Last year we curated a Creativity in Business eBook asking over 30 other creativity and innovation practitioners, facilitators and leaders the same 6 questions...and got a myriad of diverse approaches, ideas, philosophies, inspirations and practical applications. Over the course of 3 years, I shared them on this blog before forming them into an eBook. I tried the exercise of answering the questions myself, and my responses are below. To download the complete book of all 32 interviews, along with applicable practices click HERE.
My take on the 6 questions:
How does your work engage creativity?
My calling so far feels like it has been to integrate the worlds of creativity, service, meaning and commerce; cultivate whole brain, whole-body, whole-person engagement and full-on aliveness in the workplace (and in life!); and help co-create - with others who are similarly inspired - new, more generative foundations upon which to develop soul-based, vibrant businesses, organizations and communities. Also, my work (The Center for Creative Emergence) integrates more “yin” practices, whole-brain and body-centered practices and ways of being into the more conventionally “yang” left-brain dominant work culture. All of my workshops and events are highly audience-experiential – with the focus being on the emergent creativity of whose in the room.
What do you see as the New Paradigm of Work?
This is a big question for me, one I have been exploring for a long time. One of the meta themes that I see emerging is that the new work paradigm resolves the paradoxes of the conventional paradigm – in values, mindsets, and ways of thinking, being and interacting. In other words, what has been considered opposites, or “either/or” choices in a limited work world view is moving into “both/and” opening of myriad possibilities in an expansive, creativity-centered framework. The new work paradigm has a a much larger playing field – our concepts of success, making a living, service, purpose, meaning, creative expression are changing. The lines are blurring…these things are not silo-ed and separated as much. Creativity is no longer seen as “woo woo” or something you engage after work on your free time – it’s right in the center of the new work paradigm.
A creativity-centered paradigm requires new foundational principles of engagement. The same rules that applied for a static, conformity-based, do-as-you-are-told workplace are very different than those of a dynamic, alive, adaptive, resilient, independent-thinking, creative workplace. I believe we have much to learn from the principles of improv theater (yes-anding, makes everyone else look good, serve the good of the whole, mistakes are invitations to create, etc.) to help us both adapt to and co-create the new paradigm. I’d love to see improv theater training as part of the core training curriculum at all organizations – it’s hugely transformative.
What do you see as the role of creativity in that paradigm?
I see it as the core. Breaking old patterns, creating new foundations, developing more generative structures, and the expressing richer, fuller, more alive aspects of ourselves require us to actualize deeper levels – and use multiple expression - of our creative potential.
What mindsets do you see as essential for navigating the new work paradigm?
A shift in core values and foundational ways of being that are more expansive, generative and inclusive. I see the new mindsets as “Yes Anding” and containing older ones, and adding a new dimension to what was there before - a developmental, emergent process.
Some of the emerging mindsets I see are moving from either/or thinking to include more yes-anding, generative thinking; moving from valuing conformity and getting it right to valuing more exploration and original thinking; not just tolerating, but actually anticipating mistakes as part of the creative process and allowing for it much more liberally than in the past; moving from seeing “failure” as binary (pass/fail, right/wrong, good/bad) to experiencing it as an iteration - an invitation to learn, grow and evolve; moving from a selling-only mindset to a service mindset; using intuition and resonance as much as logic in decision making; increased comfort in improvising; using more heart, empathy, caring, co-creation in structuring the workplace, establishing the culture and environment, and engaging our work daily; and more focus on empowerment coming from the creativity withIN ourselves to name a few.
What is Creative Leadership to you?
A Creative Leader, to me, is a leader who chooses to use more of his or her own creative potential on an ongoing basis – choosing to always learn and evolve personally as well as professionally; one who is dedicated more to exploring possibilities than being right, and more to discovery than maintaining the status quo. Creative Leaders facilitate meaning, creativity, and contribution of those he or she serves – employee, colleague, team member, customer, participant, etc.
Creative Leadership is paradoxical: strong and soft; directional and flexible; strategic and emergent; focused and open. The creative leader, to use and improv terms, does what he or she needs to serve the scene…sometimes taking a lead role, other times support role and following what is already happening….stepping up and letting go as the situation dictates. Creative Leaders welcome, inspire, and awaken the Creative Leadership in those they lead.
MAKING IT REAL
Transforming uncertainty into discovery. Once uncertainty is no longer something to be avoided, you can use it as a creative resource. It goes form being intimidating to being fun…and can lead to surprising creative breakthroughs. Here is an exercise to get started in making the unknown your BFF.
Research shows that moving differently creates new neurological pathways that free up the brain to think differently - an essential ingredient for innovation and new solutions. Moving in non-habitual ways requires the brain to be used in non-habitual ways which then leads to novel thinking. (i.e., improv theater groups use movement warm-ups to get out of habitual thought patterns and get fully present to create).
I created a workshop activity called The Creativity Walk which has many variations. In it, participants walk, move and nonverbally interact in myriad ways, each one designed to have them experience the conceptual framework of a certain states of being related to aspects of the creative process. One is discovery.
The Discovery Walk
In this practice, participants are asked to walk around and engage from a place of certainty, a place where they know the answers. Without exception, inevitably chests pop up, walks become linear and directed, bodies straighten up, eyes focus ahead, etc. Not too much interaction as people move around the room in a rapid, straightforward pace. Focus, yes. Newness, no.
Then they are asked to walk form uncertainty, a place where they do not know the answers. Bodies shrink, movement slows or stops altogether, eyes dart around or look down. Almost no interaction. There is a feeling in the room of fear, trepidation and judgment as they look like deers frozen in headlights. The energy is stagnant. Neither focus nor newness surfaces.
They are then asked to transform that uncertainty into discovery. They are told they still do not know the answers - still in the unknown - however, they now experience it from a state of discovery. Suddenly, the entire energy of the room shifts and awakens: they look about thoughtfully, they are fluid in their movement, they explore their surroundings with all of their senses, they are content, alert, curious and present. They look at each other. Movement goes back and forth from linear to non-linear as they keep moving ahead. There is a sense of contentment, ease, and a feeling of openness. Connections are made. Newness is possible.
There is a noticeable visceral difference between openness of the discovering unknown shut-down stuckness of the fear-based unknown. In both cases, we are with the unknown. In the former, we have possibilities open to us. Once felt in the body (embodied), it is much easier to re-access that feeling later when faced with uncertainty in real work and life situations. Discovery is instant empowerment.
You can do this as a team or group, or by yourself in a room. The key is to really feel the discomfort of static uncertainty in the body, and then let it transform into the dynamic openness of discovery. By consciously practicing transforming that which we do not know into a discovery process, we can more easily move through the fear of not knowing amidst the uncertainty around us on a more consistent basis.
~ Michelle James ©2012
For 31 other approaches to these same 6 questions, and 31 other creativity practices, download the Creativity in Business eBook (FREE for the next month!)