Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Talk about creativity, innovation, and leadership
Dean, School of Liberal Arts, Kate Newell, and Founder and CEO, Unknown Origins, Roy Sharples in conversation about what makes the creative mind tick and how to harness inspiration and unleash your creative power to the faculty and students at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
1. Can you tell us a little about the concept of Unknown Origins and what you do?
Unknown Origins is on a mission to save the world from unoriginality by unleashing creative power. We are a creative design studio that provides creative strategy, brand creation, storytelling, and envisioning services that enable innovative products, services, and experiences for artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and businesses. Underpinned by providing and curating the world's community-driven storytelling platform that provides the creative industry access to insights and content from creators worldwide.
I lead the creative and business output that defines the company's unique mission, brand, capabilities, and portfolio of assets. Inspired by industry developments and culture, connected to emotions and imagination, applying the creative process to navigate new ways to market that drive breakthrough change and business growth.
2. You've had such an interesting and diverse career: What was your "foot in the door" job? How did you build up to new opportunities? If you were to share with SCAD students your Top 3 "dos" for recent graduates new to a big company, what might they be?
My first professional job was designing and engineering software for remotely operated vehicles, a passenger ticketing system for a megacity subway system and pay-as-you-go mobile solutions for telecommunication providers to enable consumers to purchase credit in advance of service use.
I embraced the challenge, quickly learned to accept failure as a step forward than backward, persist in the face of setbacks, and learn by doing as the path to mastery. That, along with being proactive at getting exposed to as many scenarios and opportunities as you can, collaborating and cross-pollinating with people from different skills and worlds of expertise and experiences. including travel, is a catalyst for inspiring innovation and creativity because you experience different cultures and diverse societies. Learning to appreciate and respect these differences in lifestyle and behavior, which forced me to depart from the familiar and take on a more integrative worldview.
The top 3 "Dos" for graduates new to a big company are:
1 MASTER YOUR CRAFT AND BE GREAT AT IT
The pursuit of achieving greatness means being committed to your craft and be exceptional at it. Achieving peak performance means self-discipline and having a mindset that guides your choices, decisions, and actions. Making sacrifices to learn, grow, and develop essential skills.
2 STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
Seek counsel from people you trust, respect, and admire. Positive role models share their skills, insights, and expertise to nurture your talent and accelerate your progress.
3 RECOGNIZE THAT FAILURE IS ESSENTIAL TO MASTERY
Embrace challenge, accept failure, persist in the face of setbacks, and learn by doing as the path to mastery.
3. Do you see any "through thread" in your experiences that led you to Unknown Origins?
I simply did things because I was inclined to do them and then understand why I did them after. There has been no grand plan. I’ve been instinctive and gravitated in a zig-zag way towards interesting situations and opportunities. This approach is diametrically opposed to people with a clear linear path and disciplined about executing their way through in a more predictable and upward trajectory. So, my journey is inherent messiness with inner desperation and persistence, along with a desire to succeed and a pattern of constant reinvention yet maintaining my values as the constant.
4. Tell us about your book, Creativity Without Frontiers! Where did that idea come from? What was your creative process in putting it all together?
I draw upon decades of experience at the forefront of business innovation with an artistic sensibility to explore what makes the creative mind tick. I examine the conditions that nourish creativity in organizations of all sizes, from artists to corporations to civilizations. The result is a manifesto for harnessing inspiration and unleashing creative power.
Many innovators are classic outsiders, misfits, and mavericks who disrupted, invented and changed the faces of their industries forever. Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, and the Wright Brothers rose from obscurity to radically transform an industry and how people lived. Transmit that to every other industry, and the motto is the same.
Creative leaders have confidence in their ideas and never give up on bringing them to fruition. It means leading without frontiers by seeing around the corners and fearlessly navigating into the future.
Take David Bowie, who was the consummate outsider and misfit, a serial innovator in music. He accurately predicted the impact of the Internet in the interview David Bowie speaks to Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight in 1999, about using new internet services seemed farfetched for artists, but what he predicted became the norm. Musicians now make music, perform live, and engage with fans online, making it accessible, affordable, and convenient to experience music from anywhere at any time.
The book's approach blends the art and science of the creative process: DREAM, MAKE and DO. The process is iterative and constant, and customizable per craft, situation, and opportunity. Underpinned by infusing unique perspectives from experts in the creative industry: actors, artists, art directors, branders, creative directors, curators, designers, educators, entrepreneurs, executives, filmmakers, illustrators, marketers, musicians, photographers, producers, and product developers.
It is about discovering and developing insight, involving divergent thinking to analyze a problem, perceiving patterns that are not obvious, generating and evaluating ideas that can become concepts, experimenting, prototyping, constructing, and making a plan of action. Applying techniques that drive evolution, synthesis, re-application, reinvention, reimagination, disruption, revolution, and changing direction.
1 DREAM apply divergent thinking to dream without frontiers to find the breakthrough ideas by envisioning the desired outcome
2 MAKE adopt a do-it-yourself sensibility using convergent thinking to review and select the best ideas and then rapidly prototype and construct the plan to bring it to life
3 DO review the solution to identify improvements, make eliminations, fine-tune, remove obstacles, mitigate risks, and bring it to life with the audience and markets, whether the solution is a new business, brand campaign, a physical product, an industrial design, song, film, story or painting.
I established a CREATIVE EXCELLENCE MODEL that details the collection of skills and competencies. These comprise five principles that define what creative leaders must know and practice and holistically address leadership at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
1 IMAGINATION Create, design, and make new things by seeing the unseen and navigating the journey to get there by evoking magic and delight, turning imagination into art.
2 INNOVATION Revel in finding the future by tinkering with and experimenting with technologies and cross-pollinating across multiple domains in the creative arts and beyond.
3 AESTHETICS Blend art and science with excellence in craftsmanship by anticipating future trends inspired by culture and aesthetics connected to emotions and imagination.
4 ENTREPRENEIRSHIP Fearlessly lead toward invisible horizons to finding the future by being adaptive, persistent, and resilient.
5 MANIFESTATION Light the way to the future by breaking through conventional values, tastes, and perceptions.
The model is based on working at the vanguard of building beloved brands, designing and bringing new products and services to market profitably, creating growth businesses globally, developing start-up businesses from the ground up, and leading multinational companies and teams.
So, CREATIVITY WITHOUT FRONTIERS is about reinventing old ways of doing things with original and often groundbreaking perspectives, one that rejects convention and challenges the status quo. By continually analyzing and questioning, one can lead creatively and provoke actions that bring about change.
5. What projects do you have in the works currently?
Building a franchise for creativity through our creative design studio, storytelling assets, and co-creation opportunities with artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and businesses. on creative strategy, brand creation, envisioning, and storytelling work.
6. What do you see as the future of creative industries? What advice do you have for creatives entering the fields in 2022?
The impact of technological disruption in the creative industries has been profound, and that will continue. For example, Television distribution has been overturned by digital distribution platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. Apple, Amazon, and Spotify have provided more convenient, accessible, and affordable solutions for consumers to stream music on-demand in the music industry.
There will continue to be a growing gig economy of sorts, where people will have multiple gigs simultaneously, on a part-time or full-time capacity with a single company or a variety of employers at the same time. This will drive the need to be a true ever-evolving expert in your craft and differentiate so that people are willing to pay for the value you do.
Ultimately, creativity will continue to be the difference humans make in the future. Intelligent technologies can increasingly expedite the majority of roles a human can and force multiply productivity which is manifested by how humans have been replaced in many work lines, just as the automobile replaced horses, dramatically impacting life and society. A plane can be flown without a pilot, cars and trains driven without a driver, brain surgery without a doctor, fleets of vehicles produced without factory workers. The utopian ideal being humans are free to perform more creative and self-fulfilling roles that have yet to be defined.
However, I believe we need to transcend that by stretching our imaginations by using technology as an enabler to help invent solutions that people can't do. Like what Henry Ford did by revolutionizing how we lived and worked by making it quicker, more convenient, and affordable to get around. Similarly, what the Wright Brothers did with the airplane. The point being all great creative leaders are people-first in their approach in that they use technology to make things that humans can't do and ultimately make the world a better place.
My advice to creatives entering the field is to keep your mind wide open don't get hung up on the professions that exist today because most future jobs have yet to be invented. Regardless, master your craft with excellence, desire, and passion, where you can make a living by balancing creativity with commercial acumen. Learn algorithmic and computational thinking. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and having a creative and innovative entrepreneurial mindset are givens because it will be more critical than ever, especially in differentiating yourself and constantly reinventing yourself to stay relevant throughout time.
Learn more about how to create without frontiers by unleashing the creative power within us.
"Creativity Without Frontiers"
Buy the book at Amazon
About the Speaker
Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins, a creative studio on a mission to save the world from unoriginality by unleashing the power of creativity. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."
About the Facilitator
Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her research includes adaptation and intersections of literature and visual culture. She is the author of Expanding Adaptation Networks: From Illustration to Novelization.
Attitude. Imagination. Execution.
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