Can you train people to be creative?

“Can you train people to be creative? Does that work?”

“Good morning Prasna Rao**! That is a good question.”

“Don’t play facilitator with me. Just answer the question.”

“Of course people can be trained to be creative. Why do you ask?”

“Because there are a lot of people out there who think they are not creative

and believe that they cannot be trained to be creative. Tell me first.

What does trained to be creative really mean?

“It simply means helping people to look at issues in fresh new ways rather than the normal ways they are used to.”

“You make it sound simple. What about an accountant or an auditor? How can they be trained to be creative?”

“An accountant or an auditor is no exception. Creativity training is like helping people look at things with a new set of lenses.”

“Give me an example.”

An accountant or an auditor is dealing with facts, information and numbers. And we believe that these are absolute and there is no room for imagination or creativity there. Here is an interesting example I heard some years ago. A data mining expert was looking at sales information from a retail store. He found that every Saturday sales of beer and diapers went up. These are two independent pieces of information. Right? Is there any scope for creativity here?”

“What can be creative here? They are plain numbers, percentages.”

“That is what most people thought. Except this data mining expert. He became a little curious. Why is it that beer and diaper sales shoot up every Saturday?

“Beer, diaper, Saturday. How are they connected? Is that what he wanted to know?”

” Yes, he had a hunch that beer, diaper and Saturday are connected. They were indeed connected. Saturday was the lady’s day out, the man had to look after the baby at home. So he buys diapers, and beer to spend the Saturday at home. The data mining expert found this was the case when he was probing a bit.”

“Good thinking. What has creativity got to do with this?”

“Be patient Prasna. The first point is that he looked at was connecting the dots in a manner he had never done before. That is creative.

Even more important is what he did with the information.”

“What did he do?”

“He set up an experiment. He added diapers in a shelf next to where beer was stocked. He added beer next to the diaper shelf. This substantially increased the sales for both.”

“Very clever. How does this answer my question? Can you train people to be creative?”

“I was coming to that. Creative people see the very same things we see, but look at them differently. Some time ago I had read in the news papers about an expression called ‘Chak De’. A screen writer had seen it too and it became the title for a block buster movie. Training minds to be creative is really keeping the minds open for new connections. Imagine going to a party and refusing to mix with people and not having fun. On the other hand meet more people, let your hair down and have a good time.

Creative people have a party in their minds all the time. They see the very same things you and I see but connect them differently. It might seem intuitive but a lot of it comes out of practice. ”

Answer my question, Sridhar.”

“We can train people to be creative by showing them different ways to look at the same issue. There are simple tools and techniques that can help.”

“Like what?”

“Do me a favour. Give me a few suggestions to make this room more cheerful.”

“Open the curtains. Play some music. Have coffee on tap.”

“Great. See the way you used an active verb and a noun to make a suggestion. Now what we can to is take the situation of making the room cheerful but try using different active verbs and create more suggestions.”

“How can we do that?”

“Give any active verb.”


“Remove all the furniture and create a new floor seating arrangement. Give me another active verb.”


“Conceal the door to the bathroom with a full length mirror. Try one more?”


“Create a procrastination corner, with a table and chair. As long as you are there you have the license to procrastinate about anything. ”

“Hmm this is interesting. But how do I think of these active verbs? I cannot carry a dictionary all the time.

“You don’t have to. Take a look at this handy booklet called ‘Ignition Spark‘. This little booklet has 1000 active verbs. Choose any verb. If it does not work, you have 999 other options. Try a few, you are bound to come out with something, you have not thought of in the past.”

“Does this work for every one?”

I have tried with more than 500 people. They have confirmed it works.

So you say, you can train people to be creative?”

“Yes, Sir!”


**Prasna Rao is an unusual friend. He appears every time I start writing something. He is almost always there when I am writing my blog. He asks questions that are razor sharp and often makes me uncomfortable. He is relentless till I answer his questions in simple, clear terms.  You might find that he is most of the times asking questions that you want to. Therefore he is on your side, while he is putting me in the dock. I call him my Uninvited Coach






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5 Responses to “Can you train people to be creative?”

  1. Raja Atmamayan says:

    Dear Sridhar,

    Nice innovative ideas. Using active verbs, wonderful and you have testimonies too. How about making people naturally creative without the help of any tools? Do you have anything for that in your store?

  2. sir it is intresting can i learn more

  3. Jihyen says:

    Sridhar, thank you.
    I desperately need to work on my creativity and this will be a starting point!

  4. […] Can You Train People to be Creative? […]


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