02 SES 04 B, Making Sense of Workplace Learning
The creativity of employees has become an important contribution for companies to innovate and adapt to constant market fluctuations and global competition (Madjar, Oldham, and Pratt 2002). The expansion of the service and knowledge economy as well as the development of new technologies and forms of work organization do not only require a qualified and engaged workforce but also workers who contribute with their creativity to company’s needs (Vultur and Mercure 2011, Voss 2002). There is a great deal of research that is interested in how the creativity of employees can be encouraged at the workplace (Amabile 2013, Ryhammar and Brolin 1999). The presentation suggests focusing on an often neglected aspect of creativity that personally serves individuals in finding personal meaning in their everyday work and training experience. Based on a study with retail apprentices, we show that everyday personal creativity does not stand in contrast to company’s needs and that companies and apprentices can both benefit from an environment that supports it.
We follow a sociological and sociocultural perspective on learning processes which focuses on apprentices’ professional socialization and the development of their professional identities. During an apprenticeship, apprentices do not only have to acquire theoretical knowledge, develop practical skills and familiarize with the more implicit work norms, rules, codes and values to become professional workers (Dubar 1998). They also have to make sense of this knowledge and find personal meaning in their working and learning experience (Zittoun 2016). Becoming a professional is a creative process because apprentices do not smoothly adapt to the learning and working requirements but actively appropriate activities, values, roles or positions (Colley et al. 2003). Finding personal sense in their work and training contribute to the development of apprentices’ professional identities.
Within educational and developmental psychological sciences, this type of everyday personal creativity has been also called “mini c” creativity defined as a “novel and personally meaningful interpretation of experiences, actions, and events” (Kaufmann and Beghetto 2009, 3). This concept allows recognizing apprentices’ creative potential in developing personally meaningful insights and interpretations while they learn and work in a new trade. It builds on Vygotskys (1990) understanding of creativity according to creative acts are not always physical but also mental or emotional constructs. However, we also draw on Winnicotts (1971) understanding of creativity, according to everyday personal creativity can be observed, in particular in individual acts, expressions and attitudes that play with the external reality and allow an own vision of that reality. For instance, possibility thinking (Craft 2000) is a way of playing with reality, instead of asking ‘what something does’ (convergent thinking) an individual develops his/her creative potential while asking ‘what can I do with that’ (divergent thinking).
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