Principles of Creative Engagement

Last weekend, I had the amazing experience of attending the 2nd Creativity in Business conference held in my former hometown, Washington, DC and organized by the brilliant Michelle James.

The day was filled with so many insights that I am still slowly processing them all. As I was leaving, I noticed the above instructions tacked up to a wall. I snapped a quick image on my phone. Apparently, they were the guidelines for the entire conference that I somehow initially missed.

A few days later when I looked at the image again, I realized that it did sum up, in a few short phrases, my entire experience at the conference. And here’s how:

Yes – and
A foundational principle of improv, yes- and implies that you will accept whatever happens and flow with what comes next. When I got to the conference, I was torn about which sessions to attend but the creative energy of the event guided me to choose the perfect ones for me.

Make everyone else look good
For me, this meant enthusiastically participating in each session demonstrating my engagement for the presenter to notice. I believe the more involved the audience is, the more creative energy the presenter receives.

Creativity is messy
In one session, Gregg Fraley led our group through an actual Creative Problem Solving process. One of the things he mentioned in doing so was how we should gravitate to and explore what makes us uncomfortable. It is here that your greatest creative discoveries will occur. Creativity is not a neat process.

Have fun
Above all, the conference was a day for me to play and explore new processes while meeting other like-minds folks. I tried improv, doodling, and storytelling.

What I ultimately learned is that when you combine the creative passion and enthusiasm of a group diverse individuals, you will see and feel magic happen. And that’s what I’ll reflect on most from the conference, as I continue to ponder the creative transformation that occurred within me.

  • How do you create and keep your creative engagement alive?

Why Innovation Needs Diversity

My other passion, besides creativity, is diversity. Yet, when most people think of diversity they often think only of superficial differences like race, gender, etc. To me, diversity is so much more and that’s what makes it important for creating real innovation.

In author Debbe Kennedy’s book, Putting Our Differences to Work, she expands the standard definition of diversity to include such factors as generational insights, problem solving approaches and think origins. With a broader definition of diversity, we can see how bringing together people from all different groups affects brainstorming and innovation.

Imagine an idea generating session that only included individuals with the same backgrounds, work habits or experiences. The end result would probably be pretty boring, and well more of the same. Scott Page, author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies, concurs with this view of the power of diversity to push innovation forward.

So why does he think diverse groups of problem-solvers are more successful than similarly minded groups? Because, according to Page, the diverse groups have more perspectives, which fuels idea generation and ultimately, innovation.

  • Increase the diversity in your problem-solving sessions and see what happens!

Creativity in Business

Not too long ago, I mentioned the term “creativity in business” to a colleague, who promptly responded, “Isn’t that an oxy moron?”

Yes, most people don’t think of creativity when they think about business. That’s why the Creativity in Business Conference held earlier this month in Washington, DC was so important. We need to debunk this myth that creativity can not exist in the work world, more specifically the business world.

While I couldn’t attend the conference, I am happy to share with you a blog recap of the event with the hope that you will see that creativity and business can co-exist and do so successfully!

Jennifer from the Right-Brain Business Plan blog

  • Has your opinion of creativity and business changed?

What Innovation Means to Me

Too often people confuse creativity with innovation. To me, creativity is about coming up with new ideas, while innovation is the application and (hopeful) success of those ideas.

Yet, when I think of innovation I don’t necessarily think first about products. Lately, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on this and understandably this is what innovation usually gets associated with.

But there are other ways of looking at innovation. I think more about innovation as creating new concepts – yes those concepts will probably end up as products – but I don’t believe innovation starts with products. Earlier this year, published “Innovation Jubilation” 50+ new business ideas that defy doom and gloom. The article mentions everything from the DIY trend to mapmania as concepts that are transforming business.

Another useful way to look at innovation is personal innovation. This type of innovation involves improving you and your life. Matt Heinz recently posted about this in Five Ways to Create Innovation Throughout Your Life. He writes about using innovation to improve everything from you relationships to your future.

  • What could you innovate?

Get Stimulated!

While many of us are creative in our personal lives, it seems much more difficult to be creative at work. In today’s economy more than ever, a creative brain is a requirement on the job. In Stimulated: Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius at Work by Andrew Pek and Jeannine McGlade the goal is to get you thinking more creatively.

Weaving together a combination of business case studies and personal stories, Pek and McGlade cover the following key habits necessary to increase your creative genius:

Scouting includes observing the world and your environment.

Cultivating is about creating the environment for ideas to take shape.

Playing allows for experimentation and curiosity.

Venturing is simply permitting ourselves to make the leap into the creative unknown.

Harvesting involves innovation and turning creative sparks and ideas into reality.

  • Try one at work today!

Twitter Tips for Creatives

I am a recent convert to Twitter. I resisted the temptation to join, because like most people, I didn’t understand the benefits of tweets.

Last month, I finally took the plunge and joined Twitter. Once on the site, I immediately got hooked on finding other creatives to follow and reading their tweets and checking out their links.

I also found this article on Tweetable Art: 10 Twitter Tips for Artists. Some of the suggestions like linking to works in progress and your blog are pretty standard social media marketing, but I really like the idea of starting a collector’s club by setting your account to private and offering discounts to those who follow you. Don’t miss the comments section where there are even more tips.

How to Think Creatively

It’s a skill that all of us use, yet a skill all of us could probably improve. Thinking creatively can help us not only create art but guide us through our daily lives. That’s why I love this list of 50 Ways to Think Creatively.

Here are my favorites from the list:


  1. Be curious – wonder about things
  2. Surround yourself with diverse types of people
  3. Live in terms of exploration and discovery, not just solutions or right answers
  4. Use visual, metaphorical and analogical thinking – not just analytical
  5. Embrace, rather than avoid, ambiguity as an essential part of the creative process

Plus some that I plan to explore and experiment with in the new year:

  1. Take improv theater classes to feel more comfortable creating in real time
  2. Use different types of music in the background while thinking
  3. Surround yourself with life-giving and inspiring people, images and objects
  4. Meditate – cultivate presence and mindfulness
  5. Give your Creative Self space, time and attention
  • What are your favorite ways to think creatively?

Margan Zajdowicz image

Creative Lessons From Innovation Experts

I know I’ve been posting lots of links to magazine articles, but recently there have been so many good ones to pass along.

Here’s the latest. In the June issue of Inc. magazine, innovation experts were asked how organizations can foster the creative spirit in their employees. The results were interesting and included a couple of unique ideas.

Write it Down
Frog Design, a San Francisco-based consulting firm, publishes Frog Design Mind, a print and online magazine that serves as a quarterly compendium of staff articles on subjects that excite employees.

Bring in Outsiders
Many top innovation firms tap the perspectives of outside experts — be they physicists, poets, actors, archaeologists, theologians, or astronauts.”

How Are Your Creative Thinking Skills?

Don’t know? That’s why Dr. Robert Epstein has developed an online test that measures your creative ability by assessing four key skill sets used by creative thinkers. Dr. Epstein disregards the idea that creativity is “mysterious” and claims that by developing the right skills, everyone can enhance their creativity.

Based on 25 years of research, Dr. Epstein’s generativity theory concludes that capturing, challenging, broadening and surrounding are the skills we can all use to be more creative thinkers. These are skills I have been using for years not realizing they were also making me more creative. What I have learned from them though, is that enhancing your creativity is a mindful process that you must practice every day to see results.

Your Ultimate Playbook for Success: Unlock Your Creative Genius

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a huge fan of the Big Idea on CNBC. Last night just reaffirmed why I think it’s such a great show. The topic was creativity – as you all know something I am quite passionate about.

The show highlighted how to tap into your own creativity plus how creativity is the currency of the future and featured some prominent creativity experts like Robert Epstein and Richard Florida.

One segment even featured the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize encouraging teams to design more fuel efficient cars for a cross country road adventure. The collaborative power of crowds and teams is a new area of creativity that is being explored and something I am extremely interested in too.