Moving Ideas Forward Using Creative Practices

October 2021

Bernard Allison (left) and his band performing at Chan’s in Rhode Island. (Image: Bob Di Renzo)

“Creativity is the magical human act of doing something that might not work. If you know it’s going to work, then it’s management.”

—Seth Godin

A tattered official notice from the local fire department tacked to a wall stated a maximum capacity of 130 people were allowed in the darkish restaurant. Included in that headcount would be the few waitstaff bustling by tables filled with strangers seated elbow-to-elbow, and the musicians readying to entertain us. Established in 1905, Chan’s restaurant is dubbed “the home of egg rolls, jazz and blues.” The quirky Rhode Island eatery has been offering music for more than 40 years. (I met my husband at Chan’s, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

One of the many recordings by jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney.

The majority of Chan’s patrons are committed followers of jazz and/or blues music, like me. I’ve listened to countless artists expressing themselves using their musical talents—from a transcending performance by Bernard Allison to jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney, student of Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis’s only true protégé.  

It wasn’t just the music that drew me to Chan’s repeatedly. I was also captivated by the creative process unfolding before my eyes—the collaboration and impromptu creativity between band members setting up and performing, the engineer’s role, the announcer’s contribution and the audience’s response. As a spectator, I’ve witnessed mostly brilliance, peppered with some short-lived fails, but creatives have a process to move past bungles and on to the next good idea. 

Creativity is the act of turning imaginative ideas into reality. Whether creatives are expressing themselves through writing, designing, painting, playing music or reinventing a “we’ve-always-done-it-that-way” solution in a business setting, there’s a process to follow from concept to deliverable. 

The creative practice does not effectively happen in a silo. Moving ideas forward takes collaboration. It’s imperative to establish an environment where ideas are easily expressed—whether accepted, built upon by others, shelved for another project or dismissed. The good ideas bubble to the top and are further evaluated, explored and perhaps implemented in some form. 

A robust team is a collaboration of stakeholders possessing skills and knowledge from varied disciplines. When included in problem solving, creative thinkers have unique adaptation skills to offer and can often find solutions by connecting dots that others may not see, resulting in fresh approaches. 

Being in the company of divergent thinkers is stimulating. I relish the process of design-thinking. (Implementors beware: The creative process of innovators is messy as projects often loop back through stages of inspiration, ideation and implementation, allowing collaborators to refine ideas and explore alternative directions. This chaotic workflow, however, must be encouraged to arrive at the best solutions.)

A musician, or a creative in any medium, possesses a foundation of knowledge, has learned a discipline and has mastered a way of creative thinking. Creative ability and the divergent thinking that fuels it can be learned. 

The authors of “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators,” (Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and innovation sage Clayton M. Christensen) outline five behaviors that comprise the building blocks of an innovator’s DNA:

  1. Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields.
  2. Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom.
  3. Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things.
  4. Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives.
  5. Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge.

Foster your team’s creativity, embrace the process, connect the dots on ideas, and revel in the results.

—Maureen Joyce

P.S. Post pandemic, I hope to once again enjoy live music at Chan’s.