The narrative method uses similar techniques that children depend on for story telling to help foster creativity.
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If you've ever found yourself waiting to be inspired or catch that big break in your creative work only to continue to come up empty, know that it's possible to hone your creativity over time. Recent research published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences has found a new method that can train people to have a spark of innovation. Created by Angus Fletcher, an English professor and a member of The Ohio State University's Project Narrative, "The Narrative Method" recognizes that everyone is creative—not just some of us. "We as a society radically undervalue the creativity of kids and many others because we are obsessed with the idea that some people are more creative than others," Fletcher says.

Once you've recognized that everyone can be creative, the technique can do its work; ultimately, Fletcher's process revolves around helping everyone be more creative by looking at how children and artists often express their own creativity. How? By making up stories that imagine alternative worlds, shift perspective, and generate unexpected actions, Science Daily reports. Fletcher and Mike Benveniste, another constituent of Project Narrative, have used their method to teach creativity to a variety of people, including members of the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Ohio State College of Engineering, and several Fortune 50 companies.

Since the 1950s, people have used a technique known as divergent thinking to teach people creativity. The current method uses exercises to expand working memory, hone analogical thinking, and encourage problem-solving. But, according to Fletcher, divergent thinking hasn't delivered the results that many hoped for. "What it can't do is help prepare people for new challenges that we know little about today. It can't come up with truly original actions," he says. "But the human brain's narrative machinery can."

Alternatively, the narrative method of training relies similar techniques that writers use to create stories or that children depend on for storytelling. While the ability of children to think creatively begins to decline after four or five years in school, the narrative approach can help people unlock the innovativeness they may have stopped using as they grew up. One technique the method depends on is creating new worlds in your mind, as well as perspective shifting. The point of using these techniques and others like them is not that the scenarios you dream up will actually happen, Fletcher says. "Creativity isn't about guessing the future correctly. It's about making yourself open to imagining radically different possibilities."

Teaching creativity is valuable because, according to Fletcher, it eliminates the need for organizations to hire creative people. "Trying to hire creative people causes problems because the people that leaders identify as creative are almost always people just like themselves. So it promotes conformity instead of originality," he explains. Instead, Fletcher says to focus on hiring a diverse group of people and then train them to be creative. "Teaching creativity is one of the most useful things you can do in the world, because it is just coming up with new solutions to solve problems," Fletcher says.


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