This poster was made from my list in my original blog post here:
the new within us is emerging, the old sometimes fights
back with a vengence to maintain its status quo. It can become an epic battle between the habituated, outdated familiar and the emergent, life-giving unfamiliar.
During the transition, being neither here nor there can be quite unnerving - and sometimes problem-causing. It brings up fears, doubts, insecurities...feelings of not being on solid ground. It also brings up the most amazing creative, generative opportunities if we choose to find and cultivate them, even amidst total discomfort.
It is not the time to seek comfort and direction by looking to the
past to inform the present. It is the time to call in the future to
inform the present...and see what is really ready to emerge. No matter
how deeply I know this, it is still requires all my presence and
commitment to it when I go through my own emergent transitions.
Follow the future by discerning what was from what is emerging; being present moment by moment to lean into the emergent impulses - and learning how to hear and feel them; and staying committed to the higher vision, not the returning limiting pattern. And...following that which fills you most with life - that's always a guide to a more creative expression of self, and a more generative emergent future.
2 colleague friends and I were talking about what differentiates great works of creativity - what constitutes a true Masterpiece. We stated reflecting on what we called Masterpiece Energy. We then decided to explore it further by having a 3-way written dialogue in which we all shared out thoughts, and then after reflecting on what each other had written, evolved and expanded them more until we got into the essence. Below are the thoughts I had, in progression, in that dialogue:
It is Transformative...and Invites us into More than we Currently Know and Are
When I think of Masterpiece Energy, I think of it as the
embodiment of the confluence of several
key elements, regardless of genre: it is alive, transformative,
impeccably crafted, and has an element of surprise. It includes the
ordinary…and goes beyond it. To use and improv term, it “yes-ands” what is, and
takes it somewhere new. It takes both the creator and the experiencer of the
creation to new places. It exudes energy, and creates an energy shift in the
beholder. I even thinks it can go beyond that to elicit a co-creative quality
in the experiencer. It invokes insights, awareness’ or an expanded framework or
consciousness for how we hold the world. Masterpiece Energy invites us into
more than we consciously know, more than we have allowed to be possible, and
more of our own unique creativity.
It is "Living Art" - Fully Alive in the Beholder
Masterpiece Energy, for me, is among other things, “living art” - art that is fully alive in the beholder of the art – weather a painting, a piece of music, a performance, etc. It has a quality of aliveness, not just for the creator, but also for those who experience what’s been created. For an example, when I was in the National Gallery of Art several years ago, I found myself totally immersed in Rembrant’s self portrait. I was captivated. I felt as though he were standing right next to me. I knew very little about his life beforehand, but after being with that painting for 20 minutes, felt as if I knew him. I literally felt as he were alive and standing right there, sharing his world with me. It was fully alive for me, and the experience as profound as if we had just had a conversation….maybe even more so, in that words can often shroud the essence of someone.
It Takes Us Somewhere New
I had a similar experience in a totally different venue. I
went with a group of people to an artist’s home in Sedona, Arizona, who was
married to a Medicine Man. She painted wolves, shamans, other-worldly
landscapes. While there were so many wonderful and truly gifted artists in the
area, her work had an additional quality that made the paintings come to life
before my eyes. I felt like I was in desert where all these people and animals
where there, alive and breathing all around me. I was transfixed. It was
breathtaking. I was not just an observed, but an active participant in the
experience of the art. That experience was transformative - I can still be
transported to that feeling, and the feeling of an expanded awareness as it as
I talk about it. It feels like it lives in me. I love most all art…experiencing
it, creating it, and learning from it…but
when I come across Masterpiece Energy, it always takes me somewhere new,
expansive and somewhat unique.
It Goes Beyond Skill and Talent
Masterpiece Energy is also about where a certain level of
mastery – skill, accomplishment, refinement - in craft and form. The creator is
expressing what is alive for him or her with a level of skill and nuance that
is uncommon. There is a quote that says,
“To do what others cannot do is talent. To do what talent cannot do is
genius.” Masterpiece Energy, for me, is the place where that place beyond
talent meets up with that seasoned in craft. And not just prescribed craft, but a level of craft that
takes the art form itself to a new level. Two worlds unite to form a previously
unimaginable third thing…and the new birth is a masterpiece.
It Transcends Time and Space
Masterpiece Energy transcends time. It is “out of time” in a
way…at least out of time as we experience it in our left-brain dominant,
linear-thinking world. It brings
to my mind the brain states. The conscious brain state, referred to as the Beta
state, is considered our everyday waking experience of reality…and then there
is the Alpha –Theta, and Delta states, which are considered the domain of the
unconscious mind in ever-deepening levels – and where exists and infinite
source of creativity. To me, Masterpiece Energy is the domain of the non-Beta
states…the place that goes beyond our logical reasoning – although it may
contain it – into a non-verbal state of pure experience. It is
multi-dimensional – impacting experience at more than one dimension
It Generates a Shared Connection
With a Masterpiece Energy, the creator of the Masterpiece
and the experiencer share a moment out of the space-time continuum. There is a connection, a feeling, an
understanding – it goes beyond age, culture, language, and time. It that
moment, there is a relationship between the creator and the experiencer of the
creation, often even a sense of kindredness. The relationship to time and space temporarily changes.
It Taps into the Collective Unconscious
If it has this power to
unite people across space and time, it is there for all of us. It is something
we can access and cultivate. We don’t all have the same gifts, skills and
levels of talent in the same ways, but we all have access to the creative
unconscious, where this energy exists and the power to create from what is most
alive in us. And aliveness speaks. Not only can we access this energy as
individuals, but as groups. Imagine the transformational power that can be
unleashed in our lives, organizations, communities - both individually and
collectively - by harnessing the Energy of the collective creative unconscious
– the fertile, alive, generous unknown.
It is a Dynamic Communication across Dimensions
Masterpiece Energy is a dynamic communication across and
between multiple dimensions including a communication between the unformed and
the forming - the shaping of the unknown into something known, felt, and
experienced; a communication between our essence and our senses; a
communication between the creator - the giver - and the individual experiencer-
the receiver; and the communication between that which has been created and the
collective unfolding. Masterpiece Energy generates a greater understanding –
that transcends, time, space, words and externally imposed constructs - about
who we are and who we can be. Ever generous, it offers us that chance to open,
expand, and evolve - both individually and collectively. It invites us to
co-create with it so it - and we - can become actualized in the world. It
provides the rhythm. It asks in return for our commitment, focus, attention,
presence and openness of mind and heart as we engage the dance.
It Holds the Creative Rhythm of Life
Masterpiece Energy is the universal dance of creation. It is an invitation to the ever-evolving party where we can experience the creative rhythm of life, nature and what it means to be more deeply human. Through the embodied language of resonance, it lifts us out of our current context and into the greater engagement of life and the fullness of our human potential.
It is the Driving Energy of Creation and Connection
Masterpiece Energy is a driving energy of creation and connection. It’s the life trajectory that compels us to manifest and evolve our deepest creative natures out into the world...and meet each other there.
There are many other terms that could be substituted for Masterpiece Energy, especially in the second half of the post. The exercise brought up my more general thoughts about the creative process, emergence space, creation from the core, and the life-generating creative source. But for now, just leaving it as I had originally written it in our dialogue.
~ Michelle James ©2013
When we first start living into our purpose, we
notice more "synchronicities" in our every day life - those seemingly
unrelated happenings that come together in an unplanned, yet meaningfully and
uniquely relateable way for us. They often seem like an uncanny answer to
something we have been thinking about. Beyond pure coincidence, they have
USEFUL meaning...and seem perfectly timely in supporting our path.
It can show up in all kinds of ways...like you might have been wondering how to do x and then suddenly you seemingly randomly sit next to the expert of x in the plane. Most of us have experienced that type of thing in different areas of our lives. As we experience living into our purpose over time, those seeming serendipitous happenings become more of a natural flow. Meaning is always there...and it feels as if we are being led to the right people and right events and the right time. Happenings, then, along a purposeful path eventually become more odd when they are not "synchronistic" than when they are. Separate synchronicities just blend into daily living.
I believe this is because inspired purpose acts as a
beacon around which purposeful people, events, and situations emerge - like a homing device. That's been the experience in my
own work over the past 17 years, and what I have observed, without exception,
with other purpose-centered folks. On the outside looking in, others may interpret it
as a lucky coincidence. But it is more than luck...it's staying present to your
path, open to possibilities, and doing what is yours to do - no more, no less which can change a lot. It is not about resting on laurels, or what worked at any given time in the past, but being present to the influences and invitations of the moment.
Purpose + creativity + serving a greater good breeds aligned purposefulness, which is holistically generative - for your self, for others and for the whole. "Magic" synchronicities become more of the norm and unfold purposefully. We still need to do the work, but there is a strong intentionality underlying it. Overtime, as we become more seasoned in "listening in" to what is ours to do, we can more quickly choose the who, what and why of our daily work choices.
Sometime we hear what is ours to do loud and clear, but we
resist doing it. (I've had that happen a lot). Moving through that resistance is another story...and a post for
Finding, Cultivating and Living Your Creatively
Below are just a few of many components. The discovery process always work best with whole-brain engagement, playfulness, body-centered practices, reflection, and other juicy stuff which I have written about a lot, but is not the focus on this post. This is a much larger - and longer - process than a blog post can begin to cover.
Here are 4 Reflection Points for now:1. Discovering your aliveness. What gives you juice, energy, engagement and meaning. Aliveness has many expressions: What's fun for you? What energize you? What do you like to play at? Tinker with? Explore? What engages your heart? Your mind? Your body? Your soul? What do you do because it's "so you"? How do you shine (or want to shine)? What captivates your whole self, not because it is interesting or cool to others, but because it is compelling to YOU? What triggers your curiosity? What did you love doing, being, feeling at any point of your life or now? What did you love doing, being, feeling at any point of your life or now? What does "Alive" feel like for you? How do you get that experience?
Included in purposeful aliveness is meaning. What
is meaningful for you? What moves you? What stirs you? What inspires you? What challenges in
the world call to you? How do you like to contribute? What is a vision you have for a better world? What roles would you like to play? (no need to limit to just one...old paradogm was being boxed into one role - in the emerging paradigm, you can play many roles). What are the needs you see out there that speak most loudly to you? How could the world use your help? Who are you most drawn to work with? For? How could that look? Dont limit it to existing channels or structures...play with creating your own. :-)
2. Cultivating your aliveness and embodying it
over time. There are so many
way to embody it, more than we can imagine. One aspect of living into it
includes being conscious of to what you say YES to and to what you say NO. Once
you start engaging your aliveness, and extracting meaning in it, you further cultivate your purpose by saying YES and stepping up to ALL of that which it requires...and, as
significantly, saying NO to - and NOT doing - everything that is no longer
serving it. With every healthy, live-giving YES, there come a series of healthy
Sometime the NOs are is the hardest part - to people, events, ideas, and
most often, old habits and ways of being. Committing can take a moment...but
living into it, embodying it, and choosing from it moment, by moment, day by
day is an ongoing process. It requires presence, consciousness, self awareness and breaking
old patterns...and cultivating new ones.
Sometimes it means embarking on trainings or events that have no seeming direct relationship to your work (even though they eventually inform it). For example, I spent 5 years is a psycho-physical healing, movement and bodywork training, CoreSomatics, and became a Master Practitioner. I took it becuase I was deelpy curious about the wisdom of the body after a bodywork experience I had, and the training had a lot of energy for me - not knowing if or how I would even apply it. I don't have a hands-on healing practice, but what I learned about the somatic intelligence in that training - and the ways I related it to creative process - deeply informed my work and the design of all of my public and corporate workshops. I bring movement and the body into everything I do, even when not a body-centered program.
3. Creating from it. Purpose always aligns self, others and the whole. I have worked with hundreds of passionate entrepreneurs who have created their own work in the world...and without exception, when each connected with his or her purpose and sense of "calling", it was always generative, aligned with serving some greater good. Serving something larger than just ourselves is NATURALLY embedded in our purpose...in some way or other - often requiring us to expand our mental framework to see that. Sharing something alive in ourselves seems to be an inherent part of purpose.
People who create their own path centered around their purpose discover it already has service built in. It many, sometimes, require us to expand our belief systems of what service means, and how it looks, not limited to conventional ideas about who serves and contributes. It is not just about carrying what you know in service, but also creating something that serves something larger than just you - and it does include you. (It is not about sacrficing who you are in service of others - that's not generative for the whole. It is about structuring your aliveness into an accessible purpose.
It can be anything - a service, product, a new idea, a framework, a computer program, a business, a work of art, a way of doing something, a design, a blog post... anything that is uniquely yours. There is a sense of inner empowerment that comes from accessing your “creative source” and creating from it, no matter how you do it. EVERYONE is creative and everyone can access it.
4. Claiming your Inner Authority. Noticing patterns
you have discovered as a result of "working it" gives you inner authority and ownership that's not dependent on what others think. When we leave our socialized beliefs and enter the juicy, messy territory of our inner resourcefulness, it can be scary. It can be challenging to discover our true voice, the one that contains our creatively unique purpose and expression, and weed out all of the other voices with which we've been socialized.
There is no short cut to this. It requires going under layers of accepted assumptions, and creating time to listen to a voice inside of us we may not even know is there. Sometimes that voice is loud and we get a clear vision or "aha" moment where we know what we want to do and how, but often that voice starts out softly, and we have to nurture it out. But it is always in there...waiting for us to engage with it.
Once we learn how to hear it, we become aware it's always communicating. Once we have engaged our work for a while, we pay more attention, we can begin to notice patterns, honor our own observances, see larger patterns at work that connect to our work, and formulate "wisdom" form integrating knowledge, experience, creativity and intuition in our unique ways. That is when we are less dependent on others for evaluation, and become more centered in our own inner authority. We can hear information from the inside out, and discern what resonates and what does not. We question everything. We run things through our OWN "resonance meter" to see how it feels. Does this feel right? Does it feel like it is mine to do? It can take time to hear the subtleties of the language of our “creative source” but once we learn its language, we begin to trust our inner voice.
There is a type of freedom that comes with engaging your own inner authority and crafting your path...and it's not always easy. In fact, it usually comes with messiness, seeming setbacks, resistances, fears and doubts....your own, and sometimes others around you. Cultivating your creatively unique purposeful work often brings up the "shadow" as well as the light. But being with it all, as it emerges, and making generative choices along the way is that’s how that life-giving voice inside of us gets stronger.
Mistakes within purpose are simply iterations in the emergence process. There is no way around making mistakes, probably lots of them...and purpose allows you to learn from them, to use them. They become awareness lessons, they strengthen knowledge and resolve, and they become innovations to create something new and different.
These are just a few reflections around purpose as they came to me to share today, based on my own experiences and from coaching others who are engaging their purposeful work. Not everything may resonate with you. You may even might disagree with some of it. My hope is not to persuade you on an idea, but simply offer some food for thought or inspiration. As with everything, take what resonates and leave the rest. :-)
Michelle James ©2013
Been on a turn-a-tweet-into-a-poster making kick lately, despite my limited graphic capabilities. Many years ago I had a life-chaging experience where I really got - at a deep, embodied level - that the void was fertile and alive and a source of infinite creativity. I spent the next several years learning everything I could about it through various teachings, domains and direct experiences...and created a business dedicated to its creative cultivation.
The void is there, always waiting to co-create with us. I consider it my co-creative business partner and guide, and feel grateful all the time that in my work I get to dance with with the life-giving "creative source" within others, within myself, and within our dynamic. The creative void offers a totally unpredictable, unique expression from each person, which is, for me, what keeps work - and life - engaging. This poster is today's tiny homage to the fertile void:
Navigating the Unknown: 7 Reflection Tools
Creativity is at the very core of who we are.
We are creative beings. It is at the essence of what life really is about and how life really works - creatively. We have been socialized and educated, and sometimes traumatized out of our natural creativity so we forget that we're all creative by the time we become adults.
In the past, some split off totally from their creative core (and think they are not creative), others relegated it onto the sidelines to do for fun after the "real work" was done, while others stayed connected, often feeling misunderstood. We've been a society of creativity witnesses more than creativity engagers. Thankfully, that's been shifting over the past few years as more people (and organizations) are tapping into and valuing their creative natures, but many still live and work from "old school" limiting assumptions around what creativity is and who is creative.
Reconnecting with our essential creative nature leads to an all-around more vibrant life...because it is how we are naturally designed! Just observe kids discovering, playing, exploring and creating before they were socialized or labeled or "corrected" out of it. Our creative core is so much bigger that our training or beliefs...and is accessible to anyone at anytime.
When we create (and reduce our self judgment), we feel more alive, enthusiastic and connected to the flow of life. The more access we have to our creativity, the more connections we make, and the more opportunities we cultivate. Stress reduces automatically as we access our creative aliveness - that which gives us "juice"! It is fully alive.
When accessing our creativity we’re happier and more joyful. The brain unleashes endorphins and we feel better. Working with creativity generally leads to a more engaged, juicy living. And we buy into what we create - it has meaning. Living an expressed creative life contains the balance between structure and flow, action and reflection, activity and renewal, the mind and the body. Creativity contains the dynamic tension of seeming opposites - sometimes working harmoniously through us, sometimes in struggle. The creative core needs us to engage it…explore, experiment, cultivate, be present and listen deeply.
We all were influenced by certain assumptions growing up. Whether they came from parents, teachers, colleagues, institutions, fears, shoulds, societal norms of "how business is done," etc., we could not escape them. But we can question them, challenge them, engage them, play with them, and test for ourselves which ones really work for us.
We can go beneath the assumptions into our creative core to discover what really brings us to life. We can then choose consciously which ones we keep, which ones we release, which ones we transform, and be present to what other, newer ones want to emerge to help us discover or create more generative ways of thinking, living and creating. The creative wellspring underneath our assumptions is infinite and generous - always giving if we get into the space to receive.
When we venture underneath that which we have accepted - our inhibiting assumptions about ourselves and the "correct" ways we "should" think, work, or use our time - that are not at our creative core, we can re-access our creatively unique flow. We can then really live our aliveness - our creative "juice" - out in the world.
It takes time, attention and intention. It requires giving ourselves space to listen into that inner voice and cultivate out it's creative riches (whether artistically talented or not.). It takes protecting the voice as it is emerging from our own inner judgments or the evaluations of others as it is unfolding. Sometimes we need to protect our creative voice as it emerges...it can be vulnerable and shaky when first coming to the surface - messy, untamed, and often not understandable or relate-able at first against our current context. In other words, easy to judge or negate.
Beyond our own juicy aliveness, reclaiming our creative core is essential for the world we live in. As we collectively expand our notions of what creativity means and how it can be expressed, exponential potential is activated...new insights emerge, new connections are made, and more generative structures and systems can be created. Enlivened, we can contribute from a place of our uniquely inspired purpose. Our world can more positively change because we come from more life-giving assumptions, not outdated, constricted, fear-based ones. And that begins with each of us...individually.
The awesome thing about the creative source is that, like water over rocks, it cannot be stopped. The creative life energy is stronger, and becomes more so as we value it and engage it. We have nature on our side!
~ Michelle James 2013
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
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!)
In it, 32 Creativity and Innovation Thought Leaders explore navigating the new work paradigm, applied creativity and innovation. Each content-rich interview includes a "Making in Real" section with juicy exercises to apply to your work!
Includes interviews with Dan Pink (A Whole New Mind), Michael Gelb (How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci), Kat Koppett (Training to Imagine), Dr. Win Wenger (The Einstein Factor), Julie Ann Turner (The Creator's Guide), Stephen Shapiro (24/7 Innovation), Dr. Paul Scheele (Natural Brilliance), Peggy Holman (Engaging Emergence), Mike Bonifer (Game Changers), Gregg Fraley (Jack's Notebook), Sam Horn (POP!), William Smith (Your Creative Power), Jeff Klein (Working for Good), Annalie Killian (Chief Magic Officer at AMP), Michael Margolis (GetStoried), Robert Richman (Zappos Insights), Dr. Stan Gryskiewitz (Positive Turbulence), Larry Blumsack (Face-to-Face), Brian Robertson (Holocracy), Frank Spencer (Kedge), Corey Michael Blake (Round Table Companies), Leilani Henry (Being & Living Enterprises), Seth Kahan (Visoinary Leadership), Tim Kastelle (Innovation for Growth), Seth Kahan (Visionary Leadership), Cathy Rose Salit (Performance of a Lifetime), Jay Rhoderick (Bizprov), Marci Segal (Creativity Land), Russ Scheon (Creative Leadership), George Por (Collective Intelligence), Doug Stevenson (da Innovise Guys), Rick Smyre (Communities of the Future) and Michelle James (The Center for Creative Emergence)
Click here to download your free eBook.
In a Facebooks group I'm in, someone posted a
comment wondering about designing for breakthrough innovation. I offerred my response and thought I'd share it here as well since it is relevent to the theme of this blog:
It's been my experience that you can create/design conditions - via generative principles, "whole-brain" practices, shaping the plysical environment, cultivating new cultural norms, etc. - that dramatically increase the chances for breakthroughs to emerge. While I believe a breakthrough can't be forced, we can design the "fertile soil" and engage intentional acitvities that make its emergence more likely.
That includes vastly different ways of thinking, being, embodying, perceiving, and expressing than we currently see in most work environments - which are designed on foundations for control and maintenance - not so much for change, emergence, transformation and breakthroughs.
Designing for breakthroughs includes the willingness for the unpredictable messiness of emergence...and that can be scary for a lot of people. While there is no way to design for comfort in creaitvity and emergence, we can design for emotional safety...that helps open the field and tap into the creative potentiality-in-waiting.
Also, while one might design for breakthrough, the breakthrough may occur seemingly randomly several iterations later...and may not immediately seem connected to the initial design, even though it is a result of it. It's more like we can co-design in partnership with the natural creative process to allow for more change of breakthroughs..but we can't control it. I believe if the designer is not surprised by what emerges, and has lots of space for the unknown embedded into the design, he or she is not necessairly designing for breakthroughs.
A couple yars ago I wrote an article on this blog on 9 Practices for Cultivating Creative Aliveness that goes into more detail with each of the practices. Today I played with making it into a poster (and shortening it) to go with a workshop I'll be doing. Thought I'd share it here:
The full-length article is at http://bit.ly/gx2Oyq
This was a from an online talk I gave on Creative Reinvention using principles and story-based practices from improvisational theater...one of the ways to live into a larger story....
In the 15 years that I've been coaching and working with passion-centered, purpose-driven entrepreneurs, there are a few patterns I've observed that over and over again with clients and peers who have successfully made their way doing and embodying their alive, meaningful, signature work in the world.
By cultivating these 6 elements as an entrepreneur, you become more empowered in what you are offering, and in owning its value. You reduce the focus on, and worries about, competition. Others may work in the same field, or market the same type of services and offerings, but no one has the same 6 elements to bring to and inform his or her work as you do.
Most people look at only knowledge and education base, or type of work, as the only measure of what they do. That is only one part of your one-of-a-kind Signature Work. By following and cultivating what is most alive and juicy for you, you create a strong inner foundation upon which to build - one that can carry you through the rough times, and though times of uncertainty and discovery.
By also focusing and drawing out the uniqueness of your gifts skills talents; cultivating your own stories, observances and discoveries; drawing upon your unique set of experiences in your work and life; and then weaving it together with your own unique creative style and expression (EVERYONE has that - not just artists!), there is no one else who can do what you do in the same way you do it. It becomes your unique signature work or approach.
It takes work, focus and effort to dig deep and cultivate and then integrate these elements into your work. It requires time and attention on self discovery. As Socrates said back in the day, "The unexamined life in not worth living." It takes self-examination - a deep dive into who you are, what you know, and what really moves you - to create your Signature Work. And it takes trial and error in the real world to strengthen it as you go - with inside-out inspiration and outside-in feedback.
It's an ongoing process. The good news is that you can discover quite quickly you are so much richer and have so much more to offer your signature work than bullet points on a resume. You have a creative reservioir and wellspring of gifts, ideas and stories you might not even realize you have...and no one can do exactly what you do in the ways you do it.
By working to cultivate and integrate these 6 elements, impassioned entrepreneurs begin to embody and exude a sense of ownership and "inner authority" that serves to attract potential clients more easily, and allows you to meet the challenges of an uncertain, constantly changing world with less trepidation and more resilience. Work becomes more fun, meaningful, engaging...and uniquely yours.
2-day Workshop ~ December 7th and 8th.
PLUS 1 follow-up one-on-one coaching session.
Led by Michelle James, CEO of The Center for Creative Emergence.
Image from Mercedes Benz ad
This workshop is for professional facilitators, trainers, OD practitioners, coaches, consultants, educators, leaders and anyone else who wants to facilitate creativity, dynamic learning and positive culture change for their participants.
Join the creativity facilitation and training revolution! In this workshop you will learn and experience a variety of both right and left brain creativity approaches and techniques designed to enliven your workshops and accelerate participant learning.
Learn how to * Quickly and easily engage participants * Modify activities for the particular group and learning objectives * Draw forth the energy, passion, and assets already in the room * Cultivate the attitudes and behaviors for using whole-brain approaches * Create a safe and receptive learning environment
Effectively getting groups to open up to experiential creative approaches begins with increasing your own comfort and flexibility with the techniques you facilitate. This workshop will focus on two levels at the same time - you as a professional, authentic facilitator and you as a creative individual. You will have the opportunity for personal expansion as you gather useful tools.
Experience whole-brain training activities based in storytelling, improvisational theater, visual imagery, somatics, accelerated learning, ritual, systems thinking, Socratic and analytical processes...and more! You will learn key creative facilitation principles, creativity training design guidelines, and whole brain approaches to design and facilitate innovative learning environments.
Explore using whole brain methods to:
* Get your own creative juices flowing
* Draw forth your natural gifts as a facilitator
* Explore the applications of these new tools
* Have fun. Surprise yourself and each other
* Let go of controls; think and respond spontaneously
Leave with creative activities for:
* Creating group story
* Innovation & idea generation
* Team & community building
In this pattern-breaking program, you will learn how to let go of controls and mindsets that otherwise inhibit your creative thinking. As you facilitate this for your participants, they will experience a deeper level of meaning and learning.
When: Friday & Saturday, December 7th and 8th (9:30: 4:30) and a follow up phone one-on-one coaching session. Where: Falls Church, VA. Directions will be provided.
More information and registration:
I am excited to host this FREE Creativity in Business Telesummit!
REGISTER at http://www.BizCreativitySummit.com/
Featuring 15 Pioneering Creativity & Innovation Leaders, Explorers & Practitioners!
October 22-31 ~ Calls at 12pm & 2Pm EST daily
The theme is Applied Discovery - setting the stage for discovery, generating new ideas and insights, and using your creativity to apply your discoveries in your work.
This event is for entrepreneurs, leaders, executives, managers, learning and innovation officers, facilitators, trainers, OD and HR practitioners, consultants, coaches and anyone who wants to be more innovative, adaptive, resilient, and expressive in the changing world of work, or facilitate that for others.
Leave with principles, practices, techniques, approaches, and frameworks you can start applying to your work, life or business right away to help you discover, create, and innovate!
Plus, you'll get a free Creativity in Business ebook when you register through October 21st, in which 32 thought leaders explore applied creativity and making it real at work.
Hope you can join us!
Time for my annual Creativity in Work Program. If you are in the DC area and this resonates, join us! :-)
Creativity in Work Professional and Personal Development Program
May - June 2012
Use the Creative Resources within you to inform new Work Directions, Strategies, Innovations, Projects, Products or Services
* Discover, design, and develop what's next in your work
* Cultivate your creativity and self-awareness
* Focus your creative intelligence for practical results
* Learn to use uncertainty as a productive business resource
* Develop a solid, structured framework of what you offer and your differentiating, unique "signature"
* Create, innovate and implement with confidence
* Attract clients aligned with your vision and mission
Practical, tangible outcomes and offerings will emerge from the inside-out over the course of 6 weeks. Your passion, skills, talents and experience will inform the goals and structures. This program contains a balance of left and right brain activities, analysis and intuition, strategy and emergence, thinking and being, action and reflection, theory and application, lightness and depth, and improvisation and planning...with actionable results.
We'll use the Creative Emergence Process with a rich integration of creative practices, including improv, story, the arts, intuition techniques, reflection tools, whole-brain/accelerated learning methods, creative thinking, ritual, and analytical and evaluative approaches to help you create next-level business solutions. Along with your business changes, you change internally.
This course is not about writing out lists and taking notes. It is about delving in, whole-person creating, breaking patterns, and cultivating new ideas, structures and directions - that are both creative and practical. It's for you if are truly committed and ready to birth something NEW into the world that serves others and is aligned with who YOU are!
* The development of new or the refinement of your existing offerings.
If you work for an organization, new ways to apply creativity to your work.
* The next evolution of your work direction, project, work environment,
approach, product, service, design, process, program, workshop or model.
* A self-designed framework, set of strategic goals and an action plan.
* The initial implementation of your action and marketing plans.
* 4 full-days of workshops, each building on the one before
* 1 two-hour+ Creative Emergence coaching session
PLUS one 1-hour post-workshop follow-up session
* Creativity in Work workbook - activities and resources with your emergent ideas and learnings
* Emergence Box - relevant items to engage your process outside of the workshop setting
* Engaging and relevant practices to do in between workshops
* All art supplies and program materials
* In depth attention due to small group size
* Quality food, gourmet coffee, teas and spring water
* Certificate of Completion
This program is for entrepreneurs, leaders, managers, consultants, trainers, innovators, coaches, creatives, psychologists, healers, sales and marketing professionals, change agents, pioneers and people in transition to name a few - anyone creating something new in their work.
Details & Registration: http://www.creativeemergence.com/cinw.html
One of the things I've been most passionate about on my own work for many years is focusing my energy toward the emerging paradigm of work, one where financial generatively (making money) is only part of the whole and not, as in the conventional paradigm, the central bottom line...or even the only driving bottom line. The new paradigm has multiple bottom lines; multiple ways of creating and engaging; and includes new ways of being and interacting as well as doing and acting. It requires an entirely new foundations, not just new ways to "succeed" in the old foundational landscape.
There is a larger movement of integration underfoot, and more and more people are committed to helping bring this new life-giving work paradigm forward. It is already happening. We can focus on creating/unfolding a better future - leaving that which no longer serves, "yes-anding" what does - or we can carry the baggage of the past and be limited by what worked then. We get to choose where we put our intention, attention, creativity and action. In the new work paradigm, we can bring more of who we are into the structuring of our work, our collaborative partnerships, our companies and our service in the world. We don't have to silo oursevles or our company missions.
We can create work, businesses and organizations that are alive, creative, adaptive, resilient and holistically generative by establishing new foundations; integrating the isolated parts of ourselves and our lives; questioning the assumptions underneath our current beliefs and our value systems (including our current relationship with money and set of accompanying beliefs); engaging the creative unknown to go beyond what we currently hold as "the way it is"; forming life-giving collaborations based on resonance and aliveness; giving conscious space, time and attention to our creative imaginations; developing generative practices and rituals to help us "live into" our visions and embody new ways of being; listening to what calls to us from within; and expanding the conventional bottom line to include more of our creativity, humanness, connection and deeper contribution..
Related post: 27 Elements fo the New Work Paradigm - shifting our ways of working to ways that are expanding the notion of what work and business is and can be.
Once you connect with your calling, the question isn't IF it can
be done - it's an ongoing, "What's mine to do (no more, no less) to serve it?" Asking if it can be done takes you out of the present and into a place of guessing, hoping and trying to 'figure it out.' It is binary. It takes you out of direct experience.
Listen into what is yours to do
Instead, asking what's yours to do is an intentional practice that keeps you in the present, moment by moment, where you can unfold and cultivate it as it emerges. No more = not taking on more than is yours...and letting go of whatever is not. No less = stepping up to what is needed to serve it, even when it is uncomfortable and ambiguous. (See my blog post about difference between Just-do-it thinking, Whatever-will-be-will-be thinking, and What's-mine-to-do thinking).
Don't wait to start walking until after you get clarity
Unlike with conventional planning or goal setting, you can't see the end when you get started cultivating a calling. When you are called to into your truly alive work - your inspired vision and mission - asking if it is possible is no longer a relevant question. The daily whats and hows - in doing and being - are what's relevant. As is learning the discernment of what's not yours to do. With every healthy yes, there is a series of healthy no's.
You discover exactly what is possible and how as you engage the process.
You discover what is authentically for you, and what's not. And you discover an infinite resource within you (I call it the Creative Source since is contains pure life-giving creative energy - there are lots of different names for it) that you have as an ally for the rest of your journey.
It is this, our inner sherpa, that helps us navigate the landscape of the amazing, rich, abundant fertile unknown. It carries the most holistically generative choices for us at any time - creatively, financially, and spiritually/meaningfully interconnected. Working with it it to cultivate your unique calling is an intentional practice. It will not lead you astray. It's job is life generating more life.
Use your whole brain and body
There are many ways to cultivate its creative wisdom. The more of our whole brain's multiple intelligences we engage - and the more of our whole selves we bring to it - the more expansive our understanding of it can be...and the more fun we will have! In addition to verbal questioning, start drawing it out, painting it out, journaling with both words and images, embodying it, bodystorming (acting it out in your body - using your somatic intelligence), etc. Using non-habitual ways to generate answers "tricks" the habitual thinker in us into generating something new. I see this everyday in my work...once we intentionally use our brains and bodies in different ways, breakthroughs happen more quickly and consistently. Breaking patterns leads to breakthroughs.
The world needs your Creative Uniqueness
Time for us all to claim and create what is ours to do! I believe the world is waiting for your unique creation that you and only you can offer us. There is no competition for that role - no one can be a better you than you. And when we find what is ours do it. it is always connected to helping other in same way - that really is embedded into the authentic callings...they are never just for ourselves. It just does not have to be limited to society's views of what is means to serve...our true callings always serve a higher purpose. :-)
People can say, "I had better things to do. Same old, same old. I couldn't wait to get out of there" or they can say "Wow - that was awesome! We actually got A LOT done - and had fun doing it. I didn't even realize I had all those creative ideas." after leaving one of your meetings. They can feel anywhere from drained to motivated, mind-numbed to mind-expanded, detached to engaged. The good news is it's your choice. If you'd prefer the latter, come join us in the dynamic, fun, NEW session on creating and facilitating vibrant, generative, productive meetings - ones where people get things done, ENJOY the meeting, and leave feeling motivated.
Meetings come to life when you engage the whole brain and participants get to discover something new in real time. There is ALIVENESS in discovery. Come explore and experience divergent and convergent creativity principles and practices - including improv, storytelling, embodiment among others - that are easy to learn and apply for any meeting you facilitate. Learn how to structure meetings that bring out more creativity, discovery and motivation from the participants to better meet your business goals. Leave with practices you can apply right away; a set of guiding principles; greater understanding of how to integrate both divergence and convergence into a meeting of any length; and increased self awareness. And we'll have FUN in the process! :-)
Info and Directions: http://www.capitolcreativitynetwork.com/
Creativity comes to life at intersections. It thrives on opposites. It engages paradox until something new emerges. This transfers to the design of projects, processes, workshops, teams, organizations, etc. If we design for space to accommodate opposites (just like nature does) we have a more creative system. This is part of a presentation I'm giving on the yin/yang of creative process:
By now, most people have heard of the "Diffusion of Innovation" bell curve, first introduced by Everett Rogers in the 60s. I remember learning about in college, and it seems to still be a relevant model today. According to wikipedia:
"Diffusion of Innovations is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Everett Rogers, a professor of rural sociology, popularized the theory in his 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations. He said diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. The origins of the diffusion of innovations theory are varied and span multiple disciplines...The book proposed 4 main elements that influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. That is, diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system."
Here is an image of the bell curve that I got from blog.pcnsinc.com:
For a recent client program, I wanted to use the model to illustrate some points about their own innovation culture. I went searching online and compiled a bunch of information that I read about the different groups, then created this little chart (below) based on what I had been reading on the different sites, the book, and my own experience of facilitating creativity in organizations. This shows characteristics of each of the 5 main segments of the population:
I'm bringing this up because I see so many groups/work teams still trying to reach consensus and get buy-in at the front-end from everyone as they attempt to change their work culture, introduce a new innovation, or co-create/co-develop a new product or process.
Form a facilitating co-creativity perspective (whether a day-long short workshop or a long-term culture change), I have found that it is much easier and quicker if you recognize the differences, and let people join into the creative process wherever along the bell curve they are. Not only will their resistance go down, their contribution will go up. The adoption bell curve is at work whether a leader or facilitator wants it to be or not. We can learn to use the natural trajectory of this adoption process in co-creative work teams, instead of fighting it.
In facilitating a creative process, instead of trying to get everyone in a group comfortable with the "blank canvas" thinking that innovators love, let the innovators play there. Then invite in others to join along the way. That takes the pressure of those who really can't go there, and they no longer feel the need to resist - with defenses up - because they are less threatened. The early adaptors are great bridges. They help make it accessible for the majority to buy in. The early majority needs to see something tangible or in action before they will buy in. Instead of force them to dive into the unknown with the innovators, let them enter into the process as they see something already starting to form and shape You get much more creativity and collaboration out of them that way. The laggards, too, will be less vocal in their resistance if they are not forced into change up front. They may ultimately self select out the team, group or company...or they may come around later.
The key is that it is a big waste of time to try to get everyone on the same page at the beginning. Resistance, which is going to happen anyway as is natural in the creative process, skyrockets when everyone is expected to be in the same place at the same time. A new idea emerges emerges and immediately gets shot down, mostly out of fear or discomfort.
Instead, we can acknowledge that each segment has much to offer in the creative process. Just like each has a role in nature. In nature there is always that dynamic tension in the birthing process between something new wanting to emerge (expansion) and the status quo wanting to maintain (contraction). Creative breakthroughs happen in the intersection of that dynamic tension. Healthy creative birth happens by learning to work with that tension.
The same is true in organizational systems. Each role plays a part in the creative process...and that tension between the segments is part of the natural creative process. They are all correct - just incomplete. The late majority likes to organize and maintain the system in a way the innovator or early adopter would not care to do. Everyone is, of course, infinitely creative (whether they know it yet or not). Everyone can activate and unleash more of their creativity through pattern breaking with a variety of approaches and awesome practices at any time. But not everyone creates the same way, and not everyone comes to life at the same point in a group creative process. By USING the differences, we get more creativity out of a group.
If we work with how nature unfolds and creates, and appreciate the differences in pace and timing for people to jump in the ways THEY know they can best contribute (allowing them to self organize along the creative in a way they are more alive to do so), I believe we will experience an easier transition into the blank canvas of the new paradigm 21st century workplace being co-created by all of us.
Steve Dorfman and Toby Marciante of We Mean Business TV recently interviewd me on creative (whole brain) thinking in the workplace. We talk about stories, improv, somatics, natural resistance, risk-friendly work cultures, generational creaitvity, discovery sessions, and more in this 30-minute interview.
This morning I heard someone being interviewed on the topic of conscious business (on Waking Up in the Workplace) and they were asked, "What is the question that drives your work.?" I love that. It's aligned with the concept that we are all living our questions (whether we are conscious of it or not) so we need to choose them carefully. In that, we become conscious participants in the creation of our work.
I was thinking about how I would answer, and it led me create the venn diagram below. My driving question is actually the intersection of 3 foundational questions. - not in any order, just holding all 3 questions on my consciousness - that I engage when I'm feeling the call to "what's next" in my work. My business tagline for over the past decade has been Consciously Creating What's Next and this intersection is at the heart of how I navigate that (and how I work with my coaching clients to structure their aliveness into income-generating work). Here is my attempt at mapping it:
I'm numbering the questions here, but there is really no order to them. It depends on which needs asking when - situationally adaptive.
1. What is most alive for me? That is what is alive for me to engage and create right now? Not all that I can imagine or that can ever be, but where is the juice right now at this space in time? For me that is the ripe fruit, and if you engage that, you remain in life-giving energy in your work. Most significantly, it is not about asking what makes complete sense first. Ask what brings you to life first...then find ways to make it work later. So often people approach it backwards and then wonder why work feels lifeless - it was not based on the foundation of aliveness.
2. What is calling to emerge? That is, what is calling to emerge at this time, in this particular situation? It assumes that we each have a unique purpose in the world, and that we are invited into serving this purpose through whatever is calling us the "loudest" at any given time. Discernment may take some time, but if given space, time and attention to the listening, we can learn to hear what is authentically calling us. We often do not know the complete answer to what wants to emerge until is has emerged, but by just engaging the question, we are in the emergence process.
3. What is mine to do to serve this unfolding? That is, what is mine to do - no more, no less - to serve the highest unfolding of this particular emergence? It assumes that we are working in harmony with the larger unfolding - something greater than ourselves that is generative and already happening. It is fractal in nature...our micro-unfolding is is connected to the macro-unfolding that is happening in the world. For more on the "no more, no less" part, see this blog post. No more: not over-controlling and taking over what is not ours. No less - stepping up and owning what is.
It is from engaging the intersection of these 3 questions over the past decade that I've created programs, products, service offerings, a creativity network and conferences that feel alive and engaging for me...and that are business offerings, not just creative expression. The foundational questions have not changed, but the aliveness and the call is ever-evolving so the structures do change.
Once the energy has run it's course, as happens in natural systems, then it's time to create something new...otherwise it feels like trying to revive life into a tree that already fell over in the forest - futile. It is important to be able to discern what you spend time reviving, what you let go, and what you create. There's no short cut - it's trail and error...why it's good to get comfortable with making mistakes. :-)
I have to keep reminding myself that certain questions are not as much about getting answers as they are about living into them - and it can be a messy process. Creativity is awesomely messy! That is what aliveness is - messy, nonlinear, and not having everything answered and resolved in neat and timely packages. For years my daily mantra has been, "What's mine to do to serve the larger unfolding?" and I still sometimes do not hear/feel it, or hear it loud and clear, but don't act on it. Like anything, it is an ongoing intentional practice to really live into the questions. The point is to make sure we are asking the right qustions - the ones that lead us to more aliveness in our work and lives, not less.
In a world of work that has been dominated by goal setting and getting from A to B in a sequential step-by-step (yang), this approach offers a way to first cultivate the meaning and aliveness of what you want to do (yin)...and then go about the business of setting adaptive goals around that. Both-and, not either-or. There are all kinds of other questions that emerge in the process - these are just the 3 driving questions, for me, that (along with some other key things) form a foundation for making a living by structuring aliveness in a way that serves others.
What is your question - or the inspired intersection of questions - that drives your work?