Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hamlet: A Cautionary Tale for Creativity Students

 Written by Judy Bernstein


British theater director, Sir Richard Eyre (1999), conceptualized the character Hamlet as “the new man of the Renaissance in opposition to the old Feudalism”. Hamlet, Eyre (1999) explained, was “a student intellectual” who attended a “forward thinking” university, a “contemplative... vulnerable... sensitive” man “bound by feelings and intellect”. The play, Hamlet, portrays this gentle and imaginative man’s ineffective response to his still feudalistic environment. Specifically, the play depicts the ghost of King Hamlet “obliging” (Eyre, 1999) Prince Hamlet to murder his uncle, and all the struggle, sorrow, and lost potential that results from Hamlet’s inability to manage that obligation. Wittenburg, Hamlet’s forward thinking university, has instilled in its student all the promise of the Renaissance, but has not equipped him to navigate the old system it opposes.

In this parable, and Sir Eyre’s understanding of it, there is a cautionary tale for those of us so dedicated to “creative thought and action” (R. A. Beghetto and J. Kaufman, personal communication, November 16, 2016) that we pursue it via higher education. We, like Hamlet, stand for a body of knowledge and collection of perspectives that have begun transforming our culture. We, like Hamlet, have had the luxury of exploring that knowledge and our relationship to it in the safety and seclusion of higher education. And at some point, after departing our programs, likely when our resolve or judgment seem as frayed as Hamlet’s, we will inevitably encounter the ghosts of old commanding us to oblige.

When that happens, how might we avoid the “reckless, helter skelter swerving between reason and chaos” (Eyre, 1999) that tears at Hamlet? What might be ways to sidestep self-crisis? Eyre (1999) thought Hamlet “cauterized his feelings” to “become a soldier”. How might we escape compromising, or losing touch with, our creative selves? How do we—as advocates of a new era, one that prizes creativity—avoid Hamlet’s fate? When the creativity we wish to embody and have an obligation to cultivate in others is threatened, how might we safeguard our transformed selves in a still transforming society?

Creativity in School and Society

Through formal study of creativity, our intrinsic impulses toward creative thought and action are given agency, language, and meaning. According to Puccio, Keller-Mathers, Acar, and Cayirdag (2017), recent qualitative and quantitative research regarding the impact of the International Center for Studies in Creativity’s (ICSC) Master’s program at Buffalo State revealed that “the graduate program at ICSC has a transformative influence on students in general and on their attitudes more specifically” (p. 207). Creativity students emerge from classes and programs with a sense of purpose, feeling armed with the knowledge and tools that we assume will serve us through life as much as they do in school. In part, we assume that higher education in creativity will enable our resilience in any upcoming environment because of its tremendous personal relevance. However, we also see its relevance reflected all around us.

Florida (2012) spoke of a burgeoning new social and economic system defined by what he called “the creative ethos” (preface). The idea that a creative culture is growing was echoed by Nussbaum (2013) who explained that the silos of creative thought, innovation and execution that have emerged in Silicon Valley and the New York start-up scene aren’t “all that different from what Csikszentmihalyi described in his writing about Renaissance Florence” (p. 28). He further noted that “the spirit of collaboration and competition” (p. 29) is likewise similar.

This blossoming creative culture differs from what Florida (2012 called “the old Fordist industrial system” (preface) and is informing “new industries and businesses” as well as “the way we live and work” (preface). It speaks to values that “stress belonging, self-expression, opportunity, environmental quality, diversity, and quality of life” (preface), values also core to training in creative thought and action.

Workplaces appear to be embracing creativity. Puccio et al. (2017) asserted, “The trends clearly show how creativity and creativity-related skills have come to the fore in the age of innovation” (p. 188). The social media site, LinkedIn, reported in 2011 that the adjective, creative, was the one used most by its members to describe themselves (Florida, 2012, preface). Celebrated business icons now champion creativity. D. Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford’s, and his brother, T. Kelley, a partner at IDEO and co-author with J. Littman of the bestselling The Art of Innovation (2001), collaborated in 2013 to write Creative Confidence, Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us. In it they shared their observation that “in the business world, creativity manifests as innovation” (Kelly & Kelley, 2013 p. 3). At the 2010 Stanford For the Future of Design Conference, D. Kelley told Nussbaum, “You need two things to be competent in the world today. You need analytic ability and the tools that go with it. And you need creative ability and the tools that go with it” (Kelley, 2010, as cited in Nussbaum, 2013, p. 15).

Prominent technology company, Google, has a head not only of innovation, but also of creativity programs. Dr. Frederik Pferdt holds both titles and has described Google’s “culture of innovation” as one that “encourages employees to rediscover the child within by being curious and asking questions” (as cited in Salazar, 2016, p. 1). The offices are intentionally designed to resemble a children’s playground to “awaken the people’s wild imagination just like a child: to let them aim for and think of impossible things” (Salazar, 2016, p. 1). Puccio et al. (2017), concluded that “business and educational leaders have given a great deal of thought to the kind of skills that predict success in the 21st century, and one skill set that has been consistently identified is creative thinking” (p. 188).

Further evidence of a new era emerging can be seen in the way previously understood realities, issues and goals are being seen through creativity-inspired frames. The Denver Art Museum entitled its exhibit of costumes “Star Wars and the Power of Costume,” but Moore, (2016), from Colorado Channel 9 News, reported on the exhibit with the headline “Star Wars Exhibit Showcases Its Creative Process”. Library Specialist, Martinson, (2017), sought more visitors to the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, California by touting a new collection of books about creativity. Study results published in the October 2016 Journal of Management suggested that customer satisfaction would be increased by creative employees (Martinaitye, Sacramento, & Aryee, 2016) and neuroscientists are investigating “aha moments” and other creative processes in the brain (Kounios & Beeman, 2015).

High profile periodicals are spotlighting creativity for myriad reasons and in various ways. The Harvard Business Review featured an article by Yorton (2015), CEO of Second City Works, entitled “3 Improv Exercises That Can Change the Way Your Team Works”. On the same day, January 12, The New York Times featured Richtel’s (2017) editorial, “To Encourage Creativity in Kids, Ask Them: ‘What if’?” and Forbes published the Young Entrepreneur Council’s “Five Ways to Become a More Creative Leader This Year”.

Play, and its constellation of benefits beyond the delighting of children, is being widely studied. Brown, a medical doctor, and Vaughan (2009) said, “Play lies at the core of creativity and innovation” (p. 5). Henricks (2015) asserted that play increases excitement and optimism and that the opposite of play is depression, not seriousness. Indeed, the broad realization that play matters is very much suggested by the title of Sicart’s (2014) book, Play Matters. Serious games, an extension of play involving immersive game situations and role-play, are becoming popular not only for entertainment purposes, but also to support learning, collaboration and idea generation in organizations across the private and public sectors (Agogue, Levillain & Hooge, 2015).
This Could Be the Start of Something Big

While the inroads creativity has made into mainstream culture are exciting, it seems important to remain mindful that we are still only at the start of a new era. Florida (2012) wrote that “a new global economic order is taking shape, but it is still confined within the brittle carapace of the old” (preface). Though creative thinking, and other creative skills such as strategic thinking and leadership, are seen as highly desirable or important among the MBA recruiters recently surveyed by Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, there was also the opinion that too few applicants possess these skills (Puccio et al., 2017). “Indie Capitalism,” Nussbaum’s (2014) vision of an economy driven by creative intelligence is a hope for the future, not a description of the present.

But to those involved in creativity-related higher education, creative intelligence is already key. While creativity is just beginning to gain traction in 21st century society, it is a fully realized resource within the ICSC community. The ICSC program is populated by those convinced of creativity’s relevance. For them, it’s not just the start, it’s already something big.

A Mandate

Thrust from the safety of his likeminded community at Wittenburg, and struggling to navigate the far less relatable environment in which he finds himself in Elsinore, Hamlet sinks into despair, indecision, and irrevocable silence. As dedicated students of creativity with the capacity to contribute what Kaufman and Beghetto (2009) called “Pro-C” creativity (p. 4), we have a mandate to succeed where Hamlet does not. Specifically, we must recognize, cultivate, and help manifest creative potential—no matter the circumstances—to more effectively negotiate the old era, while still being champions of the new.

To a very large extent, creativity students at the ICSC are sufficiently prepared. The center tries and succeeds in instilling in its students thinking skills, tools, and sensibilities that meet an unpredictable future (Puccio et al., 2016). Research conducted by the ICSC “indicated that the graduate creativity program seems to be effective in teaching students both what to do, as well as what not to do to be more creative” (Puccio et al., 2017, p. 201). Students are taught “the crucial life skills that will help [us as] learners stay up-to-date, savvy and adaptive” (Puccio et. al., 2016, p. 207). However, could we do more? Might we have opportunities to develop and, then have students pledge themselves to, what Lego Serious Play creators Kristiansen and Rasmussen (2014) termed “Simple Guiding Principles” (p. 32)? Simple Guiding Principles are crafted to:

help act aligned and with intention when faced with the unexpected;
guide rather than lead, helping to decide what to focus on and how to act;
help one make decisions in real time (Rasmussen, 2015, p. 332).

If “attitudes precede and direct behaviors” (Puccio et al., 2017, p. 207), perhaps a set of Simple Guiding Principles might further bolster attitudes? Might they be a touchstone to focus on when we are thinking about cultivating creativity?

Nevertheless, if the goal is to fortify attitudes to inform behaviors that can last a lifetime, through good fortune and bad, then there also seems value in seeking to extend the learning. Burnett and Keller-Mathers (2017) described the Torrance Incubation Model [TIM] as “designed to set the stage for incubation to occur beyond the time frame of the lesson, given the deep engagement of the lesson itself” (p. 285). Regarding extending the learning specifically, Burnett and Keller-Mathers (2017) wrote, “The key principle underpinning this third stage of the TIM is that learning through incubation occurs most powerfully when the students begin to connect what they have learned with their possible futures” (p. 291).
Nay, but swear’t [Hamlet: I.v.144] 

An oath, taken publically, upon the awarding of a creativity-related degree in higher education, could be a way of steadying our transformed selves. According to political science professor, Rutgers (2013), “In the early twenty-first century, oaths seem to be making a genuine comeback: they have been suggested for managers, scientists, as well as bankers” (p. 250). The Hippocratic Oath, taken by those graduating from medical school, is understood to have two purposes.

It constitutes a public commitment on the part of the prospective doctor to preserving the traditional values of the medical profession and to meeting the obligations expected of a doctor. It is also an important symbolic ritual in the process of professional identity formation. (Cruess & Cruess, 2014, p. 96).

According to Cruess and Cruess (2014), “the public act of reciting the Oath commits doctors to meeting certain standards of both competence and behavior during the course of their professional and private lives” (p. 96).

The President of the United States takes an Oath of Office, men and women of the armed forces take an Oath of Enlistment, and typically, American citizens serving on federal juries take a Juror’s Oath. Given these examples, it seems reasonable to consider that a kind of Creativity Oath might serve as a helpful compass during times of indecision or difficulty throughout one’s career and beyond.

Next Steps

Those who pursue creativity in higher education should determine and articulate a vision for what they want this work to stand for and continue to activate, in the long term. To borrow from the Hippocratic Oath, what should be the traditional values of creativity and obligations expected of a practitioner? And, what might be all the ways a commitment to those ideals could be expressed via symbolic ritual? Design criteria should be established for a formal Creativity Oath that will help ‘creativity school’ graduates effectively sustain their transformed selves in a still transforming society. Liedtka, Ogilvie, & Brozenske (2014) defined design criteria as “a succinct expression of the ideal end state of your project . . . the ideal qualities or attributes of a great solution, but not the solution itself” (p. 20). The process of establishing design criteria for a Creativity Oath will allow the higher education creativity community to reflect deeply on and ultimately identify which promises Pro-C practitioners should most strive to keep.

Just as Hamlet represents the vanguard and promise of a new era, so do committed students of creativity. Once we leave the safety of our like-minded higher education communities we will encounter dangerously severe obstacles to our “forward thinking” (Eyre, 1999). Hamlet does not survive the obstacle he encounters and his society doesn’t experience the leader he might have been. A solemnly sworn Creativity Oath, or set of vows, might empower creativity program graduates to resist, and perhaps convert, the ghosts of old commanding us to oblige.

Judy Bernstein, VP Insights & Innovation for CBA, is an accomplished Innovation Facilitator with deep experience in CPG, Rx and OTC. She also serves as adjunct faculty for the Joint Special Forces University where she teaches innovation to elite military officers. She has a passion for collaboration, expertise in group invention, an M.S. in Creativity & Innovation, and certifications in Change Leadership, Lego Serious Play, Creative Problem Solving, FourSight, Synectics and Design Thinking. She is the author of Growing the We: Collaboration and Character Education, a creative thinking resource for teachers.


Agogue, M., Levillain, K., & Hooge, S. (2015). Gamification of creativity: Exploring the usefulness of serious games for ideation. Creativity and Innovation Management, 24(3), 415-429. doi: 10.1111/caim.12138

Brown, B. (2015). Rising strong. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.

Brown, S. L., & Vaughan, C. C. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York, NY: Avery.

Burnett, C., & Keller-Mathers, S. (2017). Integrating Creative Thinking Skills into the Higher Education Classroom. In C.Zhou (Ed.) Handbook of research on creative problem-solving skill development in higher education (pp. 283–304). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Council, Y. E. (2017, January 12). Five Ways To Become a More Creative Leader This Year.
Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Cruess, R., & Cruess, S. (2014). Updating the Hippocratic Oath to include medicine's social contract. Medical Education, 48(1), 95–100. doi:10.1111/medu.12277

Eyre, R. (Director). (1999). BBC radio Shakespeare: Hamlet [Radio broadcast]. In Hamlet. London, England: BBC Radio 3. [Introduction to broadcast]

Florida, R. L. (2012). The rise of the creative class, revisited. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Henricks, T. S. (2015). Play as a basic pathway to the self. American Journal of Play, 7(3),

Kaufman, J. C., & Beghetto, R. A. (2009). Beyond big and little: The four c model of creativity. Review of General Psychology, 13(1), 1–12. doi:10.1037/a0013688

Kelley, D., & Kelley, T. (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York, NY: Crown Business.

Kelley, T., & Littman, J. (2001). The art of innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading design firm. New York, NY: Currency/Doubleday.

Kounios, J., & Beeman, M. (2015). The eureka factor: Aha moments, creative insight, and the brain. New York, NY: Random House.

Kristiansen, P., & Rasmussen, R. (2014). Building a better business using the Lego serious play method. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Liedtka, J., Ogilvie, T., & Brozenske, R. (2014). The designing for growth field book: A step-by-step project guide. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Martinaitye, I., Sacramento, C., & Aryee, S. (2016). Delighting the customer creativity-oriented high-performance work systems, frontline employee creative performance, and customer satisfaction. Journal of Management, doi:10.1177/0149206316672532

Martinson, J. (2017, January 14). What’s New at the A.K. Smiley Public Library: Books about creativity. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

Moore, J. (2016, November 10). Star Wars exhibit showcases its creative process. Retrieved from

Nussbaum, B. (2013). Creative intelligence: Harnessing the power to create, connect, and inspire. New York, NY: Harper Business.

Puccio, G. J., Keller-Mathers, S., Acar, S., & Cayirdag, N. (2017). International Center for Studies in Creativity: Curricular overview and impact of instruction on the creative problem-solving attitudes of graduate students. In C. Zhou (Ed.). Handbook of research on creative problem-solving skill development in higher education (pp.186-211). Hershey, PA: IGI Global

Rasmussen, R. (2015). Facilitator’s manual designing and facilitating workshops using the LEGO Serious Play Method. In R. Consulting (Ed.), Rasmussen Consulting (T3 ed., Vol. T3). Copenhagen, Denmark: Rasmussen Consulting.

Richtel, M. (2017, January 12). To encourage creativity in kids, ask them: ‘what if’? [Editorial]. The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Rutgers, M. R. (2013). Will the phoenix fly again? Reflections on the efficacy of oaths as a means to secure honesty. Review of Social Economy, 71(2), 249–276.

Salazar, M. D. (2016, November 11). Google’s culture of innovation. Retrieved rom

Sicart, M. (2014). Play matters. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Trueman, M. (2012, October 29). Did Daniel Day-Lewis see his father’s ghost as Hamlet? That is the questions … Retrieved from

Yorton, T. (2015, March 09). 3 Improv exercises that can change the way your team works. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Book review written by Latise Hairston

Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
Have you ever experienced pain, failure, heartbreak or any kind of adversity? You’re probably saying, “Who hasn’t?” In any bookstore, you will find a large selection of self-help books on overcoming adversity because life is filled with a plethora of hardships.
 In Rising Strong, Brene Brown focuses on a portion of the quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, The Man in the Arena, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…” Arena moments are any times in our lives when we have “risked showing up and being seen.”
The Rising Strong Process is comprised of 3 parts:
1.     The Reckoning: Walking into our story
2.     The Rumble: Owning our story
3.     The Revolution
Integrating is the engine that moves one through the reckoning, rumble and the revolution. The tools that are used in integration are storytelling and creativity. Creativity is defined as “the act of paying attention to our experiences and connecting the dots so we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us.”

The Reckoning
In Brown’s research she found that people who rise strong are able to reckon with their emotions by first recognizing that “a button has been pushed, something is triggered”. Secondly, they get curious about what is happening and how they are feeling about it. Brown explains that curiosity is correlated with creativity and problem solving.
            So how do we reckon with our emotions? Brown offers three techniques: permission slips, paying attention and tactical breathing. Permission slips are just what they sound like – writing permission slips to feel emotions. Paying attention involves taking deep breaths and becoming mindful of our feelings. Tactical breathing involves breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, and holding it.

The Rumble
The rumble is where we “own our stories.” First, it is necessary to dive into the uncensored story that we tell ourselves, which means it is probably not accurate. In her research, the people who were able to “rise strong” became aware of the traps of the first stories that they told themselves. Many people become stuck in their negative and harmful stories which Brown calls conspiracies and confabulations.
To capture the first stories Brown says that we need to use the second integration tool – creativity, by writing down our SFD (“shitty first draft” or “stormy first draft”). The SFD is an unedited story, letting it all pour out. It doesn’t have to be a long narrative. It can be written on a post-it note. The intention is to embrace curiosity, awareness and growth.

The Revolution
The revolution involves writing a new ending to our story based on what we have learned during the rumble. Brown explains that the revolution starts with a vision of what is possible. Rather than running from our SFD’s we dig into them knowing they can unlock the fears and doubts that get in the way of our wholeheartedness.
I really enjoyed reading this book. The content was in alignment with my definition of creativity. “Creativity is to push pass the inner voices of limitation and lack; to move toward possibilities and potential and manifest them” (Hairston, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017).  The ‘person’ that is manifested is the product of a lifelong practice.
Sid Parnes recognized that the way we think and talk about problems prohibits us from seeing them as creative opportunities (Parnes, 1988). We tend to complain and see our problems as static. Parnes believed that rephrasing problems as open-ended questions could encourage the brain to develop new connections (Parnes, 1988). Further, Osborn (1953) said “But even better than painting or any other such hobby is the more strenuous exercise of energetically tackling the causes of our despair, and creatively thinking our way through to serenity”. (p. 53)
            In the world in which we live, we are often socialized by the critics all around us; however the loudest critic often lies within. It says “no” to who we are and can be. We must dare to stand up to ourselves, to move pass the inner critic and listen to the voices of who we were meant to be, what we were meant to do, and the awesome change we were meant to make in the world. This requires vulnerability. It requires daring and intentional living.
Ekut said “if we are to break habit-sets and move into new original way of viewing our problems and challenges, we must find ways to break old mental associations or connections and form new ones” (2014, p. 312). Brene Brown in Rising Strong provides a step by step process with detailed techniques that allows us to examine “the stories we tell ourselves”,  to break the old association and to develop new stories that allow us to rise strong.


Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
Etuk, E. (2014) Creativity: Revealing the truth about human nature. Sarasota, FL: First Edition Design

Osborn, A. F. (1953). Applied imagination: principles and procedures of creative thinking. New York, NY: Scribner.
Parnes, S.J. (1988). Vizionizing. Buffalo, NY: Creative Education Foundation.

Latise Hairston is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of HOPE Consulting. She has held a position at the SUNY College at Buffalo for over 20 years collaborating with organizations to develop creative strategies and products that strengthen, energize and empower customers. Latise holds a M.S. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy (concentration in Organizational Development), as well as certifications as an International Coaching Federation coach and FourSight facilitator. She is currently completing a M.S. degree in Creativity and Change Leadership at the SUNY College at Buffalo.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Book Review: Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era: Lessons from Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft

Book review written by Phil Marks

This paper reviews:
Le Merle, M.C. & Davis, A. (2107). Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era: Lessons from Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Corte Madera, CA.  Cartwright Publishing.  ISBN: 978-0-9861613-8-4

Change creates business winners and losers.

Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era functions on the premise that we are living in a “dramatic transition between the Industrial Era and a new Fifth Era being driven by the Digital Revolution, Biotechnology Revolution, and a host of other disruptive technologies…that will transform the way humans exist on the planet.”  Only those business leaders who capitalize on the disruptive changes will be winners in the Fifth Era.    

Written in a straightforward and pragmatic style, full of the authors’ personal experiences, and data-driven, the book is sure to resonate with business leaders trying to improve their innovation processes.  Business leaders who want a how-to manual for innovation will be drawn to this approach.

Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era is filled with practices and tools employed by Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, and the reader is encouraged to adopt as many of these practices and tools as might be relevant to their business.  The practices and tools are excellent, and span all four creative elements: person, process, product and environment.  The tools also make sense from a general leadership perspective; that is, a leader’s vision should be reflected in the organization’s agendas, conversations, strategies and plans, and culture.  Additionally, the authors provide an excellent toolkit of 17 specific activities for capitalizing upon external innovations (e.g. incubators, advisory boards, collaborative research, etc.)  This toolkit alone is worth the price of the book, as it provides a type of checklist for developing an external innovation strategy.

One of the more interesting insights from the book relates to the balance between incremental and disruptive innovations.  Many business leaders are consumed with developing a balanced innovation portfolio, leading to extensive debate about which projects to pursue from a risk/return perspective.  A Microsoft executive gives insight to the prevailing mindset of an innovative organization with his response: “We view innovation as being the process and customer benefit as being the objective function.  Whether a given innovation ends up being disruptive or incremental is a result of the impact the innovation has on meeting customer needs.  We can’t begin by trying to predict whether an innovation will be disruptive or not.  The result of innovation is an output variable – sometimes disruptive and sometimes incremental – but not something we know in advance.”   

Most interesting, Le Merle and Davis clearly identify a gap between leaders’ stated beliefs and their actions: Leaders universally say that the most important innovations affecting their industry will come from outside their own company and very likely from outside their own industry.  However, these same leaders also say that 70-90% of their company’s innovation resources (people and money) are allocated internally.  The authors use their own observations and evidence to support the prevailing view that disruptive innovations will most likely come from the outside.  However, they don’t address why leaders don’t act more in-line with their beliefs. 

Which gets to the hollow feeling I had while reading the book.  As a creativity student and practitioner, something seems amiss here.  The authors identify that leaders are not acting consistently with their stated beliefs.  Instead of helping the leaders identify the root cause of that inconsistency, the authors instead console and encourage the leaders to just copy successful leaders in other businesses.  At no point in the book is the leader asked to clarify why he isn’t acting consistently with his beliefs.  The book calls their attention to the contradiction without questioning why it exists.  Since the book goes on to provide advice about what to do, it then provides helpful solutions to perhaps the wrong challenge.  I believe leaders could follow many of the actions and wonder why nothing changed in the culture. 

In fact, the authors devote a whole chapter to building an innovation culture, but don’t base their recommendations on solid creativity research.  The authors identify “customer obsession” and “pride in products and services offered” as the top cultural attributes that support innovation.  While these are certainly well-known attributes of commercially successful organizations, the authors fail to recognize the underlying climate dimensions that enable a culture to convert customer obsession into leading products and services: namely, the climate dimensions understood through Ekvall’s Creative Climate Questionnaire or Amabile’s KEYS instrument. 

With insight and potential new tools, Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era has helped me to become better equipped to change culture and set innovation strategy within my company.  Aside the aforementioned concerns, this book could be useful to boost conversation about innovation and invite leaders to think more deeply about how to achieve long-term organizational viability through increasingly disruptive change.  These would be positive steps for most organizations.  Additionally, it might help creativity practitioners to become more aware of the current activities being pursued by corporations who hope to increase innovation, as well as to understand the corporate leadership mindset just a little bit better.

 Phil Marks is the Global Director of Product Engineering for Federal-Mogul’s Systems Protection business unit.  He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from WPI (Worcester, MA), and recently became a certified professional coach.  He is pursuing his M.Sc. in Creativity Studies at ICSC/SUNY Buffalo State.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spotlight on CEE Presenter: Helene Cahen

By Michelle Neumayer

Helene Cahen is founder of Strategic Insights, a consulting firm in the U.S. offering innovation training, facilitation, and coaching customized to each organization's unique needs, culture, and environment. Helene studied business at elite schools in Paris and received her Master's of Science degree in Creativity and Change Leadership from the State University of New York. In addition to her consulting work through Strategic Insights, Helene teaches executive MBA classes at Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Cahen is known for her knowledge of both Creative Problem Solving and Design Thinking. Her Master's Project as a student at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) was titled, “Designing a Curriculum for Design Thinking for Creative Problem Solving Users.” Her 2016 Creativity Expert Exchange (CEE) Conference presentation was about Design Thinking.

While passionate about the need for using both Creative Problem Solving (CPS) and Design Thinking processes for innovation, Cahen stresses that it is critical to include an ethnographic approach that infuses empathy into the process of problem solving. She believes that in order to influence change, it is important to look at cultural and human-centered insights that are based upon a deep understanding of end-user needs for driving ideation. Iterative prototyping, testing, and feedback completes this ethnographic cycle, as more understanding of end user needs is gathered and utilized.

Cahen believes that gatekeepers of creative change want more than just a written “plan” in order to make decisions. They will be more open to embracing innovative solutions when provided with rich end-user information made possible through the ethnographic approach. They may also feel less anxious about the uncertainties of embracing truly novel ideas when given the rich end-user information and more tangible results of iterative prototyping, testing, and feedback.

According to Cahen there appears to be a gap currently in the field of innovation coaching. Business executives need more than just training sessions and workshops in innovation processes. They need help effectively applying learned innovation processes when they return to their work environments. Her solution to address this gap is to offer executive clients ongoing coaching over a period of months, as they work out the application of their innovation training “in the field.”

Over the last few years Cahen helped spearhead the inclusion of short, TedX style talks at the annual Creativity Expert Exchange (CEE)Conference, called “CEE Talks.” Conference participants are now able to enjoy a diverse group of short presentations about creativity from a wide range of people from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, educators, consultants, and diverse people from within the community. We are grateful for her contribution to the field of creativity and innovation, and for adding the dynamic element of CEE Talks to the CEE conferences!

Michelle Neumayer has been called “uber creative” as a photographer, but is now also an “emerging creativity expert” as she completes her Master's degree in Creativity and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo. She holds a design diploma from Sheridan College in Canada, and a BA in Creativity and Change Leadership from SUNY Empire State.