Best Approach: Teaching the Unteachable

Working smarter is a full-time job — and the lessons keep changing. For a glimpse of the future, audit the classes at these four learning centers.

Even the most old-school institutions agree: the skill with maximum shelf life is creativity. But how do you teach it? The 2,200 artists, writers, and technology innovators who form the elite corps of one of the most creative companies in the world — Walt Disney Imagineering — have an idea.

Cultivating creativity is exactly what Imagineer Peggy Van Pelt does as a talent development and organizational effectiveness specialist. A 27-year veteran of Disney with a PhD in the psychology of applied creativity, Van Pelt has developed a few guiding principles for creating creativity:

1. Name your talent. Articulating your creative gifts not only boosts self-esteem but also helps you explain your talent to other people.

2. Take creativity wherever you can find it. Van Pelt's favorite creative find is Eddie Gomez, a security sta/er who volunteered for an earthquake preparedness day and demonstrated an artistic gift for special-e/ects makeup. Three years later he's not only on Disney's feature animation team but also one of Van Pelt's top mentors in that area.

3. Express yourself. Says Van Pelt: "You can have an absolutely great idea, but if you can't manifest that idea through some kind of creative expression like writing, drawing, or drafting, what good is it?"

4. Go beyond developing artistic expertise. "You have to go a step further and look at whether or not this person will make a good team member," says Van Pelt.

5. Creativity is a commitment. It took a group of Imagineers 15 years to push through one idea — what is now a hugely successful "ride" through the human body at Epcot.

Contact Walt Disney Imagineering at 1401 Flower Street, Glendale, CA 91221-5020.

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