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.
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