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Creativity

Employers are excited by people who can spot opportunities, find creative solutions and use initiative. Fortunately, as a postdoc, you are likely to have many examples of when you have employed such an approach.

“One of the key things for us is being able to think broadly, to think big, to have a mind that can look at something and think ‘What can we do with that?’, ‘If we put this with that, maybe we could do this’, ‘How could this innovation change normal practice?’ We need people who are creative and we need independent minds who can look at something beyond their area of expertise and see the potential in it.”

Dr Martyn Bottomley, Regional Translation Lead, Cancer Research UK

As a postdoc you are likely to have many examples of when you have employed such an approach. Have you:

  • adapted an approach commonly used in a different research field for your own research?
  • collaborated with someone with specific expertise to create a new method?
  • had to rapidly adapt to a legislation change part way through a project?
  • come up with an innovative way to deliver at reduced cost, when the budget was reduced?

How to create your next big idea

In this video, Prosper Research Staff Developer Dr Fiona McBride gives a whistle stop tour of what creativity is and why it matters and outlines a few key tools and methods for developing your creativity.

Creativity toolkit

Working with Skillfluence, we have collated a broad range of creativity and group thinking tools into a handy workbook. Inside you’ll find 25 different techniques for stimulating your creative thinking and practice.

Download the creativity toolkitArrow pointing right

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Narrative approaches to creativity

As outlined in the video above, while divergent thinking (the ability to generate novel ideas from multiple perspectives) is the most addressed type of thinking in creativity training, narrative thinking is complementary. We explore this a little further in the resources that follow.

What is a narrative?

An action causally sequenced to another action or actions create a narrative. For example, (1) you collect fire wood, (2) you arrange it into a suitable pile, (3) you light the firewood, (4) you put a marshmallow onto a suitable stick and (5) you heat it over the fire, to get a lovely toasty marshmallow.

This is a narrative, a number of actions, sequentially arranged ultimately resulting with a toasty treat. Now we’ve established with a narrative is, how can narrative thinking help with coming up with creative ideas? Fletcher and Benveniste (2022) suggest three techniques; world-building, perspective-shifting and action-generating.

References

Fletcher, A. and Benveniste, M. 2022. A new method for training creativity: narrative as an alternative to divergent thinking. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Fletcher, A. 2021. Creative thinking: A Field Guide to Building Your Strategic Core. Fort Leavenworth, KA: Command and General Staff College.

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