Creativity at Work Training and Consulting delivers results

New Product/Process Development

The objective was to design and deliver an innovation workshop for 100 engineers and jet fighter pilots:

To instil a sense of shared conviction towards productivity and innovation in daily work while equipping pilots and engineers with the skill set to: i) Identify potential challenges to be improved or overcome, ii) Brainstorm and innovate ideas to overcome challenges, iii) Implementation of ideas (i.e. developing a effective product/solution from simple ideas) and  iv.) Recognise the importance of creativity and innovation in the workplace so as to create a effective and efficient working environment.

Result: After introducing the group to a framework for creativity and innovation, as well as a variety of idea-generation tools, including the arts, teams built 3D prototypes using art media, and presented their ideas to improve efficiency and productivity at work. Three teams received funding to bring their ideas into fruition.

Creativity workshop for Innovation

Our company has a mandate to accelerate business growth through innovation and in order to reach our targets we recognised the need for skills development in creativity.

We asked Linda Naiman to conduct a creativity workshop at our global meeting for our Business Unit team of chemists, engineers and marketers, to inspire creative thinking, introduce idea generation methodologies, and develop a set of tangible ideas for new products and services.

Linda offered us a challenging, unusual approach to creativity, which was highly valuable for me. While some sceptics in the audience made it a real challenge for Linda, she mastered it extremely well and provided all of us with highly valuable insights.

We now have a set of principles and practices for fostering creativity and innovation that we are implementing at our Business Unit. I recommend Linda Naiman to companies looking for effective ways to cultivate creativity in their people.

—A. Fischer, Senior Vice President Customer Relations Management, Business Unit, High Performance Polymers, Degussa HPP

Creativity at Work within the Canadian Federal Government

Linda Naiman, Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail wrote about Linda Naiman’s session on creativity, resilience and navigating change and its impact on managers at Canadian Heritage (a department of the Federal Government of Canada)

The signs were clear. A staggering deficit. A probable Conservative majority. Funding cuts to the arts were certain. Two questions remained: How significant the cuts? And, how to cope? Managers at Canadian Heritage knew they were going to need some creative ideas to guide them through the coming transition. So they called Linda Naiman, founder of Creativity at Work… Continue reading.

Arts-based Approach to Strategic Planning

Challenge: The vice-president of marketing for an international transportation company presented Linda Naiman with this challenge:

We want to ensure that everyone knows where the company has been, what we are up against and what is our plan for tomorrow. Obviously, one of the key success factors we identified is an experienced team approach to our business. One of the concerns I have is that the marketing staff is involved with the plan but other departments which include systems, human resources, finance and accounting, fleet development and corporate are not as involved. We need to have their input and as well, they need to understand why they are part of the plan. We need to identify key success factors for them. We see ourselves as a company that is opportunistic with an appetite for risk and innovation. How do we convince everyone here of that fact?

Solution: We designed strategic planning meetings to ensure employee engagement in co-creating the future direction company. We used Appreciative Inquiry, World Café dialogue, and drawings to bring ideas into sharper focus and map out a strategic plan that incorporated ideas from management and staff.

Result: “Linda was instrumental in assisting our group to “create” outside the box and to improve also the working relationship between the crews and our office personnel.”
—T. Brodeur, VP

Practical Applications from Creativity at Work Training

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a training exercise by Linda Naiman, a creativity and innovation expert, and Founder of Creativity at Work, and through experimentation, exploration and questioning of assumptions, she covered a lot of ground.

Some of the most practical takeaways came in the form of techniques, and here are my four favorites that will help put creativity to work for you:

1. Challenge Assumptions: When you alter assumptions, you inspire new ideas related to a problem and create novel opportunities.

2. SCAMPER It stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Reverse or Rearrange. Think about your idea under each line of questioning. What/who can you put to other uses? For example, a furniture company trained its delivery drivers in decoration. Returns on furniture dropped from 10% to 1%. (Alan Robinson)

3. Cross-Pollination. Use unexpected juxtaposition to produce something new or better. Consider how your problem resembles a problem in another space. Ask how it’s handled in that space, and then determine how you might adapt the solution to your environment. For instance, in the training, we discussed how hospital surgery rooms learned how to improve practices from the Ferrari pit stop crew.

4. Framing and Re-Framing. Before jumping to conclusions or trying to solve a problem upfront, ask what it is you really need to focus on, and what concern should actually be addressed. Use verbs and active language to frame a challenge; think in broader and narrower contexts; and pick one objective at a time to focus “ideation.”

— Amy Bowman, Stanton Communications

Using the arts as a catalyst for transformation

Arts-based dialogue had a transformational impact on the Ginger Group Collaborative

Challenge: The Ginger Group Collaborative, a network of car consultants needed to figure out if they should stay together or disband.

CAW Ginger workshopWe weren’t ready to give up, but we weren’t sure what might emerge next. Somehow we had to test our deeper sense of purpose and commitment to the possibilities. Do we have the energy and vision to stay together?’ ‘Is it time to go into business together?’ ‘Are we going to get real or not?’ We were at a turning point.”

Solution: “We invited Linda Naiman to bring her collaborative painting techniques to our retreat at Edenvale Center in British Columbia, to help us have a conversation we were finding difficult, “to go beyond simply the words and create a picture of the story that was in the process of unfolding.”

The collaborative painting activities created a crucible for deeper levels of conversation, and “they found themselves telling stories of sensitive issues, personal journeys, and visions of their future. The retreat fostered open inquiry, sparked new energy, and ignited a sense of team spirit.” (Osborn)

One of the associates said “The paintings were a source of intimacy the group needs to stay together and provided a forum for rich and insightful dialogue. We realized that the archetypes that emerged in the images of our painting represented the essence of what we wanted to convey about collaboration to our public.”


“We had struck a vein of gold that helped us shape our future together.”

Through arts-based dialogue, the Ginger Group discovered other ways of knowing and expressing what matters. “We have learned that it’s not about making art, not about performance. It’s about creating meaning together, using powerful visual symbols and images that come from the deepest parts of our being.”

For the full story of how Linda Naiman’s arts-based learning facilitation helped transform the Ginger group, read Finding Gold through Painting a Story (PDF)

A case study of  how arts-based dialogue created a transformational experience for the Ginger Group is also featured in Wake Me Up When the Data is Over: How Organizations Use Storytelling to Drive Results  by Susan M. Osborn, Ph.D (2006)

Using the arts as a catalyst for creativity and group collaboration

At a quarterly meeting for a global team of HR managers at BP International, we used painting activities as ice-breakers to energize the group and set the tone for productive brainstorming. We applied artful thinking as part of a problem-solving process, to help the group re-frame, quickly find solutions to the challenges they were facing.

Arts-Based Team Building at a Corporate Retreat

Linda Naiman led a US-based R&D team from a multi-national food company through several painting activities involving communication and collaboration. The purpose was to help the group create an environment in their workplace that would be more conducive to innovation. Their corporate culture placed such a strong emphasis on science, competition and high performance, that it was risk adverse and therefore created an impediment to creativity.

As the client put it,

“The painting exercises definitely got us in touch with capabilities that usually lie dormant in our current environment.”

A small miracle happened as a result of the visual dialogue exercise. One of the pairs (a man and a woman) were also team-mates in their work, and never had gotten along with each other. They reported to the group, they had unleashed all their passion and hostility in their painting and had fun in the process. When they discussed the picture they had created they came to a new understanding and appreciation of each other and how they could work together.

Reflections from the client post-workshop:

I’ve thought a great deal about our experience with you and about art in business. You are involved in a truly pioneering effort to help us keep the personal, ‘heart matters’ in the foreground as we manage our increasingly ‘technical’ business. Successful pioneering in our own industry starts with the sharing of a new, different, and compelling corporate vision. A shared vision is possible only if each of our personal visions are brought forward, honored and made part of the whole picture. We can articulate our personal vision only as well as we can reveal our true selves. Revealing one’s true self is an artful act, and a matter of the heart.

Your work with us showed this so well, and your quote from Gandhi –“If you want something really important to be done you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must satisfy the heart also” — echoes the learning. For those who would ask, ‘… and just how does art benefit my business?’, I would offer, “If your business has important, pioneering work to do, then develop artful capabilities in your associates just as well as technical skills, else you’ll work at half-strength at best, and risk losing all the benefit of their passion.” Now, there is a connection between art and the bottom line.

A. Gibson
R&D Manager

Organizational Effectiveness

We helped a transportation company find ways improve the quality of life on its ships, boost morale, and improve communications. We interviewed key personnel, then led ship captains, engineers and management through a creative problem-solving process that included story telling and theatre. They identified key changes they wanted to make to improve conditions on the ships, and we established an innovation task force to take responsibility and ensure follow-through. This improved relationships with head office, and as well as quality of life on the ships.

Organizational Identity

The Health, Safety and Environment Dept. of the University of British Columbia “wanted to have a reconnect with the mission/objectives of the department and our role in the University. We also wanted to re-establish our organizational identity, agree on our core values and explore customer communication and recognition.” We accomplished this through a sequence of processes that involved visual and metaphoric thinking, collaboration, story telling and strategic visioning.

Creating a Shared Vision for a new business Enterprise

The process you used made the maximum use of the short time we had together. The brief introduction of what the brainstorming prepared the mind for the objective; followed by an “ice breaker” dropped the mental guard and prepared the mind for the creative process. Creating a vision in pairs allowed each group to work in synergy; which ultimately lead to a qualified success of the session.

Part of the draw to the session nobody had ever experienced “artful” brainstorming. It was really great to see how each of the participants interacted with their partner and the group; especially with the “art dialogue” section.

Thank you so much for a fabulous session.
Klaus Rudert, Vancouver

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