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Where do The Greats find creativity?

Earlier this month I shared some research behind some practices that can help exercise your creative muscle. In today’s post, I began to dig around to see how some of the most creative people in other industries find their creativity and inspiration, in hopes that you’ll find some transferable lessons as you look to bring your own training programs to the next level.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative genius who wrote a Tony-winning, rap-based narrative of our Founding Fathers sometimes finds his inspiration in seeing bad musicals. In an interview with Backstage he said: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a bad musical. You want to check out, but that’s exactly when you can’t. The thing you have to do is not turn off your critical faculties when something banal is happening. That’s when you go, ‘What is [expletive]ing this up for me? And you will learn. You can be just as inspired by what not to do.”

Transferable Lesson: It may seem counterintuitive, but I do think there’s something to be learned from the design of poor training or elearning. What don’t you like about it? Is it something that just doesn’t work for you (as in: is it just a stylistic thing that you don’t like)? Or is it something that doesn’t seem to work for anyone? Just like you can reverse engineer cool ideas, why not reverse engineer a poor presentation or elearning module? Was there too much text on each slide or screen? Was there a missed opportunity for a concrete example that could have made all the difference? Is there anything in your own presentation designs that you recognize in a poor learning experience that someone else designed?

Jim Henson

According to Frank Oz, in a documentary called Muppet Guys Talking, the creative genius behind The Muppets and Sesame Street was said to be focused on two things:

  1. Making compelling entertainment, and
  2. Doing good for the world.

Summarizing the documentary, Entrepreneur magazine suggests that “keeping intent front and center isn’t just essential for a director putting together a scene, it’s vital for anyone looking to create something meaningful and impactful.”

Transferable Lesson: Creativity in training programs can bring fresh ways of learning things to our participants, but creativity with intent and purpose is essential. I love getting creative, and using learning objectives to help keep that creativity grounded in the purpose of the learning is key. A while back I thought creating a Board Board Game would be a fun, creative way to develop a training program on non-profit board development. I became so interested in the idea of a board game for this training, I completely lost track of the intent and purpose of the game, and the learning experience fell short. Creativity for creativity’s sake can be a waste of everyone’s time. Creativity with intent and purpose can be magical.


I couldn’t find many interviews with the reclusive street artist to try to capture the essence of his creativity in his own words, but in an article in Inc. magazine, Val Wright suggests that one key to Banksy’s creative genius is the idea of valuing your own opinion above others’.

Transferrable Lesson: When I proposed that we use Play-Doh as a training tool with 50-, 60- even 70-year old people who had worked in their industry longer than I’d been alive, I was met with a fair deal of skepticism from the team we had been hired to help. My opinion was that the training activity was mechanically sound and aligned with adult learning principles, Play-Doh was simply the mechanism. I stuck to my opinion (though I did tell the client we could change the activity if they felt it didn’t work, after we tried it out in a live training session). In the end, it turned out to be one of the most powerful learning activities in the entire program we’d developed. Coming up with an idea and then having the confidence to go with it even when others are skeptical (or downright doubters) might be one of the only ways to break through training-as-usual.

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