• Joanna Caton

Creativity and Heart-Based Work.

Creativity. (noun). The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness. Oxford Dictionary

I’m sure that those who choose to work in heart-based professions such as allied health and education tend to be creative by nature and naturally use creativity on a day to day basis. To be clear, when I refer to "creativity", I am not talking about being "artistic", "crafty" or "musical", although of course the creative arts may at times be helpful in our work. Rather, thinking and doing things in new and innovative ways to achieve goals and solve problems.

Heart based workers need to harness empathy, see the big picture, tease out the priorities, find strengths, be aware of challenges and then use creativity to teach skills or make plans to solve problems.

A certain “openness” to thinking outside the square is required to achieve all of this and there is usually little place for strict “protocols” or recipe-based procedures.


The ability to think and do in a creative way can have huge benefits to allied health and education workplaces.


  • Thinking and acting creatively tends to lead to satisfied clients or students who stick with their plans and achieve outcomes effectively.

  • These clients or students tend to rave about their positive experience to other people. This is great if you are in business and rely on “word of mouth” marketing.

  • Professionals who display consistent creative behaviours seem to be able to sustain their heart-based work for longer without succumbing to burnout. Indeed, a reduction in feeling “creative” can be one of those red flags that burnout is just around the corner.

  • Creative workers have a fun and positive influence on the rest of the team!

  • Creative workers are often able to think of better ways to do things which can save organisations time and money.

What does "Creativity" look like?


No matter what your field of work, some of the core features of creative behaviour would include behaviours which are thoughtful rather than rote learnt and involve new and different ways of doing. Creativity must include action and not just imagination.


For example:


  • The professional who takes action even when it is not perfect.

  • The team member who seeks ideas from others rather than just sticking with what they know.

  • The teacher who actually implements a couple of ideas into the classroom from a recent training course.

  • The practitioner who creates an "ideas" board on Pinterest.

  • The therapist who takes the time to find out what interests the client and designs therapy activities around that.

  • The team member who uses sensory activities such as music, movement, aroma and touch to get into the right state of alertness for the task at hand.

  • The professional who uses technology to communicate with groups or provide services remotely.

  • The therapist who is willing and able to adapt therapy to different environments as needed.


Creativity is often overlooked during work place planning.


With such great benefits, it always surprises me that “creativity” is often forgotten, or at best, included as an after-thought, when work places recruit staff or manage teams. Creativity as a “thing” may also be neglected when developing business plans, professional development priorities, or performance indicators.

This is a great shame as including the power of creativity can have positive impacts on worker morale, client outcomes and organisational effectiveness.

“We need to honour and understand that creativity and effective heart-based work go hand in hand.”




If you are involved in business or work place management you may like to ask yourself if you have considered planning for creativity. Dig deep and consider questions such as:

  • Are you seeking team members who can think differently and if so how are you doing this?

  • What plans have you got in place so that team members can share their ideas?

  • What professional development courses are your team doing which are creative rather than just "technical"?

  • How are new ideas discussed?

  • Are new ideas rewarded or discouraged?

  • Is there time in the work timetable to explore and experiment?


Developing a “Creative Practice”


Whatever our workplace's philosophy, as individuals we can strive to do all we can to nurture and develop the part of us that is creative. Creativity is too important to neglect. I believe it is helpful to develop a regular “creative practice” which can be super simple but must include a mixture of THINKING and DOING!

After all, it is the practising part of the equation which will build strength and resilience in your creativity "muscles".

Below are some ideas and principles that you may like to include in your practice.

  • Ditch perfectionism. Focusing on making sure everything is perfect is an absolute creativity killer. Try to enjoy the process rather than the end product and you will find the ideas will flow. I often reflect how my clients do not seem to care that my therapy session drawings look like stick figures. In fact my imperfect action can serve to be a good role model for my clients to have a try themselves. Remember the mantra of "progress not perfection".

  • Keep inspired with Pinterest or make a vision board. I have a Pinterest page which helps me to stay motivated and creative. Keeping things visual can be a powerful creativity and inspiration tool.

  • Share ideas with colleagues or with your team (if you have one). You could create a professional development group, join a profession specific Facebook group or create your own Whats App chat.

  • Find a creative workshop to attend and book it in your diary. Learning new creative skills which are not necessarily of a technical nature can open up new ideas and opportunities for solutions in your brain. Additionally- FUN!

  • Tap into your client’s interests. Take the time to find out about your client's skills and interests. Use these in your work as a point of connection or as an activity within which to practise skill development. Who knows- you may also develop a talent for gaming, rock climbing or gardening!

  • Nurture your personal creative interests. Personal counts too and creative pursuits are great as part of a self care practice. You may also be surprised how it is possible to incorporate personal creativity within work.

  • Learn. Listen to podcasts (oh yes I love podcasts) or watch a TED talk

  • Rest. Exhaustion is another creativity spoiler so it is important to make sure you get plenty of sleep and down time. When all else fails, it may be time to take a rest or holiday to recharge your creative batteries.

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