Learning and Development lessons from Spiderman: Lesson 1, Creativity


What would Spiderman do if he had to design a learning and development programme? Be honest – this question has kept you up at night.

Spiderman is known for his creative thinking, balance and superhuman strength. Some of the same things I learned at the conference Brave New Learning last week in Amsterdam.

Disclaimer, Spiderman was not actually presenting at the conference.

But I did learn Spiderman skills.

I learned the power of creative, playful learning, how to create better balance in education and how superhuman strength can inspire individuals to achieve great things.

This is the first of three blogs about my experience of the conference and my top three take-aways for learning and development in the workplace.

First up is how creative, playful learning can be used to engage folk, get them thinking and inspire them to craft amazing solutions to knotty problems.

Next week, I’ll share how peer education can create a better a balance in education and the following week I’ll share how millennials owned the stage as they shared how their values compelled them to do something fantastic for others.

Creative, playful learning

Spiderman is a guy who’s pretty creative with a solution to a problem.

He needed a disguise. So he made one.

(Side note here, 10 out of 10 for sewing skills, Spiderman, but there is room for development in terms of a disguise that lets you, well, blend in…).

I went to two workshops that reminded me it’s our constraints that inspire our creativity and our innovation.

Both focused on fun, engaging ways to come up with solutions to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030.

Danish based Anna Kaminsky and Anders Fjordvald Christensen ran a session that explored how co-creative learning contributes to a circular economy. Through a number of small group tasks we were challenged with re-designing household products through a series of iterations.

This design process challenged us to tailor a specific object to meet the needs of a target group and to be more eco-conscious.

Questions we were asked to consider included:

  • What value does your product create?
  • What are possible barriers to designing your product?
  • What partners do you need?

For example, we were set the design challenge of creating a sofa specifically for a teacher and engineer (which is neat as I’m a teacher and my husband is an engineer).

We were then given free range to redesign a common household product where my group and I devised a programme around a “glass for life” concept, cutting down on plastic bottles, reducing waste and increasing the health of our oceans and marine life.

The brilliance of this workshop is that we are all experts in using household products. We know the shortcuts they provide us with (life before a washing machine, anyone?) but also the drawbacks they have and so it was fun as well as liberating to be able to redesign a product most of us have in our homes.

The second workshop was by the creative geniuses at Designathon and Emer Beamer and Iris van den Berg brought out the big kid in us.

I LOVED the sense of play.

Our task was this:

Create and build a physical place for brave new learning (the conference was called Brave New Learning).

Each group was given a small paper bag of goodies, for example: felt wool, lollipop sticks, straws, a battery, a light, matchboxes, paper, wooden figures and the use of scissors and a glue gun.

After 30 minutes groups presented their design.

We created the TIPI (teaching inspiration, practicing ideas).

A tepee construction housed 4 areas of learning and sharing: skills, knowledge, entertainment and a 4th area we hadn’t decided on. As I mentioned we had 30 minutes for this!

These areas were venues for micro-learning where people could learn from one another and the structure was portable and so could be set up in public venues e.g. the train station.

Designathon take this methodology all over the world and work with little kids in schools and big kids in organisations.

The wow factor for me is the play element and the use of maker education: maker education is problem based and project based learning that solves real world issues through hands on, collaborative learning.

And when you’re taking part in maker education, it’s really great fun.

You are playing – the best kind of learning.

And increasing our creative skills pays huge dividends in the workplace.

So, look around your organization.

  1. Are the learning and development opportunities you’re offered helping you solve real problems through creative play?
  2. Are you given time, a framework, and yes, some constraints, to allow you to create your way out of a problem into a solution?
  3. Is there an opportunity to play, make stuff, have fun, dream up what you think are bonkers solutions (but will lead you to gold)?

And if you don’t have these kind of workshops and events, ask your leadership team why not.


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