Achieve more, do more, create more with the power of Creative Courage Creative Courage challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone and truly make an impact. Set aside the same old routine and break the status quo--because you can only rise to new heights if you first smash the ceiling. Written by the former Executive Creative Director of Creations at Cirque du Soleil, this book shows you how to step up your game, flex your creativity, and make big things happen. Whether you work independently or as part of a team, whether you're self-employed or part of an organization, and even if you think creativity isn't a part of the work that you do--this book gives you the perspective, courage, and kick start you need to think differently about the things you do every day. Creative Courage is more than a strategy, it's a way of life. It opens your mind--and the minds of those around you--to new approaches, new ideas, and new schools of thought that can revolutionize the way you work. This book invites you to experience the freedom and power at the intersection of courage and creativity so you can finally: * Foster a more collaborative culture * Bring depth and meaning to every project * Turn challenge into opportunity * Create work that matters The value of creative thinking extends far beyond the arts, but the work it allows you to produce has the power to touch like great art can. You gain the ability to make a more profound impact, and you inspire and motivate others to do the same; you become a catalyst for bigger, better things, driven by the enormous potential of the free-thinking mind. Creative Courage helps you break out of the box and start making things happen today.
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Past and Present Clash
The Uncertainty of Transformation
Making Sense of My Experience
What Is Creative Courage?
The Quest for a Constructive, Transformative Workplace
Creative Courage for Everyone
Chapter 1: The Central Problem Affecting Work: The War on Imagination, and How I Lost My Creative Courage
I. Raising the Curtain
Finding in North Korea the Words for an Old Problem
A Monster at Lunch
A Four-Headed Monster
The Two Pillars of the War on Imagination: Unconsciousness and Time
The War Closer to Us
Childhood Dreams and the Personal War
The Inner War
The Falling Wall
The War at Work
A Clash at the Heart of Our Brand
Manifestations of the War on Imagination at Work
III. Your Story
Disconnection with Imagination at Work
Scanning Your Team, Project, Business, and Organization
A Path of Seven Stages
Chapter 2: Care First: Respect Is Not the First Step When Disengagement Is the Status Quo
I. Raising the Curtain
Where Respect Starts
Disengagement Close to Home
A New Situation without an Instruction Manual
Caring First: The Team
Added Support for the Practice of Caring First
Building Your Narrative
Putting My Own Words on It
III. Your Story
Chapter 3: Secure Safety: No Safety, No Trust
I. Raising the Curtain
In Search of Innovation with the Body
Determining How Safe Your Organization Is
How to Create or Reinforce Your Virtual Net
III. Your Story
Chapter 4: Foster Trust: The Natural State of Silos
I. Raising the Curtain
The Path to Trust: Better Collaborations
A New Attitude
The Undiscussed Part of Innovation Work: Emotional Work
III. Your Story
Chapter 5: Play with Danger: When the Stakes Are So High That We Just Want to Play It Safe
I. Raising the Curtain
The Sage of the Acrobatic World
Understanding the Need to Play
III. Your Story
Chapter 6: Dream: Spreadsheets Don't Dream Yet
I. Raising the Curtain
Cirque's Early Dreaming
The Bottom Line, the Blade, and the Noose
III. Your Story
Chapter 7: Discover Breakthroughs: The Neglected Area of Human Emotions and the Edge of the Future
I. Raising the Curtain
Magic That Moves People
No Hard Rules but a Few Principles
Filters: Are You Trapped in Success? Moving Away from Common Addictions
The Best Context for Discoveries and Breakthroughs
III. Your Story
Chapter 8: Grow: What If It's Not about the Logo?
I. Raising the Curtain
Beyond the Small Stuff
Love in Technology and Growth
III. Your Story
Chapter 9: Start to Dance: When Is It Too Late?
I. Raising the Curtain
III. Your Story
Conclusion: 50 Percent More
End User License Agreement
Table of Contents
A deeply powerful and resonant piece for the creative soul that lies within.
— Alexa Meade, artist
Creative Courage reveals a compelling and original path for our organizations to become more agile and to thrive. Its inspiring and inclusive message calls for our collective work to become highly creative and deeply nurturing. Creative Courage is transformative.
— Susan David, PhD, author of the #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller Emotional Agility and psychologist at Harvard Medical School
I've been a student of great innovators, business tycoons, and CEOs for twenty years. By far the most predictive leadership quality is courage, particularly when a bold new path is needed. Taking decisive action in the face of massive uncertainty can be a lonely experience. Vulnerabilities are exposed. Red flags are raised. Yet creativity demands it. Welby's book is an absolute must read for anyone aspiring to make an impact in the business world. You'll not only learn how to be a better leader, you'll be inspired to be a better human being.
— Jeffrey Cohn, author of award winning book Why Are We Bad at Picking Good Leaders (Jossey Bass), as well as numerous Harvard Business Review articles on leadership and innovation
In Creative Courage, Welby Altidor deftly expands the scope of what we traditionally call creative practice to include those from all callings and walks of life. Drawing illustrative threads from both the personal and professional, Altidor weaves a vision that is not only inspiring, but also provides the reader tools for moving towards imaginative action. Whether on the world stage or the theater of our own day-to-day lives, Creative Courage can help bring freshness and agility to how we approach our collaborations with others.
— Lucianne M. Walkowicz, Baruch S. Blumberg NASA Chair of Astrobiology, Library of Congress, astrophysicist at The Adler Planetarium, TED fellow, artist
Creative Courage makes you look at the process of creation in a whole new light! Definitely a book to live by when you want to take your creative and collaborative skills to the next level. Just a great read for inspiring minds.”
— Jon Boogz, movement artist
When I met Welby Altidor, one of the very first things he asked me was, “What are your dreams?” Welby has the gift of tapping right into your loftiest imagination . . . and simultaneously giving you the sense that you just might achieve it. It's not a wonder. Welby has had backstage access to some of the most incredible creative talent on the planet. Written in a deeply personal and thoughtful voice, this book offers readers a chance to feel a part of Welby's world and find the creative courage they need to pursue their dreams.
— Deborah Yeh, senior vice president, marketing & brand, Sephora Americas
Creative Courage brings a new ideological vocabulary that can spark epiphanies. It reminds us that the experience of creation is as important as the result of the work. After all, the journey of creation is what makes our daily life.
— Asinnajaq, curator and filmmaker, Three Thousand
This book highlights the power of the collective genius of true “intuition driven” co-creation. It focuses on a three-way interaction—
1. A man's personal story. 2. A man's professional story. 3. How a man magnificently encapsulates his audience.
If you channel what you genuinely feel from your very essence (not from your past story), your truth will show up in the most unexpected ways. A truly brilliant read.
— Duncan D. Bruce, founding partner and executive creative director, The Brand Conspiracy & Associates ltd; author of Brand Enigma and The Dream Café
Cover image: © Vizerskaya/Getty ImagesCover design: Paul McCarthy
Copyright © 2017 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.. All rights reserved
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New JerseyPublished simultaneously in Canada
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Altidor, Welby, 1973- author.
Title: Creative courage : leveraging imagination, collaboration, and innovation to create success beyond your wildest dreams / Welby Altidor.
Description: Hoboken : Wiley, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index. |
Identifiers: LCCN 2017020718 (print) | LCCN 2017035043 (ebook) | ISBN 9781119347262 (pdf) | ISBN 9781119347644 (epub) | ISBN 9781119347224 (hardback)
Subjects: LCSH: Creative ability in business. | Leadership. | Success in business. | Altidor, Welby, 1973- | Cirque du Soleil. | BISAC: BUSINESS &ECONOMICS / Careers / Job Hunting. | BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Human Resources & Personnel Management. | BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Management.
Classification: LCC HD53 (ebook) | LCC HD53 .A428 2017 (print) | DDC 650.1–dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017020718
For Ella Farber Altidor and the sixteen-year-old misfit hiding in all of us. No one will get your light until you get it.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihab Nye*
Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995. Reprinted with the permission of Far Corner Books.
To Ella, for being the amazing dancer of life. To Kat, for being the visionary of love, space, and pace. To Yael, for being an extraordinary mother and artist. To Annie, Dorcelan, Myrta, and Wendy, for your faith and love. To the Baulu family, for your art of hosting and celebrating. To Susan Abramovitch, for practicing law so artfully. To Jeanenne Ray at Wiley, for your patience and support. To Jocelyn Kwiatkowski, also at Wiley, and your valiant team of editors, thank you for your hawk eyes and for being the guardians of the reading flow. To Adrienne Brodeur from the Aspen Institute, for reminding me to listen to my favorite podcast, On Being. To Alissa Nutting, for your sense of time and your generosity in Aspen. To Guy Laliberté, for your business savvy and your creative intelligence. To Danielle Serpica at Wiley, for your rigor and mastery of the process. To my fellow students at Aspen Words, Colorado, for your courage to share that gave me wings. To Michel Rioux, for your love of theater. To the small but mighty team of Aspen Words, for showing me the way. To Jean “Creative Guide at Cirque du Soleil” François Bouchard, for your intuition. To Murielle Cantin, for your supersonic ability to see the potential in others and for seeing the talent seeker in me. To John Branca and Karen Langford of the Michael Jackson Estate, for your intimate knowledge of the art and genius of the king of pop. To Bernard Petiot, for your intellectual agility. To Boris Verkhovsky, for being a precious storyteller. To Fabrice Becker, for the music. To Jamie King, for being punk rock and for sharing its spirit with me. To Carla Kama, for being real and badass. To Matthew Whelan, for the wet towels of truth. To Joel Bergeron, for having our back and helping us to see the stage. To Carole Doucet, for challenging and encouraging me to find the questions inside the questions. To Brian Drader, for connecting words and visions to life on stage. To Joanne Fillion, for encouraging me to aim for just enough perfection. To Line Giasson, for your drive to make auditions memorable. To Diane Quinn, for your fearless embrace of the spirit of the Renaissance. To Bernardine Fontaine, for your strength that inspired me, and our family, to be strong. To Jacques Méthé, for your sense of words and story. To Catherine Nadeau, for your sense of beauty in movement. To Marta Rocamora, for your sense of community. To Viviana De Loera, for your sense of space. To Seth Godin, for Linchpin live in New York City in 2010. To David and Tom Kelly from IDEO, for the creative confidence. To David Allen, for Getting Things Done. To Marche Soupson, for the almost daily stroll to get delicious soup for lunch. To Fabrik8 in Montreal, for the office space. To Stephanie Malak and Emanuel Cohen, for your keen sense of lines and objects, thanks for the graphs and icons in this book. To the MJ ONE team, for your resilience, brilliance, and bigheartedness. To everyone at Cirque du Soleil, your passion makes your audience radiant.
For all of your superpowers and your genius, thank you!
When I met Welby for the first time, one could say that part of the setting was somewhat familiar to the world I was creating in the script of the TV show CSI. There was obscurity surrounding us, even if we were not in a dark alley. Then the shadowy, tensed atmosphere was sporadically disturbed by shots of light and music, video projections, dances, and incredible acrobatics and by a flurry of activities onstage and in the working theater, filled with computers, artists, technicians. As I sat with my team at the back of the house, I felt the whole energy of Las Vegas concentrated inside the performing space where Welby was busy creating the show Michael Jackson ONE with Jamie King and a talented team from Cirque du Soleil and beyond.
I grew up in Las Vegas, where my love for music and live stage performances started. My mother worked at the Riviera Hotel, where legends like Bill Withers and the 5th Dimension performed. Music never stopped inspiring me. So, it was extra special for me to meet with Welby at that moment. He was in the middle of creating a hit show, although he didn't know it back then. That too was familiar; I was catching him as the work was still in progress, in flux, in that fragile and vulnerable place where you are not sure if it's going to work or not, your heart full of hope and caffeine.
I should know a thing or two about being vulnerable and about dancing with the unknown. When I first imagined, dreamed, and created the TV show CSI, nobody knew about me in Hollywood. As a young guy from Las Vegas, I was representing in many ways the cliché of the misfit with not much more than a dream and a few dollars to his name.
Creating something new that resonates with many is hard. It's never an exact science although the process is always exacting. And at the core of that process lies a subtle, often overlooked question: Can we create something amazing, innovative, without crushing our soul and the spirit of our team in the process? Is it inevitable to do great work at a great cost to you and the team that surrounds you? Is leadership, creative and otherwise, only about sacrifices?
I pitched the idea of a TV script following a team of forensic experts investigating in Las Vegas (and subsequently in New York, Miami, and even the cyber world!) many times before someone said yes. I had to absorb many “NOs!” along the way, uttered at times in the most impersonal way, as body blows coming from left and right. I was lucky to meet through it all talented, visionary, and courageous people who decided to bet on my potential, starting with celebrated producer Jerry Bruckheimer and acclaimed TV executive Nina Tassler.
I love that Welby explores in this book two concepts that are fundamental to my vision of success. Creativity, of course, and courage. As an artist and an outsider in Hollywood back then, I aimed to break the rules by offering a different approach to storytelling on TV that changed the standards and the paradigm of that era. So much so that it inspired a generation of shows that adopted and were inspired by it. That creativity and thirst for innovation are at the heart of what drives my work, whether I dream of new TV series, Broadway shows, or a celebration of cutting-edge diversity through the medium of comic books.
As a producer, I can never take for granted courage, a quality that is critical to lasting and impactful success. It's a mind-set that I have in part acquired thanks to my childhood in Las Vegas, where I learned the value of risk-taking. The risk-taker can be reckless of course, mindless or arrogant, but I prefer the courageous ones who—like some of my mentors—never shy away from taking a chance on the misfits, the odd man or odd woman out. It takes courage to zig when the world zags, but this truism is also at the heart of creativity, innovation, and success.
Since that first day where we met in the theater of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, Welby and I continued to foster a precious friendship, peppered with dreams of collaborating together on projects and mutual support, admiration for our respective work and ethos.
Through the last few years, I've known Welby to be passionate about creating beautiful live experiences and shows with Cirque du Soleil, but I also discovered his passion for improving the way that beauty and innovation is created. Welby's obsession covers not only the output of work but also the process that leads to its creation. Said differently, he's driven to create amazing things amazingly. Fearlessly, he wants to improve not only the “what” but also the “how” of innovation.
I've had the privilege to work with incredible teams of supremely talented showrunners, producers, and actors. I know firsthand how much the quality of our process or lack thereof affects the final product, the story, the result. The way we treat people and the way we find productive ways to work together and harmonize our individual styles and beliefs all contribute to making our shows and our businesses great—or not.
And for every project and each new milestone, that quest needs reinvention through courage, creativity, and humility. In my industry, we are never completely in control of the destiny of our work. We are constantly waiting for a yes, for the green light of someone else on the project on which we are working. Although this is a reality that can't be completely erased or contoured, Creative Courage: Leveraging Imagination, Collaboration, and Innovation to Create Success Beyond Your Wildest Dreams invites us beautifully and convincingly to start by saying yes to ourselves and the potential of our dreams.
In that way, Welby's thoughts represent an expression of what I tried to convey years ago when I named my production company Dare to Pass. I invite you to join Welby's vivid explorations and in the process, refuse to pass on your wildest dreams. Whether you are moving on something new, closing a chapter of your life, going deeper into your current practice, or searching for the meaning of your next quest, the stories and insights that you will discover in Creative Courage will make a difference for you and your teams. Wherever you are and whatever you do, it will inspire you to write and rewrite your precious story.
Anthony E. ZuikerCreator and Executive Producer, CSI
I believe that a work culture that supports the growth of its employees creates more favorable conditions for its brand, its products, its services to be and stay relevant. Our well-being, our ability to lead efficiently and creatively, is connected to the quality of our culture at work. That culture can suffer from the tension between the status quo and the need for transformation. In fact, in every culture, we find forces aimed at preserving the status quo and opposing energies dedicated to its transformation.
In that potential conflict sits the promise of creativity, innovation, and breakthroughs. Finding the harmony between these two necessary forces is not easy, and when one force takes over too radically or disruptively, the other force likely reacts. When the status quo tries to impose itself resolutely, the war on imagination lives strong, as a state of conflict where imagination, free association of ideas and the connection of unrelated concepts, or diverse teams and people is strongly discouraged, even punished. In other words, when the status quo takes over, the war on imagination follows. When the energy of transformation goes too fast for the people it affects, we are left with incomprehension, anger, and reactionary retraction from the world. We step back into our identities and our politics when at work. I call these moments in organizations, brand grabs. We hold on to a less than optimal, often nostalgic vision of who we are.
The distress between status quo and transformation stems from obvious and obscure reasons. The dramatic advances in computing and one of its by-products, quicker, more voluminous disseminations of information, is one factor in the worsening of the dynamic and coupling between what's stable and what's transforming. This situation challenges almost everything in our world, from the way we call a taxi, think about mobility and transportation, to the way that we will consume entertainment in the future.
Consequently, becoming relevant and staying relevant has become harder for organizations and brands. As the newest rapidly replaces the new, the pressure on the bottom line expands, and the need to innovate grows faster while the cycles of discoveries stay practically unchanged. We know that we need to evolve by staying agile and nimble. But we also don't want to lose our identity, our culture, I hear leaders say.
So how can we create or nurture a more innovative culture at work to answer the call of transformation? How can we leverage imagination and creativity to make our work more robust and resilient? And how can such a culture help produce relevance inside and outside our organization? Moreover, and more fundamentally, as we face those challenges, do we have to choose between a high-performance culture that helps generate great value at a very high human cost, or a nurturing culture that sacrifices value, innovation and performance for the integrity of the life inside all of us? De we have to choose between value and values?
I believe that we can bridge the gap between value and values, between high-performance and nurturing space for meaningful work. By learning to lead with creative courage, we can help create a culture for our organization that's more innovative and more able to answer the call of transformation. At its core, the practice of leading with creative courage offers an evolving and open cycle of seven integrated, incremental practices: (1) care first, (2) secure safety, (3) foster trust, (4) play with danger, (5) dream, (6) discover breakthroughs, (7) and grow. Under the umbrella of creative courage, these practices that I also refer to as stages or dimensions offer a powerful framework that you can adapt to your reality as you help yourself and your organization transform while staying true to your most important principles. Leading with creative courage offers support on the path to inside-out relevance for you and your organization.
I care, therefore I am; I hope, therefore I am; I imagine, therefore I am. I am ethical, therefore I am. I have a purpose, therefore I am. I pause and reflect, therefore I am.
In traditional theater, when the curtain finally rises, it reveals what was temporarily hidden, unknown, unconscious, and protected from the light. The moments just before the curtain opens are potent: with preparation, vulnerability, doubts, delight, surprises, and hope for relevance. Ideally, after the curtain rises, a mirror-like effect is created between the audience, those who are watching or reading what's revealed, and the performers, those who are revealing their story. Through the beauty and the failures of the characters presented to us, we see our own beauty and failures. In some ways, the light of theater can set us free if it dares to reveal courageous truths. Therefore, from the personal and distinctive details fearlessly shared, something universal emerges. Progressively, we recognize and deeply feel, thanks to that light shining on the truth and the mystery of our lives, something that in the best cases can even inspire us to take action. That process of revelation is at the heart of creativity, imagination, innovation, and telling stories. Even before we had curtains to reveal our stories, we had the open stage of the circus and of ancient Rome's Colosseum, for example. And before that, we simply gathered in a circle, with a fire in the middle as our light.
Do you know what Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Frida Kahlo, Nelson Mandela, Plato, Muhammad Yunus, and Bob Dylan have in common? They all challenged the status quo of their time in periods that felt transformational and unprecedented. By questioning how music or race was strictly segregated, how women were supposed to relate to their sensuality or identity in public, what corrupted youth, what folk music was supposed to be, or how banks operated, these icons clashed with the past in a way that made them relevant and memorable to us. In fact, in every culture through time, there have been forces aimed at preserving the status quo and opposing energies dedicated to its transformation.
For close to sixteen years, I worked at Cirque du Soleil, arguably one of the world's most influential and important live entertainment companies in our time. I became then a passionate member of a unique, stimulating, and challenging work culture, and I eventually played one of the leading roles in the creative destiny of the organization. I learned to work at an exceptionally fast pace. On one side, I could see in full bloom the beauty of creativity, imagination, and the fearless drive to innovate. And on the other side, I witnessed and benefited from the powerful leverage of business savvy and commerce at play.
Cirque du Soleil contributed to reinventing the circus by marrying industry and artistry, theater and sports, creativity and commerce, individual imagination and the strengths of the collective. Cirque rose as a challenger to the traditional understanding of what a circus could and couldn't be and in this way brought an unexpected modernity to an ancient form. Creativity, imagination, and innovation find their most vivid expression at the center of that same tension between the past and the present.
In periods of profound transformation, that tension between past and present is highly volatile, and it can increase to the point that it challenges the coexistence of our heritage, our current situation, and our aspirations to transform the present. This increasing tension affects our world today and, by extension, our lives and our work. In such times, uncertainty expands, and as a response, the urgency for finding new solutions to complex problems increases as well. It's a dynamic driving us to innovate, transform, adapt, and even ride change to prevent being a victim of unpredictable, blind transformations. This pressure to innovate and renew ourselves while honoring our past creates fear, confusion, and doubts. And when we fall in the crack of that tension, between past and present, we can easily feel that we are misfits, like teenagers awkwardly standing between two ages.
Under that pressure, we might ask ourselves if we are going in the right direction at work. We might wonder how we keep up with the volume and the speed of changes in our life and the lives of those around us. We wonder: Are we safe? Will robots replace us? Are we about to be outsourced, outmaneuvered, or shipped away?
Looking to find solutions, we might also wonder how we can create or nurture a more innovative culture at work to answer the call of transformation. How can we leverage imagination and creativity to make our work and our organizations more robust and resilient? And how can such a culture help produce relevance both inside and outside our organization?
Around the world, start-ups, corporations, teams, dance troupes, board members, co-working space leaders, community organizations, political groups, companies, and, yes, circus collectives, also ask how can they create or foster more positive, constructive working environments. They discuss how the cultures created at work can be not only productive but nurturing, resilient, and supportive of growth, transformation, and innovation.
In my work with leaders from industries as diverse as technology, banking, beauty care, sports apparel, architecture, and design, all the way to the world of creativity in entertainment, and live experience, which I know the most, those questions arise in different shapes and forms. Visionary leaders from all walks of life and with very different focuses wonder how to integrate more innovation and creativity in the work that they do and ask how this can be done in a way that brings more value to their group:
How do we deliver relevance, meaning something that truly matters, to the people that we serve?
How do we build businesses that have a long-term and sustainable, positive impact on the world?
How do we stay relevant considering our past successes?
How do we work better together?
How do we draw the best from our teams?
How do we make the best of our projects?
How do we create a lasting, positive, constructive impact on the people we serve and on the world?
These simple, yet provocative, difficult questions and the discussions they lead to have inspired me to reflect on my twenty-year experience in the entertainment world. In this book, although I honor the rich, unavoidable influence that Cirque du Soleil has had on my thinking, I speak in my own name rather than in the name of Cirque. Nonetheless, I also refer to my journey within this exceptional company that has provided so much inspiration for my career.
As a passionate creator and observer of the world of entertainment, but also the world of work, art, management, leadership, and creativity, I saw an opportunity to share my understanding, my point of view, and my vision in this book. No one can answer these questions alone, and there is no one answer for everyone. But these important questions draw out different contributions and points of view to help answer the call of our transforming world. Beyond answers, they also lead to more questions that might be a source of inspiration for your own work and your transformation. I believe that our well-being, our ability to innovate, to lead efficiently and creatively, is connected to the quality of our culture at work. Moreover, I believe that a work culture that supports the growth of its employees and members creates favorable conditions for its brand to be and stay relevant and profitable.
As I started to gain perspective on my professional practice and what made a positive difference in my work over time, I began to see the main source of my successes and the deeper understanding of my failures through a mind-set that I call creative courage. I believe that the underpinnings behind and the practice of creative courage can help transform the way we work and engage the questions most of us ask about work and innovation.
I draw inspiration from different definitions and from my personal practice to define in my own words what creativity and courage mean:
Leveraging original ideas or unrelated ideas or remixing ideas to produce something artful, skillful, or masterful that questions, persuades, or moves. It's imagination writing a sentence with an invented grammar. Creativity is not limited to art; rather, being alive itself is being potentially creative, and so it is an expression of life.
Deciding to move forward toward the unknown, the uncertain or the certain, despite being afraid.
Small children often have an advantage over adults when it comes to being able to practice creative courage because they are still in touch with their “explorer of the unknown” side. They constantly invent new solutions to tough problems, and since they can't read yet, instruction booklets are pointless.
Developing the mind-set of creative courage when things were hard at work gave me confidence professionally. I was influenced by a set of values and experiences like grit, confidence, perseverance, relentlessness, compassion, a sense of survival, desperation, discouragement, crippling doubts, detachment, and resilience. These words form a background behind my thinking about creative courage and its practice.
Practicing creative courage means developing a mental posture that helps us move forward in the world, despite a fear of rejection and failure. It suggests that we can work with the objective of bringing value to ourselves and others. Our goal when we practice creative courage is to provoke important questions, offer valuable answers, support insight, and see every emotion as noble.
It suggests a graceful movement forward, knowing that we can always improve our ability to be more in touch with our skillfulness. It proposes a path to develop our ability to share our creative courage with others. And it offers an open door to embrace what's artful in us. We can find the paths in us that point toward mastery and even virtuosity, no matter who we are and what we do. Practicing creative courage proposes routes to move past the fear of failure. There we find a new path toward the joy of bringing something essential to our life and that of others. In concrete terms, it means learning to passionately love discovering through the unknown. It means facing head-on a difficult challenge, a problem that at the moment seems impossible to resolve, even embracing a situation where most would doubt you or your group could succeed.
Relevance becomes the ultimate currency, a new, unconventional factor that I like to call our high line–expanding our conventional preoccupations for the bottom line of our organization. So I argue here that beyond the traditional thinking we have about profit and balance sheet (bottom line), we must integrate in our aspiration a high line thinking about relevance, meaning, and resonance for the people that we create for and that ultimately benefit from our work.
Finally, creative courage refers to that voice inside you that moves past the accusatory, contemptuous whisper, “Who do you think you are?” and tries to create something beautiful nonetheless or something meaningful, even if the risk of rejection or failure is great. Simply saying “Forward, nonetheless, forward despite it all, forward despite the fear” triggers a momentum of its own and builds inside you a mind-set that can transform the way you lead your life, the teams you support, the projects you craft, and the organizations that you belong to. As a mind-set, it changes our perspective on solving unusual and unconventional problems. It makes us accept and embrace the fact that many of our relevant and crucial challenges have no instruction booklet. It refers to an inner game of creativity, a mentality to be developed over time yet instantly accessible. It is not only a set of techniques and tips. It suggests that at the heart of management, leadership, and business, there is a profound call and a yearning for an approach that's artful, heart-full, and truly supports creativity, innovation, and growth.
Although the practice of creative courage and the mind-set behind it can help us find solutions to tough, nearly impossible problems to solve, the more potent power of creative courage can help us make sense of our differences, transforming them into a powerful advantage for business, leadership, and innovation. It can trigger a belief in our ability to find solutions to problems despite the absence of an instruction manual or ready-made answers. Practicing our leadership with the framework it proposes can support our efforts to bridge the gap over our complex diversity, leveraging our imagination to find the gold in what makes us disparate yet connected.
In this way, we can dramatically improve our skills at integrating diverse groups of people (diverse in terms of age, gender, talents, abilities, geography, backgrounds, disciplines, beliefs, and aspirations, for example) in the context of dissimilar and complex sets of challenges. We end up growing when we tackle projects that can influence the world positively in small and big ways. Practicing creative courage means calling for a new form of artistry at work—an artistry that's asking us to integrate elements, knowledge, and practices that we already know to help do visionary work. Finally, this practice will inspire us to integrate the past and the present of our business and work more constructively than we've done previously.
From my work as a casting agent for films and TV projects, all the way to working with some of the world's most talented artists, performers, businesses, and production professionals, I've seen, observed, lived, and had the privilege to work through the exhilaration of leading with creative courage. I have also witnessed and suffered from the perils of being disconnected from my creative courage.
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