What is the Creative Activist?


What is the creative activist?

The creative activist opens doors, raises public awareness as  a call to action for social change. They use creativity as a tool to teach, bridge gaps, to foster understanding and social justice.They think like a global citizen. They appreciate different cultures and stories.They are curious and delight in  being a life long learner. They believe it is our problem not your problem.They look for the common humanity rather than what separates us.   They support the development of capacities, skills and talents  that activate both individuals and groups. They encourage inventiveness, originality and creativity to raise self esteem and solve community problems.

Lisa Albrecht, an activist educator and writer, is Associate Professor in the School of Social Work of the University of Minnesota, where she founded an undergraduate program in Social Justice. Previously, she taught writing in the General College of the University of Minnesota for 19 years. She is the recipient of the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Community Service Award and Josie Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award.  Lisa sees the need to pursue peace and justice with “beloved community,” a term used by Martin Luther King, Jr. that encompasses not only one’s blood family, but also a circle of loved ones who care for one another and hold one another accountable. She believes that change builds from the bottom up, and she is encouraged by the way today’s social activists are engaging the community through social media and other tools that were not available to us a generation ago.

When we talked she told me about creative activist, John Noltner, a freelance photographer based in Minnesota who uses his art to explore the basic goodness that reside in each of us. He helps communities understand the ways we judge, categorize and separate through religion, political differences and cultures.Founded in 2009, A Peace of Mind, a multi- media project includes 50 compelling stories of what peace means, how  people work toward it in their lives, and some of the obstacles they have encountered along the way. We have an opportunity to share our common humanity through these engaging stories from  the homeless man, the holocaust survivor, the Somalia refugee, artists, volunteers , business leaders and Lisa herself.http://vimeo.com/66858595 . AlbrechtL-2010

A Peace of My Mind expanded into the public forum with the production of a traveling exhibit,.peace of mind exhibit Since its 2010 premier, more than 80,000 people have viewed the exhibit at private galleries, community centers, places of worship, libraries, and universities. In 2011, A Peace of My Mind won support from 92 backers to produce a book from the series with a foreword written by Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi. The book, now in its second printing, earned first place in the Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Awards and a silver IPPY from the Independent Publishers Association  A Peace of My Mind was presented at the 2011 Peace and Justice Studies Association National Conference and the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Forum. www.noltner.com

I would love for you to share creative activists you  think we should know about.





Cultivate Creativity and Fun in the Workplace…Priceless

Cultivate Creativity and Fun in the Workplace…Priceless

Imagine yourself working in a place bursting with energy and vitality. The people around you are happy all day long. They love what they are doing and are committed to your vision and mission. They are laughing and smiling.

Creativity and imagination are key to the success of organizations today. In stimulating, fun and playful cultures, employees are more productive. They have 51% lower turnover (Gallup) They have 125% less burnout (HBR), 43% more productivity (Hay Group) and 33% more profitability (Gallup).                                                                                googles-workspace19

Here are five ways to make your workplace more creative and fun.

  1. Invest in imagination. Allocate time to day dream and play with possibilities. At Google employees are given one day a week to work on a project of their choice that doesn’t fall within their formal job description. Google reports that they get many ideas that can be applied to the rest of their organizations’ core work.
  2. Have fun. Get the office together and have a white board scribble and doodle contest, dress up as your favorite superhero or crank up the music and dance and watch how the creativity begins to flow. Children laugh an average of 400 times a day and that number drops to only 15 times a day by the time people reach age 35.  Laughter releases endorphins which make you feel good. Laughing increases oxygen intake, thereby replenishing and invigorating cells. It also increases the pain threshold, boosts immunity, and relieves stress. When you are less stressed you are more creative.
  3. Cultivate curiosity.  Regardless of where or how we work, the best creative minds are the most curious.  One of my favorite movies growing up was Auntie Mame. Mame implores her young nephew Patrick to avoid dullness by “soaking up life, down to your toes.”  Take a class. What have you always been interested in learning? Try a new recipe or restaurant. Share it with your colleagues.
  4. Do your brainstorming offsite. Go to the amusement park and take a ride on the roller coaster or get in a hot air balloon. Go to a museum and see things from a new perspective.
  5. Design an inspiring and flexible work space. Google again had been a leader in this arena.  Employees glide around the building on razor scooters and climb ladders between floors. They design their own workspace with treadmills and tinker toys while writing on walls. You can start small and rearrange the furniture. Hang art work on the walls or cover them with black board paint. Bring in fun things such as Nerf balls, a basketball and hoop, or party blowers.

One of my favorite places to go for meetings is Catalyst Ranch in Chicago. Nestled in a building that dates to the 1880’s in the old meatpacking district,  there are 6 rooms all furnished with vintage furniture, ethnic artwork, toys, books, magazines, colorful walls and filled with natural light.                                                                   catalyst ranch

The creator is Eva Niewiadomski, who I had the pleasure of interviewing for The Winning Adventure.

“When I started Catalyst Ranch in 2002, it was with the thought that there was a different way to enable creative thinking. There are better processes and better outputs versus sitting in a hotel room or a conference room back at the office and trying to force people to come up with better ways to do things or to think differently when you are constantly in that same sort of space. I had created some of those sorts of different spaces when I was at Quaker Oats,  a couple of  innovation hallways and a creativity room as of sideline to my day job.  I decorated my desk, I had a lot of art  work around, people loved coming and having meetings at my desk. There was a different energy in how we approach things because there was a different physical environment. Many people take for granted the importance of physical space. They don’t really understand how important that element is in enabling better things to come out at the end of the day whether it be you are training someone or whether it is a strategic planning meetings or whether it’s a product ideation. If you can help people’s brains engage in a different way, then you are going to come out with better results than if you just sat them in a plain conference room and say “Okay, now I want you to come up with a whole new process” or “I want you to learn something” and before you know it, people are zoning out.” For more information and an opportunity to play with slinky, pipe cleaners and play doh go to http://www.catalystranch.com/

Striving to create a fun, exciting, dynamic workplace where imagination, curiosity, collaboration and play is encouraged should be the goal of any company. Looking at creativity as a most valuable asset and treasure has been embraced in the corporate world so eloquently by Zappos’ core value “create fun and a little weirdness.

Rae Luskin is the owner of The Winning Adventure
http://thewinningadventure.com  Author of two books : Art From My Heart and the recently released Learning from Failure: 11 Sure Ways to Turn Your Worst Failures Into Your Biggest Success. Rae is known for her ability to make creativity and innovation easy for anyone to achieve.

Be The Hero of Your Own Winning Adventure



Be The Hero of Your Own Winning Adventure


I recently was channel surfing and came across Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.Looking through fresh eyes I could see the journey we must all take to go from looking inside ourselves to bringing forth our visions into the world.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone draws on English fantasy works that seem to be for children but is in fact an allegory of the Hero’s Journey. Mythologist Joseph Campbell discovered that heroic myths from every culture are essentially the same story. He discovered a pattern in any story in which an ordinary person accomplishes something heroic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 harry potter

 Rowling herself has stated that her book is really about imagination and that practicing wizardry is only a metaphor for developing one’s full potential. On one level, the story is a thriller with a criminal plot. But on a deeper level, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, illustrates the challenges and adventures of growing up, finding mentors, gaining respect from peers, owning your gifts and talents and answering the call.

 At the beginning of the journey we aren’t the hero we need to be in order to reach our goal. We are just ordinary. We usually aren’t smart enough, strong enough or wise enough. We have to face our “shadows” our challenges and fears to become the hero of our own winning adventure. In this case Harry must face Voldemort and destroy the stone. The hero’s journey is ultimately a story of personal transformation from childhood to adulthood, challenges to opportunities and ordinary to extraordinary.

 Harry discovered that there is something uniquely valuable inside him and that he is a great wizard. He overcomes adverse situations while remaining strong and virtuous. It is ultimately his imagination and courage that transforms him from the ordinary forgotten orphan living under the stairs into a hero.

Anybody who has ever changed the world or achieved greatness started out as an ordinary person just like you and me.

I would like to share with you the story of Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, RN. Mary, is the co-founder and director emeritus of Shands Arts in Medicine program at University of Florida (UF), Gainesville, where she created the first artist-in-residence program of its type in the United States. At a time when art was not integrated in health care, Mary became inspired by her own experience of healing herself through art and created a program which incorporates art, music, poetry, theater, and dance into the medical profession. She directed the nationally-recognized Arts in Medicine program for over 15 years. Today she works to promote a vision for a more creative and transformative nursing practice.

 Mary’s Story

I was a young mother with two young children, my husband ended up leaving me and I crashed. My support network was ripped away and everything shattered. A deep sense of despair and rage took over. Therapy wasn’t working and my therapist said you need to try something different. I had so many fears about not being good enough  but I was willing to try something new… it was almost as if there was a part of me that rose out of the ashes, like the phoenix rising. I had this incredible opportunity of recreating my life.  mary_rockwood_lane_web__large

  I’ve never made art before, but I decided I’m going to be an artist.  I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I went to a studio and picked out a canvas. I didn’t even know how to hold a brush and I started painting. I became excited with the process of painting: the colors, the textures, and the way different shapes swirled together on the canvas. The painting began to transform into an image of my pain and hurt. I forgot about how I felt and instead painted those feelings. I began a series of self portraits which were my despair. They were all distorted with garish backgrounds. They were crying and bleeding. When I finished releasing the image onto canvas, I stepped back and gasped! What I saw was an aspect of myself that I couldn’t face; it was so ugly! I backed away, left the studio and went home.  I realized I had left behind the pain and the past. I was free.


  How are you the hero of your own winning adventure?


How Do You Come Up With The Next Big Idea?

fresh idea

How do you come up with the next big idea and then make it happen?

One of my favorite books on creativity, Genius: A Crash Course on Creativity (HarperCollins 2012) comes from Stanford Professor Tina Seelig.  She loves to work with creative teams, to explore what makes people more innovative, and to find ways to stimulate ideation.   The result is her “innovation engine,” a special mix of six characteristics: attitude, resources, knowledge,culture, habitat and imagination.

In her book, Seelig describes two young entrepreneurs with an idea: an iPhone app for sharing your location with your friends. The product wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped, so they kept adding features to see if they would increase the popularity of the app. One new feature enabled people to use their cell phones to shoot photos and quickly edit and post them. That feature was “a huge hit,”  and they saw membership rise to one million users in two months. A year later, there were 12 million users.  Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger,  sold their company, Instagram Inc., to Facebook for $1 billion.

According to Seelig creative people see through a different lens.” Truly creative people “are quilt makers — they can fit anything together.”

Really creative people frame and reframe problems. Look from different perspectives and combine  in surprising waysChallenge assumptions. Pay attention and have the confidence they can solve the problem.

In Seelig’s Innovation Engine model, attitude, knowledge, and imagination overlap and are internal skills because they reside in the mind, whereas culture, habitat, and resources are of the outside world. Culture, habitat, and resources influence the process by which imagination catalyzes the transformation of knowledge into ideas. Thus the individual and the environment are interdependent  and essential for creative problem solving.                                   041712.Tina.Seelig.Color.Innovation.Engine
To create the external environment that supports creativity and innovation you need to address the following:

What does your physical space look like? Is it fun, free flowing, stimulating?

Does your organization have  rules, rewards and incentives that encourage innovative thinking?

How does management deal with failure? Does it encourage failure as data and feedback?

How do you leverage multiple resources including people, community, nature and financial?

Seelig concludes  “ we have the power to overcome challenges and generate opportunities of all dimensions…It’s hard to get beyond obvious answers,” “It takes work and commitment to get beyond the first, second, and third waves of ideas to get to the ones that are really interesting.”


Closing The Creativity Gap

creativity intelligence having fun

Closing The Creativity Gap

Are you  living up to your creative potential?

In 2012 Adobe released a report that said:


  • 8 in 10 feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth
  • Only 1 in 4 believe they are living up to their own creative potential
  • 75% said they are under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work
  • 70% of Americans feel creativity is being stifled by the education system
  • Only about half of Americans would describe themselves as creative while the global average is even lower at 39%.

So, what can we do to close the creativity gap?  First, our schools need to foster out of the box thinking as well as provide the necessary technology tools and training. We need to establish cultures that encourage play, day dreaming, exploration and experimentation.

Second,we need to expand our definition of creativity. Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”Robert E. Franks.It is not the domain of artists and professional designers. It is a mindset and a skill  that can be developed.

Next, productivity and creativity should not be mutually exclusive – we all need to find ways to create at work.   It’s a critical capability in a successful society. To close the creativity gap you need to:

  1. Surround yourself with happy colors, images and things that inspire and stimulate you.                                                                                                               Jean MacDonald
  2. Put a” what if” white board in your common space.
  3. Have an idea challenge of the month that encourages everyone to contribute ideas ( no idea is stupid)
  4. Give employees time to work on their own pet projects and initiatives
  5. Meet in unusual places
  6. Create mastermind brainstorming teams that meet regularly to brainstorm key issues
  7. Keep a coloring book at your desk and challenge yourself to make each page different.
  8. Share your passion.
  9. Join Chocolate, Creativity and Connections.

Make time once a month to tap into your personal creativity.

What have you done to close the creativity gap in your life?