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In this Innovation Spotlight Series, we sat down with Dr. Marta Davidovich Ockuly, a creativity catalyst, educator, researcher and humanistic psychologist. Her research led to the first imagination-informed, human definition of creativity for 2020 and beyond. It has been also been adopted for use with United Nations’ sanctioned World Creativity & Innovation Week

Creativity is the person-centered process of imagining   possibilities and taking embodied expressive action to make your ideas real.” Marta Davidovich Ockuly,

The word cloud below shows this new phenomenon-based definition surrounded by terms associated with the lived experience of creativity.


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In this spotlight series, we explore the global creativity gap and how individuals and teams can activate individual and team creativity.The Adobe research reports that 80% of adults feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth, but only 1 of 4 of us believe we are living up to our creative potential. 75% of us also believe that we are under pressure to be productive rather than creative at work.

The team at Innovation Minds was founded on the core belief that Human Connection is the Heart of Innovation. In this article, Dr. Ockuly helps us delve into the person-centered process of creativity.

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A Starter Kit to Being Creative in Business and Life.

How can you and your organization be more creative? Here are 7 Best Practices from Dr. Ockuly to activate both personal and team creativity:

1) Self-Identify as Creative

Self-identification with creativity is important. It is best not to ask people if they are creative, instead ask what gets them excited about developing or improving. People can overcome great challenges without self-identifying as creative, but the only way to develop creative confidence is through persistent engagement with some hobby or interest that leads to bringing some ideas or imaginings to life. In our culture creativity is associated with being a great artist, author, inventor, superstar or genius. It is important to understand creativity lives in the process, not the product.

Working with what fills you with energy and flow gets you on the path. On this practice, let’s take a lesson from Vincent Van Gogh. He was not identified as creative until he died and outside world and art evaluators decided they liked his art. If Vincent did not persevere during a lifetime of being labeled absent of talent or creativity, the world would be deprived of some of his genius. He persisted doing what filled him with the energy, passion, and purpose and meaning. He paid no mind to critics and evaluators. He once said “If you hear a voice within you that says you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

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2) Practice Daily Creativity: 

Here we can take another lesson from artist, Van Gogh who produced 4 works of art a week for more than a decade. Ockuly turns to journaling for creative insights and inspirations. Following her intuition has led to her most powerful findings. Taking morning walks, reflecting, making ‘joy mandalas’ are also part of daily process. Her lived experiences of creativity including insights, aha’s and preliminary sketches are all held in her collection of thirty 200-page journals filled heuristic creativity research discoveries. Her collage process involves clipping images, words and quotes out of old magazines. When she feels ready to create a collage, her intuition guides her. She does not consider these creations art. She finds the process interesting.

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3) Avoid Premature Evaluation. 

“When we learn to silence the inner   voice that judges yourself and others, there is no limit to what we can accomplish, individually and as part of a team. Absence of judgment makes you more receptive to innovative ideas.”

 Michael Ray (cited in Maslow, 1998, p.224)

Marta cautions about the damage done by creative mortification: the “Crushing of the Creative Spirit”. Deferring judgment and embracing the F Word “Failure” is key to creativity, creative problem solving and the innovation process. In teams, this requires creation of a psychologically safe space where creativity-informed innovation can thrive. Failure is an essential part of the innovation process. Marta notes “There are no right decisions on your creativity journey, every choice, every failure moves you closer to a successful solution.”


4) Build Creativity into Job Descriptions. 

Marta believes that creativity needs to be incorporated into corporate job descriptions and job categories on LinkedIn. According to Marta, “Words matter” and the use of the word creativity is typically limited to advertising and arts-focused fields. Seek and you shall find. Name ‘creativity” or ‘creative confidence’ as a skill and competency in job descriptions to attract candidates who are not afraid to step into action to make smart changes and bring new and inspiring perspectives to the table.

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5) Focus on Joy over Pain: 

On this topic Marta and I had an interesting, creative discussion. As a consultant and lead for Innovation and Learning, I have been brought up on the business model of “we need pain to change” and the source of creative inspiration as well as sales is most often a customer “Pain Point”. Marta creates a compelling case based on brain science showing fear is not sustainable, but joy and wonder inspire a willingness to work hard for meaningful change. It begins with paying attention to what fills us with the energy to climb mountains. Being involved with a project you care about deeply can lead to transformational creative growth. A mistake some people make is confusing joy with happiness. Happiness focuses one person’s desires (hedonic). Joy is eudaimonic. It challenges us stick with a difficult project with overwhelming challenges to bring something meaningful into the world for the good of all. Fear drains energy and creativity, but joy multiplies it. Joy usurps our pain point as a motivator.

This research and practice of Joy as a core motivator is the subject of the latest best seller entitled “Chief Joy Officer” by Richard Strickland from Menlo Innovations. According to Ockuly, running from hungry tigers day after day can only last so long. There is a better way and it involves shifting your perspective from fear and competition to joy. Marta’s acronym for joy is: “Just One Yes.” It applies to both creativity and innovation. Try something new. Take a leap. Do what others say you can’t. Step into flow and follow it. “Go where your heart takes you“ still applies. Are you focused on more Joy than Pain as you look at your creative landscape? Set a timer for 30 seconds, then close your eyes and write as many things that pop into your mind that worry, bother, aggravate or anger you. Next, all the things that bring you joy. What is the ratio of aggravations to joys? Complaints appear quicker because they are in our top of the mind awareness. Choosing to take just one ‘joy action’ first thing in the morning can shift your mood. creativity and productivity for the whole day.

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6) Tolerate Ambiguity

Here’s the thing: We are more comfortable in what we know and in our daily routines then we are with the unknown. However, where does creativity and innovation thrive? In the space of ambiguity!

Get comfortable with not knowing the answer and you are more likely to embrace creative possibilities.

7) Follow the Leaders:

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Explore organizations and Leaders like Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines who live in a space, place and culture of creativity and joy. Here’s a fun fact about Virgin’s passion for both creativity and getting close to customers:

Virgin raids its customers’ fridges to design its in-flight menu

to determine the onboard meals it offers frequent flyers, Virgin’s Food and Beverage team visited actual passengers’ homes to stick their noses inside their refrigerators. Literally, they went to people’s houses. And judging from the last in-flight meal added to the menu, their customers are enjoying a lot of smoked salmon and English mustard potato salad.


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner:

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Speaking of Dining, We asked our guest about who she would invite to a Jeffersonian Dinner

Dr. Ockuly has a long list for spending an inspiring evening to talk creativity and innovation including Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh, Scott Berry Kaufman who led the Imagination Institute; Carl Rogers who published a theory of creativity in 1954, Natalie Rogers who founded Person-Centered Expressive arts, IDEO’s David Kelley, Sir Ken Robinson, Brene Brown, George Land, and Frida Kahlo.

Innovation Minds is hosting a Jeffersonian Dinner in the San Francisco Bay Area as part of our celebration of World Creativity and Innovation Week! Contact our team for information

About our Innovator:

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Dr. Marta Ockuly is President and CEO of Creative Potential Institute, Inc. a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization and think tank focused on awakening human creativity in service of innovation. .

About the Article Author: Rosemary Rein is an Author and Speaker on Leadership, Creativity and Innovation. Rosemary serves on the Global Advisory Board of Innovation Minds, a full service innovation management solution providing an intuitive software platform with a framework of live events to accelerate innovation.

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