.

“It isn’t so much that some people want to be instructional / training / learning designers who find ways around doing actual design. It’s more the attitude of wanting something for nothing. It’s about putting the minimum effort (and expense) into a design task and expecting good results. (excerpt from Push Button Creativity)”

I think that’s a great point. But, we don’t live in the ideal world where every project has what it needs and we can be creative on our own schedule or within an open-ended budget. Clients and managers expect outputs and training needs have to be met. Sometimes we need to get creative about the process as well as the “product” we’re creating. Here’s the rub, though. If we continue to participate in push button creativity (especially the freebies), we are essentially driving down of price and value of creative work like training solutions, and we are effectively de-valuing our own work and the field as a whole. If we use push-button creative solutions, we need to do so with intention.

Constraints can actually push us to create better things. Sometimes working within a set of constraints can help us focus. A creative team that I know very well recently posted on how constraints impacted them:

“Constraints can seem like a barrier to doing good creative work, but there are actually benefits to a limited canvas. On the plus side, imposing limitations drives innovation and forces focus. This can be especially useful in a large project with multiple stakeholders. Limiting certain choices can reduce the burden of making decisions and allows more time to be applied to the creation and follow through of the main objective.”

So, what’s the deal? Are constraints a bad thing or a good thing? Is the drive to push button creativity going to push us over the edge or should we embrace the constraints and treat every project as our own version of “the Biggest Loser”? I’ll leave you with this final quote from Marissa Mayer

“Yet constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity. While we need them to spur passion and insight, we also need a sense of hopefulness to keep us engaged and unwavering in our search for the right idea. Innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision.”

Come join us at the chat on June 18th and share your insights.

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