From the The Creativity Gap Series in the Globe and Mail


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.

Ms. Naiman’s advice to Canadian Heritage: Think more like artists. Employing principles of what is known as design thinking, she pushed them to seek out multiple solutions to problems. “Our tradition of rote learning, in which there is only one answer, kills creativity,” she says. “We are increasingly in what might be called a post-modern world, where the rules aren’t clear. That linear, logical, analytical training we get ? that left-brain thinking ? does not equip us to navigate those types of scenarios.”

Embracing design thinking requires accepting a certain level of chaos, an obvious challenge for the public sector. “When we’re trying to find new ways to do things, chaos is part of the creative process because we’re travelling from the known to the unknown,” Ms. Naiman says. “Managers in business and government don’t like chaos. They want to solve problems right away. But they’re missing an opportunity for innovation and creativity.”

In order to kickstart this transition, Canadian Heritage asked Ms. Naiman to facilitate a workshop during which the team could come together to be creative in a democratized and amicable environment. She designed exercises to help managers change the tone of how they discussed new ideas with colleagues, a shift from “yes, but” responses to “yes, and…” She pushed them to rethink their assumptions about how things had always been done.

“The experience was very beneficial,” says Monique Leger, policy and program lead of the Youth Take Charge program at the department. “True dialogue is where creativity can find resonance. We need to create an environment for dialogue because without it, creativity won’t emerge.”

Ms. Leger found participating in a creative act as a team to be very useful, and Canadian Heritage has since initiated two artistic projects to build on Ms. Naiman’s workshop. Last year, they created a quilt out of public servants’ neckties; this year, they are planning a flashmob. “Creativity is not necessarily about making art,” Ms. Leger says. “But these actions bring people together and have long lasting effects beyond the doing because people have the opportunity to risk something.”

Read the full story here: How budget cuts could kick-start creativity in the public sector – The Globe and Mail.