Nurturing Creativity

Curated Resources

What gives people a creative edge?

A curated list on cultivating creative capacity

Have you ever been so struck by the originality of a colleague’s idea that you wondered how in the world that person was able to conceive of such a thing? What was the source of inspiration? And how do I get me some of that?

Our work constantly demands creative solutions. We need to work within an array of parameters and limitations to create learning and development activities that help people to achieve their goals. Those we support have high expectations for creative approaches and deep engagement along with efficiency and effectiveness in their learning. That is partially why our work can be so energizing – there are always new challenges, new techniques, and new tools.


But many learning and development professionals doubt their creative capacity. They see what others do and feel dismayed to think that they would never have come up with that particular solution or anything that good. They may come to believe that everyone else has some deep well of creativity that has not been granted to them. Does this kind of thinking resonate with you?

I have had those feelings myself. I’ve been determined to study creativity, to unlock its mysteries a bit. I’ve listened closely to highly applauded creators talk about their process and their inspirations. I’ve read the research on creativity and put into practice a number of creativity-enhancing techniques. I still think there is an element of genius that spurs the people who create blockbusters, but I am confident that some of what they do to feed their creative energies are disciplines that I can practice as well. You can, too.

These disciplines are:

  • Learning – Developing mastery in your field of practice
  • Sensing – Gathering inspiration and seeking ideas, both ongoing and as needed
  • Framing – Defining the goal and the parameters within which you need to work
  • Conversing – Seeking input and testing reactions to ideas
  • Playing – Applying creative techniques and processes
  • Incubating – Giving the mind a break from a project to allow background rumination
  • Daring – Demonstrating boldness, recovering from difficulties, adapting to meet challenges, and managing risks

Taken together, these disciplines can help you to expand your capacity for creativity. They enrich the fodder you have for generating and playing with ideas, and they help you to get those ideas out in the world so you can hone them. The following section walks through each of these disciplines in turn, and provides curated resources to explore them further if you would like.

If you would like a professional development program aimed at increasing creative capacity (individualy or for a team), contact me to discuss options.

More on the seven disciplines for nurturing creativity

Learn some of the practices that can boost your creativity

The seven disciplines are easy to describe, but if you really want to boost your creativity, you may want to engage in practices that strengthen these disciplines. To that end, I’ve crafted a workbook of 48 practices that can boost your creative capacity. These practices are useful step-by-step activities that can help you to replenish your creative energies. They often riff off activities that are employed by highly applauded creators like Lin-Manuel Miranda (composer), Ed Catmull (filmmaker), Twyla Tharp (choreographer), Brandon Sanderson (author), Liz Gilbert (author) Jim Henson (muppeteer), and more. And these exercises are grounded in the research on creativity – what we know about what works.

Get the Creativity Boost ebook now ($10.00 US).

Recommended reading on creativity

//  Books by and about applauded creators

The Creative Act: A way of being
Rick Rubin (Penguin Press, 2023)
Beautiful and thought-provoking essays on being creative and practices everyone can employ to nurture their creative energies.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true innovation
Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace (Random House, 2014)
Important lessons for managing creative processes and teams, filled with great Pixar stories that reveal many secrets of their success. (For more, see my blog post.)

The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life
Twyla Tharp with Mark Reiter (Simon & Shuster, 2003)
Choreographer Twyla Tharp lays out her own practices for a creative life, including some suggested activities.

Hamilton: The Revolution
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)
Provides intriguing background stories from the creative team responsible for the making of Hamilton. (For more, see my post on what I learned from listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda.)

Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear
Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead Books, 2015)
Describes creatives’ experience with the mystery of creativity and makes a case for embracing your creative energy and moving past fear and uncertainty.

Jim Henson: The biography
Brian Ray Jones (Ballentine Books, 2013)
Tale of the remarkable life and career of the creator of the muppets, with many background stories and insights into Jim Henson’s creativity.

// Research and lessons of experience on creativity

The Curious Advantage: The greatest driver of value in the digital age
Paul Ashcrot, Simon Brown, and Garrick Jones (Laiki Publishing, 2020)
An exploration of how to create a culture of curiosity in an organization.

Explaining Creativity: The science of human innovation
R. Keith Sawyer (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2012)
Terrific and extensive summation of academic research on creativity all in one place. Addresses process, characteristics, and applications.

Zig Zag: The surprising path to greater creativity
Keith Sawyer (Jossey-Bass, 2013)
Argues that creativity is not a linear process and explains a range of “steps” for greater creativity; also suggests a variety of exercises and prompts.

The Accidental Creative: How to be brilliant on a moment’s notice
Todd Henry (Portfolio/Penguin, 2011)
Thought-provoking and practical read on how to be your best self as a creative professional.

Wired to Create: Unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind
Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (Perigee, 2015)
Shares ten things highly creative people do differently, based on research.

Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it
Ian Leslie (Basic Books, 2014)
A wonderful ode to the power and necessity of curiosity and advice on how to nurture it.

Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the power to create, connect, and inspire
Bruce Nussbaum (HarperCollins Publishers, 2013)
In-depth discussion of competencies of creative intelligence: knowledge mining, framing, playing, making, and pivoting.

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Last updated: September 17, 2021 by Catherine Lombardozzi
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