Tag Archives: organizational creativity

Pulling Back the Curtain

What does creativity look like inside a creative organization?

How might it be possible to get a snapshot of the internal creative workings of a company that generates creative products (artistic productions, biotech breakthroughs, education/training programs, advertising campaigns, etc.), to see both how they do it, and how well they’re doing? Could we lift up the lid and take a peek at the inner workings? Examine internalized strengths and hidden blind spots? Take a stab at a recipe for creativity in creative companies?

To answer these questions, I’m embarking on a consultative exploration of a creative organization, a company that creates learning environments and opportunities for a variety of applications, from team-building, to exhibit design, to educational materials, to branding, and more.

I’ll be taking a look at this organization (for which, full disclosure, I have worked as content designer and trainer/facilitator) from the perspectives of their internal creative process, their creative climate, the creative preferences of the core team, and the development of a creative product. Throughout, I’ll be bringing in elements of Creative Problem Solving as a sort of process guide and framework for skill development. The specific project I’ll be observing is the concepting phase of an exhibit design for a small museum.

I’ll be posting regularly here on the process of observing a process… and the creativity that manifests in the creation of creative products. Something of a hall of mirrors? I’m seeing it as peek behind the curtain. Names will be changed to protect the innocent. I expect later in the project I’ll be able to give you some more information as to what, where, and when, for those who are curious. The “how” will be on full display throughout.

What do I expect to find out in all this? Well, the first major insight will come at the end of this month, when I present the findings to the team on their FourSight profiles. FourSight measures preferences for different phases of the creative process: clarifying the situation, coming up with ideas, developing them, and implementing them.

Is a company whose stock in trade depends on coming up with strong ideas full of people who love to ideate? Does a company which also develops and implements great ideas attract people who love to do that, too? Where are the strengths, and where are the blind spots? We’ll know that next week.

I’ll also be posting episodic snapshots of the organization’s creative process in action. Look for these under the category Pulling Back the Curtain/Diary of a Process. Also see the program page Pulling Back the Curtain for a quick program overview.

If you work for a creative organization (and even if you don’t) I hope you’ll find it to be an interesting journey. Please stay tuned…

Fear of the Pink Tutu

Over the past several months, I’ve been part of a team developing an experiential program on creativity and innovation for business audiences.

We are now stepping up our marketing efforts for the program, and in the course of this I contacted my network, asking permission to send info on “a creativity and innovation program.” One person replied with the question:

Are we talking about professional creativity, or artistic creativity?

I understood the question, and the concern which I think it implied: does this program impart business value?

But I was also struck by the terms which he used to frame the question: “professional” or “artistic.”

I trust that he is savvy enough to understand that many, many artists produce their work at a professional level; and I also know him to be a person enough in tune to the human dynamic in business settings to appreciate the artistry often evident in management and leadership. So I don’t think he really intended to imply that the two values are in opposition.

But I do think his language points to something important, something deeper—an unease with the particular type of human expression (for this discussion, we’ll label it “artistic”) which often seems, from the outside, to operate on a weird, irrational level.

A friend and I (she is a businesswoman and artist like myself) have coined a phrase for this: Fear of the Pink Tutu.

This is the fear that: (a) if a particular type of artsy-creativity is allowed to infiltrate the corridors of industry, any number of serious-minded professionals will be seduced into abandoning their business objectives and throwing themselves into pantomimes of Swan Lake; or (b) that—in a somewhat less threatening but nonetheless similarly uncomfortable display—said serious-minded professionals will be forced to endure a demonstration of the same by an erstwhile team of artsy “consultants.”

I wonder about the Pink Tutu phenomenon. To be quite frank, I do believe, from years of experience, that there often is something mysterious about the “artistic/creative” process. And yes, that this is part of its power—for both the artist and the audience.

And, I’m also learning that there is enough stuff and nonsense out there about “creativity” in the business world, that the serious-minded professional is wise to be selective.

Still, the the idea that the sometimes mysterious, irrational process of “artistic creativity” might actually have business value needn’t be a risky proposition. Studies show that students who engage in music and drama classes score higher than their peers, not only in language arts, which we might expect, but also in math and science. Expressive arts enhance emotional literacy, compassion, and self-knowledge, at all ages.

It is, ultimately, that which is within us that drives us. But can we always name it? Or is it, too, something of a mystery? The degree to which we can experience the mysterious and seemingly irrational (or non-rational) components in ourselves is the degree to which we can fully inhabit our lives, professional and otherwise. It brings wholeness, which brings wisdom—which is a very friendly condition for professional success.

So, what color is your tutu?