Harnessing Creativity – one way to control budget blowouts.

Harnessing Creativity

Given the right environment, the excitement of participating in building learning and support interventions, and especially e-learning material, can both consume and gratify the working day of a learning and development professional like nothing else.  But can this be sustained?

Over the years I have found that within a productive team full of purpose and determination, the learning designers, web developers, graphic designers, subject matter and evaluation experts have some common characteristics, and these surround enthusiasm and pride in what they do.

The application of people management techniques, in context with technology capability and stakeholder expectations, demands a consistent and balanced approach.  The aim is to achieve high levels of discretionary effort to enable the developers, and in turn the team, to go the “extra mile” by placing extra emphasis on say, quality or achieving a target, when there are competing priorities elsewhere in the production pipeline.  Low levels of discretionary effort are usually associated with low levels of trust and pride and as a result, timeframes can blow out and costs can rise.

Looking a little deeper, there’s an ironic perspective to this because enthusiasm and “polishing the gems” fired up by a rampant quest for creativity, invariably leads to timeframes not being met and rising costs as well.

The trick is to harness creativity.  On one hand it’s a balancing act between encouraging innovation, providing recognition and taking an interest in individual team members because they are individuals with opinions that deserve respect but also professional development needs.  One the other hand it’s about putting some processes in place that dampen but encourage creativity at the same time.

For me, one of the more successful ways to handle this has been establishing regular ”hot idea” sessions where there is a prior “call” for topics and a subsequent open invitation to put forward fresh ideas associated with the topic.  These are prioritised by the participating group and then investigated thoroughly on a project basis.  The group agree to accept that fresh ideas, for say an innovative screen based interaction, will not necessarily be scheduled into a course currently in production.  Rather the idea is developed to a point where it does not interfere with current production timelines and is able to “sit” on the sidelines ready for implementation within a subsequent course.

I have found this provides an outlet for creativity, a venue and opportunity for opinions to be heard and considered.  Importantly, it also provides an avenue to show respect for the instigator of the idea, respect for the production team meeting a current deadline and respect for those who develop the idea into a viable learning element.  This helps builds a rich level of trust.

Does creativity work for you or against you?  Are there other stabilising techniques to share?

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