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Scribbling on the Walls: Introducing Creativity at UEA, the story so far...

Steve Oldfield, University of Eastv Anglia, Norwich
Gurpreet Gil, University of Eastv Anglia, Norwich

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In this presentation we will explain the ways in which we have introduced creativity to staff and research postgraduates through our work at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. Our session will cover:
•     The work of the UEA Innovation Lab (iLab), a unique environment designed to stimulate creative thinking with groups.
•     Creativity workshops to introduce general concepts of creativity to University staff.
•     Creative problem solving, based on the Osborn-Parnes model - a structured approach to looking at problems which is the foundation of modern brainstorming techniques.
     This will be underpinned with specific examples of how we have applied creativity in facilitation, idea generation and problem solving, with hopefully some audience participation.
     Our creative odyssey began 5 years ago with the ‘Learning the Habit of Innovation’ project which saw the establishment of the UEA iLab. The project has provided a springboard for a number of creative initiatives within staff development at the University.
     The iLab itself has become an integral part of problem solving at UEA. It has had the effect of subtly changing the culture, altering staff perceptions of how creativity can help with serious issues. A typical facilitated session in the iLab has participants using collaborative brainstorming software, floor-to-ceiling whiteboard walls, toys, collage materials and a plethora of different tools and techniques to find solutions and ideas. The iLab’s reputation has grown and more people want to use it, requesting tailored sessions for their Schools and Departments in order to forward-plan and work through specific issues and problems in a different way.
     Growing out of the iLab, the creativity workshops have allowed staff to explore and experiment with a range of creative thinking techniques that can be used in the normal working environment. Whilst many have enjoyed the eclectic nature of the general creativity workshops, academics and research postgraduates in particular have found the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process appealing because of its theory-based structured nature. A creativity workshop was also presented to non-UEA staff as part of the Midlands Staff development Partnership (MSDP) programme.
     Aside from the obvious direct benefits to staff and their departments, those taking part have also been changed by the experience, altering the way they approach issues in their life outside of work. Creativity is about people changing their mindset - grown ups playing with toys and scribbling on the walls, breaking the rules and breaking free!

Author Bio(s)

Steve Oldfield and Gurpreet Gill are Staff Development Officers in the Centre for Staff and Educational Development at UEA in Norwich.
Gurpreet was manager of the ‘Learning the Habit of Innovation’ project (2001-2004), establishing innovation labs (iLabs) in Eastern Region Universities and training iLab facilitators. She is currently involved in management development, equality and diversity work, and manages the iLab at UEA.
Steve has worked in Higher Education for 14 years, as an IT trainer then as a staff developer. He facilitates iLab sessions, delivers IT training, and runs workshops in stress management and creativity.
Both attended the CREA Conference in Italy and as a result jointly deliver workshops on the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process.