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Unlocking Creativity and Genius - Using Art to Unlock Innovation

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Linda Naiman is the founder of Creativity at Work. Her firm helps organizations develop creativity, innovation, and leadership capabilities. Linda pioneered arts-based learning for businesses in the 1990s. In 2003, she co-authored, ‘Orchestrating Collaboration at Work: Using Music, Improv, Storytelling, and Other Arts to Improve Teamwork,’ that examined the role of arts in business.

When I interviewed Linda, I was intrigued by the types of clients that invite and engage her for her workshops. A sample of her clients include American Express, Cisco, Dell, HSBC, Intel, and Sita (a company providing IT innovations to the airline industry). IBM named Linda as a creative leader in business. Linda’s corporate workshops are designed to help organizations foster an atmosphere of trust that will enable deeper conversations to surface ideas to get to the heart of questions and how to tackle them. There are four key ingredients that lead to value creation:

  • Imagination

  • Creativity

  • Empathy

  • Innovation

Linda helps organizations tap into these ingredients.

Whole Brain Creativity

Linda shared with me one of her workshops centered around creativity, innovation and leadership. In the session, she consults, trains and coaches to get to the team to develop the right mindset, skills and tools they need to successfully innovate. The emphasis is an arts-based approach that fosters the relationship and an experimental form of thinking. A technique Linda uses is to have each of the participants create a compelling and abstract image about leadership. Participants were asked to interpret what each of the images revealed about the subject at hand.

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Through this exercise, Linda, introduces the concept of Whole Brain Thinking developed by Ned Herrmann while he was head of Management Development at G.E.

Whole Brain Thinking is based on research that suggested that each one of us has a preferred mode of thinking and this determines how we absorb and process information. Linda shares her adaptation of Herrmann’s work, Whole-Brain Creativity. There are four modes of thinking: analytic,experimental (artistic), relational, and operational.

Linda Naiman Whole-Brain Creativity based on Herrmann Model
  1. Analytical intelligence includes how you frame a problem. Also how you evaluate an idea, including critical thinking.

  2. Artistic intelligence includes using your imagination, visual thinking, synthesizing information and how you envision possibilities.

  3. Relational intelligence includes how your idea connects or impacts others within a system, as well as your kinesthetic and emotional intelligence, and how you collaborate and co-create with others.

  4. Operational intelligence includes planning and organizing; how you turn an idea into action.

In conversation, we noted that the need to embrace diversity as part of innovation. Organizations that draw upon different styles of thinking, approaches and processes (those that strategically leverage a fuller spectrum of perspective) can get better results. Linda guides organizations through all four quadrants in her workshops to help people analyze a problem/opportunity, generate ideas, improve on them, and develop a plan to turn ideas into action.

“For innovation to flourish, organizations must create an environment that fosters creativity; bringing together multi-talented groups of people who work in close collaboration together— exchanging knowledge, ideas and shaping the direction of the future. Organizations led by creative leaders have a higher success rate in innovation, employee engagement, change, and renewal.”

Design Thinking

We also touched on how Design Thinking adds value to innovation. Linda cites a 2014 assessment by the Design Management Institute: that design-led companies outperform the S&P by over 200%. “The focus of innovation has shifted from being engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and marketing-focused to user-experience-focused.”

Ideo, one of the top global design and innovation companies, popularized the term Design Thinking. They describe it as a process for creative problem-solving. Tim Brown, the company’s CEO, says, “Design thinking is a system that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business can convert into consumer value and market opportunity.” This comment links design thinking as a path to creating and capturing value.

Linda recapped for me her 10 step design thinking process for innovation which integrates classic creative problem-solving, design thinking, and arts-based learning

  1. Discovery - Choose a strategic topic to focus on and learn about. Design thinking starts with an end goal, a desired future, and approaches to how you can make it happen. Research your topic for insights. What do you need to understand? What are the opportunities embedded in problems?

  2. Observe - Observation prepares for empathy. Watch how people are interacting and behaving with your offering (product, service, process).

  3. Empathize - Know your stakeholders. Place yourself in their shoes. What are they looking to gain? What could they lose?

  4. Storytelling - Leverage stories to discover insights. What stories would your stakeholders share with others?

  5. Frame and reframe - Are you asking the right questions? Can you see patterns, themes or relationships from the information you have collected. What insights are appearing and do they help you to reframe the question you are asking?

  6. Ideate - Explore the “What if…” Brainstorm ideas that create and deliver value. Linda uses drawing, painting, storytelling and improvisation to stimulate discussion.

  7. Decide - Choose those that “wow.” Shortlist your best ideas.

  8. Prototype - Build prototypes using low-tech media ( such a drawing, or clay and found objects) to make your ideas visibible  and explore potential solutions

  9. Validate your idea - Have users test and provide feedback to your prototype. Their responses will inform whether you should movement forward or not.

  10. Iterate - Design is not linear. Keep iterating to create value.

At Ibbaka, we are writing a series of blogs on the relationship between value, innovation and pricing. If you are involved in creating value through innovation and would like to share your insight, connect with us.

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