On April 26, I attended my first Creative Mornings event. It was the second meeting of the new Creative Mornings/Cincinnati chapter and ran from 8:30 to 10 am at our city’s new 21c Museum Hotel.
Creative Mornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series for “creative types.” Designer Tina Roth Eisenberg started Creative Mornings in New York City in 2009 as a way for creative people to meet. It is now a worldwide network of 49 chapters, each hosting monthly meetings on a designated theme. Cities with Creative Mornings chapters include Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Boston, Barcelona, Zurich, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Auckland, Sao Paulo, Austin, Chicago, and Milan.
You don’t have to be a designer to attend. Anyone who wants a jolt of inspiration and the chance to meet other creative types can register for Creative Mornings events.
Personally, I consider a “creative type” as anyone who is naturally curious about new ideas — even ideas that don’t directly relate to their day-to-day jobs. Creatives can include designers, writers, photographers, artists, architects, engineers, marketers, educators, urban planners, and entrepreneurs. (I have even met creative accountants!)
The Creative Mornings theme for April was “The Future.” Here in Cincinnati, Joe Hansbauer talked about the future of Findlay Market, a city-owned “downtown grocery store” that has been in continuous operation since 1852. The popularity of Findlay Market has surged as more people and restaurants seek wholesome, locally grown food. Hansbauer talked about how expansion plans for Findlay Market will create opportunities for young farmers, food entrepreneurs, and retail and residential developers. Some of the old, unused industrial and residential buildings surrounding the market will be restored for new uses.
Videos of all presentations are uploaded to Vimeo for public viewing. So, to see how speakers in cities around the world view “The Future,” you will be able to watch the videos from the April meetings of Creative Mornings chapters. The global theme for May is “Backwards.”
The Cincinnati chapter was organized by Jeremy Thobe and Joe Kruessel of the interactive design agency US Digital Partners.
After watching Creative Mornings videos from other cities, Thobe and Kruessel created an application video explaining why Creative Mornings should be held in Cincinnati. The video highlights Cincinnati’s strength as “a brand city” and recent success in building a culture to attract creative, young professionals.
“We are all really excited to see the growth and renewed enthusiasm around Cincinnati’s creative community,” said Thobe. “We have so many great people and companies in our city that we really feel Cincinnati deserves to be a part of the global creative conversation that Creative Mornings has started.” (I agree!)
As a writer, I also know that a good way to solve a creative challenge is to step away from the computer for a while. Taking a walk, exercising, or absorbing new sights, sounds, or ideas can be great ways to fire up the imagination. So I was excited to learn about Creative Mornings in Cincinnati.
“I have always been interested in learning about other people and topics that are not necessarily related to my career,” said Thobe. With Creative Mornings/Cincinnati, “We hope to inspire our community. We hope to connect our talent, showcase our successes, and get people excited to go back to work and create something wonderful!”
The 21c Museum Hotel
Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel is the perfect setting for Creative Mornings. Adjacent to Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center and across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the 21c Museum Hotel combines the amenities of a boutique hotel with a contemporary art museum. The art museum is open to the public (free of charge) to provide “an oasis where art challenges, amuses, stimulates conversation, and provokes new ideas.”
Kentucky natives Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson opened the first 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville and are expanding into Bentonville, Arkansas, Durham, North Carolina, and Lexington, Kentucky. Through 21c Museum Hotels, Brown and Wilson are achieving their goal of collecting and exhibiting the work of living artists and integrating contemporary art into the daily lives of more cities.
The first Creative Mornings/Cincinnati event at the 21c Museum Hotel featured Bill Donabedian, the organizer of Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival. Tickets to his presentation were snapped up so quickly that the creative types who manage the 21c Museum Hotel provided a larger meeting space to accommodate everyone on the waiting list.
If you are ever in Cincinnati (or another city with a 21c Museum Hotel, I encourage you to check it out!
If you had the chance to work on a Super Bowl ad, how would you feel? Thrilled? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Considering how much each ad and campaign is scrutinized by consumers and experts alike, would it be possible to feel indifferent, and regard it as just another project?
According to a new survey by The Creative Group, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of advertising executives and six in 10 (60 percent) corporate marketing executives said they would jump at the chance to work on such a high-profile campaign. About one in 10 executives admitted they would be overwhelmed by all the work.
The national study was developed by The Creative Group and conducted by an independent research firm.It is based on more than 500 telephone interviews — approximately 375 with marketing executives randomly selected from companies with 100 or more employees and 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from agencies with 20 or more employees.
The advertising and marketing executives were asked, “If given the opportunity to work on a Super Bowl advertising/marketing campaign, which of the following statements best describes how you would feel?” Their responses:
Thrilled to work on such a high-profile campaign Advertising executives (74 percent)
Marketing executives (60 percent)
Indifferent (it’s just another project) Advertising executives (8 percent)
Marketing executives (14 percent)
Nervous about the outcome Advertising executives (4 percent)
Marketing executives (12 percent)
Overwhelmed by all the work involved Advertising executives (9 percent)
Marketing executives (10 percent)
“Working on a high-profile project, such as a Super Bowl ad, brings with it great visibility and responsibility,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “Outstanding creative work can generate positive buzz for a brand, but an unpopular or ill-conceived campaign can affect a company’s reputation, which adds pressure for the agency or marketing team.”
Added Farrugia, “All creative professionals find themselves in high-stakes situations from time to time, whether it’s working on an important project or under a tight deadline. Performing well under these circumstances takes focus, organization and steely resolve.”
The Creative Group offers five tips for performing like a pro when the pressure is on:
Prioritize, then strategize. Take a few moments to develop a game plan before diving headfirst into any project. By creating a playbook on the front end, you can sidestep potential hurdles.
Don’t procrastinate. Worrying about a task doesn’t count as working on it. Rather than putting off your most pressing deadlines, tackle them. Getting these assignments out of the way first will lower your stress level and make your overall goal seem more manageable.
Think on your feet. Adaptability is an invaluable skill. If priorities change, embrace the new challenge and demonstrate your ability to execute on the fly.
Request more coverage. Some jobs simply can’t be completed by one person, even if you are a star performer. If you’re doing everything possible to meet your obligations and still see no end in sight, identify duties that can be delegated and ask for backup.
Turn downtime into prep time. After high-intensity projects are completed, take time to decompress and document any lessons that were learned. If deadlines were at risk, what were the reasons? How could you or others have communicated team goals more effectively? Reflective thinking will help take the pressure off in the future and prepare you for the next big game.
The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project and full-time basis. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at www.creativegroup.com. Gain insights into the latest hiring and salary trends in the creative and marketing fields at www.creativegroup.com/salarycenter.
In her best-selling book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain does a masterful job describing some disconcerting trends that introverts (like me) have sensed but haven’t been able to calmly and thoroughly articulate. She backs up her assertions with detailed research that can help introverts be more confident about everything they have to offer.
Cain contends that in this era of the “Extrovert Ideal” there is a very deep and real bias against introverts, particularly in the workplace and in the classroom. She explains it like this: “Introversion—along with its cousins, sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”
Although talkative people may be viewed as smarter or more interesting, some of the world’s greatest ideas, art, and inventions have come from quiet people “who knew how to tune into their inner worlds.” Famous introverts include Stephen Spielberg, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Mahatma Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks.
Rather than urge introverts to come out of their shells, Cain advises business managers, parents, and teachers to give introverts the freedom to be themselves.
A good way to start is to recognize that introverts and extroverts work differently. “Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly,” explains Cain. “They make fast (sometimes rash) decisions and are comfortable multitasking and risk-taking. They enjoy the thrill of the chase for rewards like money and status. Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.”
During the seven years Cain spent researching and writing the book, she talked with dozens of psychologists, neuroscientists, business leaders, and professors. For the chapter on “The Myth of Charismatic Leadership,” she visited organizations that make extroversion a prerequisite for leadership, such as Harvard Business School, the Tony Robbins salesmanship workshops, and the Saddleback evangelical church led by Rick Warren.
The book discusses:
how extroversion became the cultural ideal
the role of free will in temperament (and the secret of public speaking for introverts)
how introverts and extroverts think (and process dopamine) differently
how to talk to members of the opposite type
how to raise and educate introverted children
when to act more extroverted than you really are
The Case against Groupthink
The most interesting chapter to me is titled, “When Collaboration Kills Creativity: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone.”
Cain believes that by elevating teamwork above all else, Groupthink can stifle productivity at work and deprive schoolchildren of skills they will need to excel in an increasingly competitive world.
She explains that the concept of Groupthink originated during the early days of the Internet. The web enabled groups of introverts to come together and subvert traditional problem-solving methods. The key difference is that the groups responsible for innovations such as Linux and Wikipedia weren’t working in an open-plan office space or participating in face-to-face brainstorming sessions. They had time to think on their own before contributing their ideas to the group.
Once collaboration started to be viewed as a facilitator of success, Cain writes: “We failed to realize that what makes sense in the asynchronous, relatively anonymous interactions of the Internet might not work as well inside the face-to-face, politically charged, acoustically noisy confines of the open-plan office.” She contends that “If you gathered the same people who created Linux, installed them in a giant conference room for a year and asked them devise a new operating system, it’s doubtful that anything so revolutionary would have occurred.”
After attending a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club in 1975, Wozniak did most of the work on the first Apple computer alone. He writes that, “Most inventors and engineers are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads. They are almost like artists. And artists work best alone when they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything revolutionary has been invented by committee.” But, Cain acknowledges that Apple wouldn’t have become the business force that it is today if Wozniak hadn’t collaborated with Steve Jobs, another member of the Homebrew Computer Club.
To explain why solitude is so important to the creative process, Cain references psychologist Anders Ericsson’s theory on the role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Cain writes that, “It’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in deliberate practice, in which you identify the tasks or knowledge that are out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly.” Deliberate practice requires intense concentration and deep motivation and involves “working on the task that is most challenging to you personally.” The working conditions conducive to deliberate practice aren’t easy to find in many workplaces today.
Cain also cites research that shows that group brainstorming sessions aren’t as productive as when group members work individually to produce ideas. Of course, face-to-face contact is important because it builds trust and relationships. But, Cain argues that group dynamics can impede creative thinking.
Although group brainstorming sessions do make people feel attached, they often don’t result in the best ideas. Some individuals sit back passively and let others take charge. Others don’t want to look foolish in front of their colleagues. Sometimes, the group acquiesces to the people who are most assertive or eloquent, whether their ideas are actually any good or not.
The way to come up with ideas free from the distortions of group dynamics, says Cain, “is not to stop collaborating face to face, but to refine the way we do it.” She writes that: “If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically, or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone has had a chance to contribute.”
The book cites studies showing that the most effective teams include a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts. Cain suggests seeking out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership roles and other tasks are divided based on each person’s natural strengths and temperament.
Introverts Can Relate to the Examples
Many passages in Cain’s book echoed experiences from my own career. When I was promoted to the plum assignment of editing a start-up magazine about emerging technologies, some colleagues suggested (behind my back) that I might be “too timid” for the job. Cain emphasizes that there are significant distinctions between being “quiet” and being “shy.”
Plus, Cain says, introverts can successfully stretch themselves to act like extroverts—if they find a job or cause they are passionate about. That was certainly true for me. Whenever I played the role of editor, it was easy to make small talk at trade-show cocktail parties—partly because I could quickly turn the conversation into a more substantive discussion of industry-related news.
Although I loved attending trade shows (where I was privileged to talk one-on-one with some of the brightest people in the technology business), I was content to return to the solitude of my hotel room to reflect and write about what I had seen and learned.
Still, if I had read the book “Quiet” earlier, my career path might have been different. For example, I never overcame my paralyzing fear of public (and extemporaneous) speaking. Instinctively, I have always known that my mind processes information in a way that makes extemporaneous public speaking difficult. In the book “Quiet,” Cain cites research that confirms that there are physiological reasons that introverts have a greater fear of public speaking than extroverts.
She describes attending a public-speaking workshop designed specifically to help introverts overcome these difficulties. You can see how proficient a public speaker she has become by watching the well-received speech she recently gave at a TED conference.
At the end of the book, Cain provides dozens of practical tips for introverts, parents, managers, and spouses of introverts. Here are a few nuggets of her advice for introverts:
Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world, and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking, networking, or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway.
Use your natural powers of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.
Work with colleagues you like and respect.
Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting,” writes Cain. “For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others it’s a lamplit desk.” As I sit here blogging away at my lamplit desk, I couldn’t agree more!
Interviews of 5,000 adults in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan provide new insights into the role of creativity in business, education and society overall. The survey was conducted from March 30 to April 9, 2012. The results are published in Adobe’s State of Create global benchmark study.
According to the study, 8 in 10 people agree that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth. And nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society. Yet only 1 in 4 people believe they are living up to their own creative potential.
Pressure and Risk Aversion Stifle Creativity in Business
The survey found that people spend less time creating at work than they do outside of work.
Although workers are increasingly expected to think creatively on the job, 75% of respondents said they are under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative. Across all of the countries surveyed, people said they spend only 25% of their time at work creating. About 69% of respondents believe that risk aversion in business stifles creativity.
About one-third of respondents said they would like more time to think creatively, an environment in which to think creatively, and training to learn and use creative tools.
Education Systems Promote Standardization
More than half of those surveyed feel that creativity is being stifled by their education systems, and many believe creativity is taken for granted (52% globally, 70% in the United States).
“One of the myths of creativity is that very few people are really creative,” said Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., a leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. “The truth is that everyone has great capacities but not everyone develops them. Too often our educational systems don’t enable students to develop their natural creative powers. Instead, they promote uniformity and standardization. The result is that we’re draining people of their creative possibilities and, as this study reveals, producing a workforce that’s conditioned to prioritize conformity over creativity.”
Here are a few other noteworthy findings:
The decreasing amount of leisure time is seen as the factor that decreases creativity the most.
In the U.S., 72% of respondents agreed that there is increasing competition to have what you create noticed.
7 in 10 respondents said they prefer to work by themselves when being creative.
In the U.S., 84% said they like to share what they create with others. This compares to 69% globally.
The study also sheds light on different cultural attitudes toward creativity. Japan ranked highest in the global tally as the most creative country while, conversely, Japanese citizens largely do not see themselves as creative.
The United States ranked globally as the second most creative nation among the countries surveyed, except in the eyes of Americans, who see themselves as the most creative. Yet Americans also expressed the greatest sense of urgency and concern that they are not living up to their creative potential (United States at 82%, vs. the lowest level of concern in Germany at 64%).
Generational and gender differences are marginal, reinforcing the idea that everyone has the potential to create. Women ranked only slightly higher than men when asked if they self-identified as creative and whether they were tapping their own creative potential.
Four in 10 people believe that they do not have the tools or access to tools to create. Creative tools are perceived as the biggest driver to increase creativity (65% globally, 76% in the United States).
Technology is also recognized for its ability to help individuals overcome creative limitations (58% globally, 60% in the United States) and provide inspiration (53% globally, 62% in the United States).
About the Adobe State of Create Study
The study was produced by the research firm StrategyOne and conducted as an online survey among a total of 5,000 adults (18 years or older) in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan. Interviewing took place from March 30 to April 9. The data set for each country is nationally representative of the population of that country.
The e-book was written by poet Mark McGuinness. In his day job, Mark provides training and coaching services to innovative companies and freelance artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs.
“How to Motivate Creative People” can help managers understand how motivation affects creativity and how easy it is for managers to unintentionally de-motivate their creative
team. Mark explains low-cost ways to get better work out of creative people and
facilitate creative collaboration.
If you’re a conscientious creative pro who is already highly motivated to deliver great work, the book can help you find more satisfaction in your work and influence others by explaining more about how the creative process works.
The book cites research that shows that managers don’t intentionally squash creativity. But in their efforts to attain greater productivity, efficiency, and control, managers often end up undermining creativity because they don’t understand how creative pros think. Mark notes that creatives have a low threshold for boredom and tend to be motivated more by challenge and responsibility than compensation.
“You can’t improve creative performance by giving people orders, showering them with praise, or paying them more money,” writes McGuinness. He explains that “To get the best out of creative workers, managers need to help them discover meaning and interest in their work—over and above their professional obligations and the company’s commercial interests.”