You can’t teach creativity in PR

You can’t teach creativity. That’s what I hear. I’ve heard it a lot, too. Well, relatively speaking. It tends to be the reaction some people have to the idea of creativity training or workshops.

To an extent, it’s hard to argue with the outlook that says you’re either born creative or you’re not. Picasso was born with an innate desire to create – to challenge the accepted ways of doing things and to push the creative boundaries.

He didn’t learn that in a workshop held in a medium-sized conference room in a hotel adjacent to an urban ring-road.

So, there you have it. Creativity… it’s either in your genes or it’s not. And if not, tough… you can’t learn it.

That outlook’s nonsense though, isn’t it?

I came to that stunning realisation after a conversation I had recently with a friend about the importance of collaborating with like-minded people. Some of her comments brought to mind a remark made in an interview I read with the guitarist Johnny Marr, who said something like “if you really want to open up your creative side you need to surround yourself with creative people.”

It may be true that we are all born with different talents and abilities, and that there is no substitute for natural ability. But it’s also true that it’s important to create an environment in which creativity flourishes.

It’s also remarkably easy to create an environment – particularly a working environment – in which creativity has no chance of flourishing.

So, while it might be true that you can’t teach the people in your agency to become creative geniuses from scratch, you can certainly achieve a great deal in terms of challenging existing working practices and fostering a culture where it’s ok to be creative, and to have ideas… even really bad ones.

I’d take a really bad idea over no idea at all any day. You can improve on a bad idea and make it a great one.

But those people who put hierarchy before ability, who put their own cosy self-interests before that of the client, the agency or the team… there’s not a lot you can do with them unless you challenge them.

Just how challenging you need to be in such cases depends on how entrenched their attitudes are and how willing – or otherwise – they are to accept that change can be a good thing.

One thought on “You can’t teach creativity in PR

  1. Nice post Sean. Everyone’s born creative. You only have to watch children playing to see that they have unrestricted imaginations and ultimate creativity. It’s just that, sadly, this gets conditioned out of many people as they grow up and become adults, which is a massive shame. I absolutely believe that it can be unlocked in anyone in the right environment, as you say.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever watched any of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks? Well worth looking at. I had the pleasure of booking him to speak at a client event and he’s fantastic. He believes that education is currently set up to train creativity out of children, and needs totally transforming. Some brilliant anecdotes…my favourite is about a child drawing a picture in class. The teacher asks the child what she’s drawing. The child replies, “It’s God”. The teacher answers, “Oh, but nobody knows what God looks like.”

    Child’s answer: “Well, they will in a minute…” Lovely.

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