The Creative Leadership session at the Innovation Institute was a unique and rewarding experience. While the focus of our previous sessions was primarily fixed on the community, this session and its artistic exercises shifted that focus onto us as individual leaders and potential innovators. My creative highs were few and lows were many in the exercises, but three themes stayed the same and permeated the entire session: openness, persistence and innovation.
At the beginning of the session we heard from John Woodcock, an executive with Balfour Beatty, who suggested that a plan for his career was essentially non-existent. He cautioned against this approach, but highlighted that one of his keys to success was being open. Being open to the possibilities, to new and uncomfortable experiences and to the ideas of others, helped him to become successful and an effective leader. Similarly, Shaun Cassidy, a resident artist of the McColl Center and our artistic guide/drill sergeant, led us through an illogical series of life experiences that became invaluable to his work. His openness to these new and often uncomfortable experiences ultimately shaped his work, improved his craft and provided him with the tools necessary to become a greater artist. We were challenged to approach this session with the same openness. In doing so, I was able to learn more about myself and my classmates than I otherwise would have.
John also mentioned how persistence in the face of adversity and self-doubt was a key to his success. For me, this theme resonated a little more than the others. I was able to turn off my office blackberry, but it was much harder to turn off my left-brain mode of thinking. There was a constant internal conflict between my rational side and my creative side. Perhaps, if this session took place on a Saturday or after a glass of wine (maybe two) it would have been easier to let my creativity flow through the crayons and blue tape. Unfortunately, it was the middle of a work day and the “open bar” did not include that glass of wine. To make matters worse, Shaun constantly forced us to make drastic changes in our artwork and adapt to those changes. This man-made adversity upended the blueprint I had for my artwork and forced me to become more creative. Eventually, I was able to use the adversity as a catalyst for creating something greater than my original plans. Much like a sweater accidentally covered in concrete can become a revered piece of public art, I realized that the actual process and persistence through adversity were more important to my success than the blueprint I had at the beginning.
In the end, innovation seemed to be the overarching theme and the ultimate result of our exercises. After all, we were at the Innovation Institute. Innovation tends to be an over-used and under-appreciated term, but it is essential to our development as young and potential leaders. With the many new challenges of today, traditional solutions may no longer be an option. It will be incumbent upon us to innovate and find creative solutions for these challenges. Through our work with the blue tape, I realized that innovation requires openness and persistence, but also requires a collective effort. Many of us discovered that the creativity of our colleagues unlocked our own hidden creativity. This ability to leverage the creativity of others will serve us well in becoming innovative leaders.
The session began with a massive room filled with blank slates and burning questions as to what would take place in the proceeding hours, but by the end of the session the room and those blank slates were filled with our collective creativity and innovation. In many ways, our community is still that massive room filled with blank slates. We all hope to be the future leaders in this community and will each bring different attributes, skills and creativity to bear. By being open to the possibilities and thoughts of others, persisting through adversity and leveraging our collective creativity and innovation, we can fill those blank slates and make our city and community a better place.