Creativity Workshop Recap & Resources

Post by Lark E. Mills (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)

I recently completed Lin Kahn’s three-part workshop, Creativity and Adversity: Overcoming Workplace Challenges on 9/25/2012, 10/2/2012 & 10/9/2012. Each session was packed with dynamic conversations and kinesthetic activities. Lin put everyone at ease by creating a comfortable learning environment. For those who attended and for those who did not, here is a session-by-session recap along with links to resources that we used in class.

Session I: Internal Resources

First off, Lin assured us that we all have the capacity to be creative. She asked us to identify internal and external blocks that stifle our ability to tap into our natural ability to be creative. Blocks like self-criticism and being discouraged by others can hold us back from expressing ideas and taking actions. Next time you are feeling stuck, determine what the block is for you and try to push past it.

Next, Lin led us in our first of many creative exercises. She first prompted each of us to describe creativity in a single word. A few words people mentioned were free, childlike and innovation. Then, we each created a movement to represent our word for creativity. Finally, we seated ourselves in a circle to create a beautiful, choreographed chain of all the movements. Only those who were there in person will understand the pure amazement we all felt as we collaboratively created something truly original.

Creative Exercise

After the exercise, participants shared how it made them feel to create a unique movement. Here are some answers people provided:

  • It felt healing because I did something I didn’t think I could do.
  • It felt uncomfortable and scary, but that was OK because I survived.
  • I felt rejuvenated because I was able to come up with a movement spontaneously on the spot.
  • I felt a flow like we were all allies.
  • I felt empathy for each person in the room.

To conclude the first session, we watched an interview with Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Robinson explained how we are educated out of being creative which is a shame because we do best when we are doing what we love.

Excerpts from video:

So many people [adults] have no idea what they are capable of doing…. who are convinced they don’t have any real talent …who spend most of their lives doing things they aren’t very interested in, bumping along the bottom in a vague state of depression and feeling they don’t have any special gifts or abilities at all. And yet I meet all kinds of other people who love what they do and have found something in themselves that’s transformed their lives. And I think we all have those talents. We all have those gifts … many people are steered away from them almost  systematically by the way they’re educated. And I think it is a tragedy. I think it’s a tragedy for them and I think it’s a tragedy for all of us. It is a huge waste of human talent.

People have misconceptions [about creativity]. One of them is that only special people are creative. This simply isn’t true. To me that would be like saying only special people are literate. […] People think […] it is only about the arts but you can be creative about anything: math, science. […] Creativity is about having original ideas […] that have value. […]To be creative you have to do something.

Session II: Interpersonal Communication

Lin started the second session by asking us to identify interpersonal problems that occur during difficult exchanges. Here are some of the responses:

  • Not feeling heard
  • Misinterpretations
  • Anger / Aggressiveness
  • Resentment
  • Egotism
  • Anxiety

Stay Curious; Don’t Conclude

Lin explained that when we have these difficult exchanges, we need to stay curious instead of making conclusions. Furthermore, we need to listen with the intent of empathy and speak authentically in a neutral tone.

Creative Exercise I:

Next, Lin led us in our first creative exercise. We each created a unique movement to represent the word curious and a unique movement to represent the word conclude.

a participant making a gesture for "conclude"
Participant making a gesture for conclude.
participant making a gesture for "curious"
Participant making a gesture for curious

Through the movements, we collectively came up with the following words to describe curious:

  • Engaging the brain
  • Moving forward
  • Co-listening
  • Giving space

Through the movements, we collectively came up with the following words to describe conclude:

  • Closed book
  • Moving down
  • Putting up walls
  • No voice and cut off

As Lin put it, movement does not lie! Movement enhances our understanding of words. Go ahead and pick a word and try this exercise right now!

Creative Exercise II

abstract drawingFor the second creative exercise, we each created an abstract drawing to represent an interpersonal conflict that we are currently experiencing. As we described our drawings in pairs, we began to understand the importance of the basic human need to feel understood and heard. As a result, we realized that we can tap into this human need in order to bring out the best in others.

To conclude the session, Lin shared the following interpersonal tools from the book You Are What You Say:

5 linguistic vitamins:

  1. Make a clear request.
  2. Decline with dignity and respect.
  3. Listen to assessments not as truths.
  4. Convert complaints to clear requests.
  5. Keep your promises and take care of your broken promises.

Linguistic Tools:

  • Proactively praise others.
  • Empathic, non-accusatory language:
    • It seems to me…
    • Let’s…
    • When you ____, I feel ______
    • Use “and” not “but

Session Three: Paradigm Shift & Critical Response Process

Lin started the final session with interpersonal tools. According to the book, You Are What You Say, there are only five types of linguistic actions.

  1. Requests (seeking someone else’s assistance)
  2. Promises (a commitment to fulfill someone else’s request)
  3. Declarations (utterances made by someone with authority)
  4. Assessments (judgments; not truths)
  5. Assertions (facts backed up by evidence)

Room Set Up

Next, Lin explained the concept of experiential learning and room setup. It is important to be aware of how our environment can affect communication and our learning experiences. Lin intentionally arranged the seating in the room to be different in each session. Why did she do this? It enables us to gain multiple perspectives. It enables us to re-frame our thinking and possibly experience a paradigm shift.

According to the book Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relations, subtle messages about power and equality are emitted according to the type of table used for a meeting or gathering.

Round Table: People seated at a round table are united and equal.

Square Table: People seated at a square table are equal but separate.

Rectangle Table: A person sitting at the head of a rectangle table has the most power; and the power diminishes the further a person is seated away from the head.

ABC Exercise: Paper Sculptures

Next, Lin led us in an article reading about The Albert Ellis ABC Model. This model demonstrates how a change in our beliefs can help to shift a negative interpersonal situation to a positive one.

A = Activating Event

B = Belief

C = Consequent Emotion

Lin asked everyone to think of a difficult interpersonal situation (an activating event). Then, think about our current belief of this event and the emotion that is causing us to have. We shared some of the feelings that this event caused us: frustrated, sad, mad, angry, etc.

Stop! Check Your B!

paper sculpture  paper sculptureNext, Lin gave us all three pieces of plain white paper. We were instructed to sculpt one piece of paper to represent the activating event. Next, we were to sculpt the second piece of paper to represent a new, neutral belief about the activating event. With the third piece of paper, we were to sculpt a representation of our new, positive consequent emotions that resulted from the newly formed belief. The purpose of this exercise was to use creativity to transcend our way of thinking until we achieve a paradigm shift.

Critical Response Exercise

After completing our paper sculptures, Lin led us in a four step critical response process. We all had the opportunity to practice providing motivating feedback to one another.

Participant describing her paper sculpture
Participant describing her paper sculpture.

Each person was given the spotlight to describe their paper sculpture

 three women listening
Curious Listeners

Thus, everyone else had the opportunity to practice curious and empathic listening skills. Next, one person responds by giving feedback in the four following stages:

  1. The respondent states what was exciting, compelling, meaningful, memorable or evocative.
  2. The artist is given the opportunity to ask the respondent questions and the respondent answers.
  3. The respondent asks a neutral question about the artist’s work.
  4. The respondent asks permission of the artist to express her opinion about their work. If artist accepts, responder states her opinion.

two women laughing women interacting and laughing

Overall, we not only learned a lot but also shared lots of laughs! The critical response process exercise was excellent practice for interpersonal communication. I look forward to implementing it in my everyday life, and I hope that you give it a try, too.

If you attended the workshop or not, please feel free to leave a comment. We would love to hear from you! What are ways you introduce creativity in your own life?
Check out this related post: Top 10 Lessons Learned about Creativity 


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