Becky Bermont on Redesigning Leadership at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
A student once asked John Maeda, “If RISD is such a creative place, why aren’t we led with more creativity?” That comment has stuck with him. Since both he and our Provost (Chief Academic Officer) are truly artist/administrators (rather than artists-turned-administrators), they have undertaken a quest to redesign leadership is both lofty and explicit. They’ve made a commitment to leading our institution using the principles that RISD’s artists and designers use every day.
Here are four differences in perspective I’ve noticed our creative leaders putting into practice:
Passion fuels the work: When artist and administrator combine, the passion that was once channeled into creating art is now poured into leading.
Form and content can’t be decoupled: When presenting complex information to a community of visual thinkers, though, the how demands as much thoughtful consideration as the what. It’s not just that a well-designed document is more palatable; it’s that the ideas within it can truly be understood.
Iteration is expected: Tweaking a presentation at the last minute or reconsidering the order of an event that’s about to happen is being alive to the moment and in tune to possibility.
All failures are opportunities for course correction: Knowing what we were aiming for and what went wrong, we could immediately go back to the drawing board and approach it again.
Becky’s story reminds me of a comment a student made about classes being boring, when I was speaking at a design school. I asked the audience of 300 who was bored in class and about 70% of the audience put of their hands. Were the classes learner-focused I asked? No. Well then, that’s part of the problem.