Sensory experiences and creativity

Category: General

Last Friday (March 1st) I was fortunate to be part of a panel about building and nurturing creativity in teams, alongside some very kind-hearted folks:

MODERATOR: Seema Jethalal, Regional Director General, Canadian Heritage


Duri Alajrami, VP, Marketing & Communications, Moneris

Prairie Koo, Director & OwnerInk & Water Tattoo

Julie Man, Director of Design Strategy, Bridgeable

Chris Stefanyk, Head of Brand Partnerships, Wattpad

The event was hosted over at a SKETCH (an awesome organization) and the kitchen staff prepared a wonderful meal. I'm humbled to have had the opportunity to share my own experiences, as well as hear the perspectives of others!

Today during our all-staff, our past-CEO and now founder, Chris, ran us through an exercise about getting back in tune with creativity and sensory experiences.

  1. Part 1 was about physically "acting out" a childhood memory
  2. Part 2 was about using clay to sculpt out something from that childhood memory, and then move on to sculpting whatever else comes to mind afterwards. As we sculpted with clay, we were tasked with writing down what you saw/created in the clay; I ended up with the words: vase, oyster, flower, narwhal, giraffe, sunglasses, sun, sausages, matchstick, staff, bear head, rabbit head
  3. Part 3 was writing a story based on the words from part 2, which I've transcribe below. It's pretty weird!

Bearhead struck a matchstick and lit the dried flowers nestled in the vase. Rabbithead stomped their staff impatiently and readjusted their sunglasses.

"The sun's going down."

"I know," Bearhead said.

"Giraffe doesn't have much time left."

"I know," Bearhead repeated.

"If we don't hurry, we'll all become sausages soon."

"The ritual will be done!" Bearhead exclaimed as they unsheathed the oyster pearls and narwhal tusk from their bag. "I have all the ingredients."

A fun activity!

Today (March 7) there was an interactive discussion about the design mindset at the Bridgeable office. The panel was moderated by David Dunne, and included panelists Peter Chow (Royal Bank of Canada), Adam Fair (Prosper Canada), Chris Ferguson (Bridgeable), Judy Mellett (Telus), and Shannah Segal (Ontario Digital Service).

There was some discussion about whether folks innately have the capability to have a design mindset or not. This reminded me of another panel I was on many years ago at Rotman Design Club, where I, as the "only designer" on the panel, was asked what "design thinking" was. It's interesting because as someone who more or less lived/breathed this mindset early on in my life, it's hard for me to imagine approaching problem-solving in any other way...? Afterwards I reflected with a co-worker about the possible differences between upbringing/education/culture and its impact on this "design mindset". I have no specific conclusions, about any of this, but and it was validating to hear that other practitioners on the panel still struggled with getting other people onboard to work in a different way, which is consistent with the struggles that we have trying to introduce service design to risk adverse organizations. A few highlights from the discussion that bubble up to the top for me:

  • Judy: importance of having empathy for your clients, especially if they're being "forced" to work in a new/different way
  • Shannah: importance of having someone at the executive level who is visible, has klout, and whose job/function is to support design mindset
  • Adam: get out of the office, engage with the community/services for yourself
  • Peter: use the McDonald tennis court video to demonstrate the importance of prototyping, and you can be good at building things right, but you might not be building the right things
  • Chris: experience more things (nature, art, music, etc.) and get inspired; design mindset is a muscle that needs to be exercised
  • David: include more reflection time when learning