Unlocking Creativity: Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius at Work

Pek - Stimulated

Dr. Relly Nadler:
Today’s show is about unlocking creativity, habits to spark your creative genius at work. We have Andrew Pek on the line. He’s and author and consultant in the field of creativity, innovation and change. He is the co-creator and developer of Noves, Inc., it’s a New York based consulting and education firm that helps companies stimulate breakthrough ideas in order to grow more rapidly and effectively. Andrew has over 23 years of experience in the areas of strategies, organizational development, marketing innovation. He has held various executive and line positions for such companies as Pfizer, Accenture, Mercer Delta Consulting, and Aetna Health Insurance and British Petroleum. We’ll have him talk about his book, Stimulated!: Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius at Work. It’s a book that focuses on the successes and habits of innovative people.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I met Andrew when we were working together at Accenture and he is a terrific, terrific person and can stimulate not only the mind but the heartbeat of any organization.

Andrew has a great background and extensive experience in leadership, organizational design and development. He has a terrific consulting company, and you can reach him at www.novesinc.com. Andrew has written two books on the subject of innovation, his first book was called Recipes for Growth and Innovation, and that provides practical tips to support business innovation teams, and of course Stimulated. Andrew, welcome to the show!

Andrew Pek: Thanks for having me, it’s great to be on.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So Andrew, one of the questions that we want to start off with that we like to ask most folks, is what are some of your key influences in your life, especially around leadership and creativity.

Andrew Pek: I don’t think my parents would forgive me if I didn’t give them some credit, so I would say they are my first and foremost influence because they taught me some great values about really taking initiative, being achievement oriented, and taking some risks. They really encouraged me to live my life as full as possible through my own expression. I have to give my parents as one of my key influencers.

Secondly, with many different mentors I couldn’t help but give credit to people like Cathy Greenberg, whom I have had the privilege of working with, learning from, and I’ve always responded very well to people who have been very successful and have been there in the trenches and just watching and observing and working with them side by side.

Then thirdly, probably one of the biggest influences is the many men and women that I have been privileged working with in a variety of different industries from retail to energy, to banking and finance, who have really demonstrated unbelievable amount of creative skills in both hard as well as prosperous economic times.

So parents, people like Cathy, and all the men and women who are out there trying to be creative every day.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Oh Andrew, that’s very touching. I am very honored to be among those people who have influenced you in life. Let me ask you: give us some background on your work on how you have come to work with leaders on innovation and creativity. This is such a sweet spot for people, especially because most people are at work thinking about how to get through the day let alone how to be creative and innovative during that time. Give us a little background on your work with leaders in that area.

Andrew Pek: Sure, I mean, these days creativity and innovation is not a luxury, it’s really a survival skill. In order for organizations and leaders to be more competitive, to grow their organizations at higher rates of growth and to differentiate themselves so that they can attract the right consumer population or generate new products, they have to innovate. They have to be more creative whether they tap into new channels of distribution or come up with new products or new service offerings, they must innovate or as we like to say, innovate or evaporate. It’s a survival skill.

I had become particularly interested in working with and observing and studying those organizations who are focused on innovating and what were some of the underlying habits, characteristics, and conditions that they would put in place in order to foster that creative spark in organizations necessary to innovate.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So, we are going to get more into how you do that, because I think that is kinda what our listeners are wondering about. Around innovation and leadership, Andrew, what kind of trainings do you do now and is it individuals, is it groups, is it both? Is it multi-day? How does that look?

Andrew Pek: Yah sure, Relly, it’s really two-fold. Define innovation at two levels. At initiative level and at condition level. We help teams of people in organizations who aspire to come up with new innovative solutions to meet their customers or be more competitive. So it may be products or it may be services, but we will work with teams on a side-by-side basis using various ethnographic and creativity techniques, strategy, combine different kinds of disciplines to help teams who have the responsibility to go to market with new solutions.

In addition to that, we help build the conditions upon which creativity and innovation is a daily habit, so to speak. So we will do training seminars, we will provide coaching services to leadership, anything from one day programs to four day intensive kinds of programs in order to build the right mindset as well as the right skillset in order for people to innovate and create on a more regular basis.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That’s amazing, that you transfer those skills to people. I’m really curious, Andrew, I hear a lot of passion in your voice for the word creativity and innovation. What are some of the key challenges that you see today for leaders having that same passion for being innovative and creative?

Andrew Pek: First of all, one of the things that I’ve observed is the willingness to create as you said earlier Cathy, that people are so kind of overwhelmed by the nature of the work that they have to do day and day out whether it’s 200 emails a day, or voicemails or meetings, or budgets; whatever they have to do that they have to accomplish, it feels like for many creativity is just a nice to do.

So, one of the biggest challenges is to make creativity and innovation a priority. It is something that you should do on a daily basis. Build it into the repertoire of how you approach challenges or problems, or opportunities. That’s a really key thing. The other challenge is the willingness to encourage people to take risks. How many organizations, because they have been so successful, at some point are more invested in the status quo that producing new changes?

Getting an organization, particularly those that have been very successful, to change and and risk is a tough thing. We work organizations and individuals to be more risk oriented.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Let’s talk about your book with co-author Jeannine Mcglade. It’s a book that focuses on success habits of innovative people. Tell us about this book and how you got the idea for that, and what is in it?

Andrew Pek: What inspired us to write this book is somewhat oversimplifying it, but we thought two types of individuals, those were kind of stuck in rut, stale, and not able to produce fresh ideas or even themselves weren’t feeling very fresh with the work they perform on a day-to-day basis. On the opposite side of the ledger, we saw people who were really invigorated, really passionate, very excited about the nature of the work and consequently able to stimulate fresh, new perspectives that would benefit them and the organization.

So, Jeannine and I really became very curious about well what was it about those people, almost annoyingly so to the ones weren’t, that made them so stimulated and alive with coming up with creative solutions for their organization. So we spent a lot of time researching interviewing, observing and working side-by-side with a variety of individuals ranging from people in teaching professions, entertainment, to CEOs and other kinds of professionals in a variety of disciplines. As a result of that emerged a set of habits and characteristics that these individuals would demonstrate on a repeated basis and enable them to feel stimulated and produce creative solutions for themselves and for others.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Andrew, you know we have listeners that call in to the show and ask questions, and we have kind of a list of scenarios that we would like to pass by you in the time that we have left to help our listeners understand how they might be able to use some of the tools and techniques in Stimulated: Habits to Spark the Creative Genius at Work.

Let me give you the first one, okay? Let’s say you get 200 emails a day, your phone is constantly ringing and you are just stressed out. How is it possible to still be creative when you are so overwhelmed?

Andrew Pek: Yah, I mean, I almost had that experience coming to the airport today knowing that I had a radio interview to do. I’m thinking oh my gosh, I’ve got to get there on time, I want to make a good impression. It’s just natural to feel tense of course, when you are so overwhelmed with so many things to do.

The first thing to do, and I think our parents did teach us this, is just to take a deep breath. It’s just like any high performing athlete, the more that you are relaxed, the more likely you are going to be in a state of flow and perform better. Rather than getting yourself tense and thinking, oh my gosh, I’ve got to go through everything, just take a deep breath. That’s the first thing to do.

Secondly, have some fun with it. Maybe there are some days you can just kind of relax and say, you know what, I am just, for kicks, I’m going to just take all the emails that start with the letter A, or maybe I’m just going to take the ones that I know that I have to attend to now, because creativity is less about time, it’s more about energy. So the more that you can manage your energy in a positive state, the more likely you are going to be able to be creative at hammering some of these seemingly mundane tasks that you face on a day-to-day basis.

Getting in a relaxed state, being playful is a really important approach to handling what we experience on a day-to-day basis.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think that’s very helpful. One of the things that both Cathy and I are interested in is the brain and neuroscience, and I think when the, and I’m sure you are too, most folks are, when you get so overwhelmed we know there is a part of the brain that is activated that is emotional and it may not let you think rationally about parts. So just your feedback about deep breathing, relaxing; is that part of the training that you do? Do you help get people more relaxed? Is that part before the steps of being creative?

Andrew Pek: We have a thing that we call energizers. As I said earlier, creativity is about energy. Rather than for example, if we are doing a seminar on our habit, people do get even with as creative a subject as creativity get taxed. So we’ll have an energizer instead of maybe offering a coffee break. We’ll suggest something that will get them into a playful state. It could be just some deep breathing or it could be some fun game or activity.

One of the things that we often like to do is what we call pop rock, which is simply we’ll have a group of 15 people, for example, working very hard. We’ll say alright, let’s do an energizer and we’ll put bubble wrap on the floor and then we’ll turn up some nice energetic music, and when the music comes on everybody task is to just pop every bubble. I mean, who doesn’t like to pop that bubble wrap? It’s just a really fun, playful way to get people stimulated, gets them to start to get their blood flowing back again into their brain, and they are ready to go on to the next task.

Simple things like that in a playful way gets people to loose and keeps their energy at a high state.

Listen to the entire discussion above.


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