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Denise Jacobs (Video) — Prototypes, Process & Play 2015

Denise Jacobs, founder and chief creativity evangelist at The Creative Dose, presented at the 2015 Prototypes, Process & Play conference and shares her four directives that help us keep our creative flame burning strong!

We hope you enjoy Denise’s presentation, “Creativity Imperative” and don’t forget to get your tickets for Prototypes, Process & Play on August 11th and 12th, 2016!

Denise Jacobs

Founder & Chief Creativity Evangelist, The Creative Dose

Denise Jacobs is a Speaker + Author + Creativity Evangelist who speaks at web conferences and consults with tech companies worldwide. As the Founder + Chief Creativity Evangelist of The Creative Dose, she teaches techniques to make the creative process more fluid, methods for making work environments more conducive to creative productivity, and practices for sparking innovation. Working in Web Design & Development since 1997, she is an industry veteran and regarded expert on many things web. She is the author of The CSS Detective Guide and co-author of the Smashing Book #3 1/3 and Interact with Web Standards. Denise is also the Chief Unicorn of Rawk The Web and the Head Instigator of The Creativity (R)Evolution.

For more, keep up with Denise at or on Twitter as @denisejacobs.

Creativity Imperative

Creativity and innovation are now hailed as the most important contributors to the growth of the economy. It’s imperative that environments are structured so creativity and innovation can thrive. Good news: laying the foundation is easier than you think. Discover the four directives to enhance engagement, reignite passion, and amp up meaningful contribution – enabling you, your team, and your company to develop and deliver fantastic products and services.

Presentation Transcript


Denise Jacobs:

So it’s going to take me like a moment to adjust this so it’s properly in place. So good morning everybody. How is everybody doing?



Denise Jacobs:

So you’ve had like the coffee and the stuff and you got your minds blown by Dr. Grandin here. I just want to say, but I saw the Temple Grandin movie and it totally changed how I thought about things. So I appreciate you having them do that, or letting them do that and sharing your information with the world.

I want to talk about creativity and there are several things that Dr. Grandin said they will piggyback on in the course of this. So y’all know where you are. Hopefully. And the dates. So that’s good. I’m Denise and if you are tweeting perchance, my Twitter handle @denisejacobs. You know we’re here and here’s the hashtag. Sorry, it’s a long hashtag. I couldn’t come up with anything clever and short. If you want to use it, you can. If you don’t, you don’t have to.

If you want the slides, they will be there in an hour after I’m done. They’re just not there yet, so you can get them later.

Hi everybody. He said wonderful things about me. I have written a book called the CSS Detective Guide. I speak all over the place. Sometimes it’s exhausting, but most of the times it’s exhilarating. And basically I am what I like to call a creative evangelist. So what I like to do is go around and spread the gospel of creativity. I started a company called The Creative Dose where I do workshops around getting creativity within a company, within an organization, within teams to get teams working better, et cetera.

Let’s talk about this creativity imperative. So basically creativity is incredibly important today. As a matter of fact I’m starting to think of it as the new black. Right? Remember ten years ago when people weren’t talking about creativity that much. There were more things that more important like return on investment. We have to be more creative. It’s the new black. 2010 IBM did a study and said what makes kind of the best leaders. What are the leadership qualities that are going to be needed. And 60%, the highest percentage was creativity. Time Magazine did a poll in 2013 and asked people in the workplace what is the most valued skill that you want for people that you work with.

Over ambition, over beauty, over compassion, creativity was the highest percentage. I really want other people that I work with to be creative. I think it’s probably a silly question. How many of you feel like you’re creative? Yeah, no? How many of you are just like girl, bye. Not even. Don’t even try it. And there’s a few of you who are just like I’m not going to out myself. Everybody else said they’re creative. I’ve had moments. It happens every now and then.

For the people who are just like …girl …please. Dr. Grandin talked about that. There’s the visual mind and the mind that programmers have that typically the way I like to think about creativity is it’s about seeing patterns, it’s about making connections. That’s really what it’s about. And everybody is able to do that in one way, shape or form. And the thing is if it’s something that we all do naturally, then it should be this thing that flows and it should be this thing that is pervasive if normal within companies.

Ah, here be dragons. Right? What ends up typically happens and you can all probably vouch for this in your lives and worlds. What instead ends up happening where it should be this thing where everybody comes up with ideas and we totally support. That what ends up happening in companies is they say, yeah, no. So talking about creativity and innovation tends to be lip service. We want to go out and take the market over. It’s just lip service. There’s nothing there in place to support it.

And Theresa Amabilae is a researcher in Harvard and also an innovation expert.

And she says creativity gets killed much more often than it gets supported and I think that’s true. What ends up happening in companies is that creativity gets sacrificed for control. We want to make sure everything is in place. We want to make sure that we follow all of these protocols and all of these standards and all of the red tape. And then what ends up happening because of that is you’ve got these really talented people. You’ve got talented designers, talented UX people, talented developers, et cetera. And they are all potentially unengaged because they don’t really have the proper environment to really let their creativity out and have it be supported.

And so it was a nice idea. Right? It was a nice idea to be creative. But what really ends up happening, instead of creativity, it’s more of creativity’s evil twin of destructivity. It’s bad news.

Now Adobe did a study in 2011 called the state of the create. It was really interesting. They were saying is creativity suffering at schools and at work? People are saying yeah, it is. But that creativity is like so important to actually unlocking economic growth. It is like critical for us and for our companies to grow and produce better products and services, which is why I do the work that I do. And there was also a study. I can’t remember the year. By a professor at MIT. Karim Lakani if I pronounced that correctly. He and another guy named Bob Wolf interviewed 684 developers, open source developers and wanted to find out what was like the pervasive driver of achievement if their careers. And it was creative expression. So important. And yet it is this thing that is completely being overlooked and stifled and stymied and whatnot.

Like I’m saying, creativity is a business imperative. Absolutely necessary, absolutely required. And business imperatives like this, this major goal or kind of objective that you want your company to reach.

And unlike an idea, an imperative is something like where basically it’s really critical to the company’s success. It’s not something that you can’t do. You absolutely have to do it. And because we must create. Because we are actually in my mind all at our core creative. And just intrinsically creative. And we’re here to tined of I think, humans are here on the earth to take the tangible and the ethereal and make manifest the ethereal into the tangible. Actually take ideas out of our head and make them into something. We need to have this kind of paradigm shift. We need to shift into a place where business imperatives are attended and creativity can flourish.

So this creativity imperative that I talk about has four directives that you must obey. Okay? The four directives are unblock, communicate, collaborate, and allocate. And by the way, I’m really happy that this is like a designer conference and y’all can appreciate my slides. Okay? [Laughing] Because you don’t know how much work I did on these slides. I had like a whole concept. I’m glad I was able to share this with you. I did this for developers, and they were like oh. I was like no. Designers. Designers. [Laughing] Thank you guys.

Let’s talk about unblocking. And with creativity. And this is when I get a little like notice. Let’s postpone the upgrade to DIV-X software. Let’s do that. I love computers. They’re so wonderful. I love them. And they are. Let’s talk about unblocking.

The thing with unblocking, like I said creativity is stifled and stymied and everything. A lot of us, even if we are creative and that’s what we do all the time every day, there are definitely barriers for us to actually access our kind of like really like flowing state of creativity, right? And we have all had this. I said creativity is a way of seeing patterns and connections. It’s a way of thinking, right? It’s part imagination, but it’s also expertise and motivation together with imagination. And what happens is the problem is that when people are creatively blocked, then they lack motivation. I’m sure everybody can like sympathize with this and empathize with this. You lack motivation and then because you lack motivation, your expertise basically gets hidden, right? So like so I’m just going to tell you guys this. I’m a recovering procrastinator. I’m just starting the recovery. It’s a rough journey. I’m a procrastinator perfectionist. I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist. And I procrastinate and all this stuff.

What happens — am I just by myself? Okay, thank you. We’ll talk later. So what ends up happening is that because we’re in this like cycle within this loop within itself, then the motivation is gone. Or the motivation is like it’s too scary and it’s too big and too crazy, and you’re just like I don’t know if I have time for this. And we’ll talk about time in a moment. And all this stuff. And then what ends up happening is all the things that you’re really brilliant at, you can’t access because you’re too busy being in this place of I’m feeling overwhelmed and I’ll do it tomorrow and all this stuff. Does that sound familiar? I’m not just making this up.

So when you lack motivation, your expertise basically gets hidden. More from the Adobe state of the create study. Some of the biggest barriers to creativity. Lack of time. Increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative. No risk taking encouraged. Risk taking is totally looked down upon and frowned upon. Self‑doubt which can go into this procrastination, perfectionism thing. And the fear of not being able to afford being creative. In other words that being creative costs money and is not a cost effective use of your time, which doesn’t make sense. So what ends up happening is people have a fear of producing unique ideas, right? They end up not taking risks. They end up not sharing things because they’re like if I do and it’s like too out there and whacky, then I’m going to get reprimanded for it or they’re going to ignore me. Or I may potentially even lose my job. So that’s a bad idea.

The other thing that people have problems with is making mistakes. Again, this perfectionism thing. If they make a mistake, then they’re going to see it and lose their job. Et cetera, et cetera. Everything has to be perfect and just right. And people don’t go out on a limb and come up with something new. The other thing is there are no proper outlets. There are no venues for people to share ideas. If people are in meetings most of the time and in meetings a lot of time I used to several years ago I worked at Microsoft as a contractor. And this is where I experienced the alpha geek show off in meetings. Has anybody seen that? It’s like, yeah. It’s like all of a sudden I envision them as gorillas like Ha Hahhhhhh. I know the most about this. [Laughing] The meeting goes nowhere because everybody is beating their chest because they’re talking about how the serve could be rerouted. What does this has to do with localization. My manager would reprimand me because I didn’t even know what people were talking about in this meeting. It was Greek to me.

There are a lot of instances where there are not these proper outlets. There are no venues for people to share ideas and go over stuff. I was thinking about something, it could be stupid, what do you think? Oh, this is great. I was working on this, whatever.

So and then time. Time, time, time. Right? The biggest kind of barrier to creating. So many people have really great ideas, but they don’t have the time to actually follow through with them because of pressures for other things. There is no time for creative reflection. You’re like on the go. Like trying to hit the deadlines all the time. People are busy doing mundane tasks. How many of you guys have gotten into an e‑mail vortex downward style. You’re responding to e‑mails and going to meetings. Girl, my life. Preach.

And too much context switching. How many of you switch contexts well? You’re kind of in something and you’re finally doing it and all of a sudden you get a notification of some sort. An e‑mail notification or a text message or a Twitter notification or a Facebook notification. And then squirrel. And then you do that. Squirrel! [Laughing] Wait, wait. Our brains are not actually designed to do that. Our brains are actually designed to take a task, focus on it, and then you guys all know everybody has been in a flow state. You know when you’re in a flow state — Whoossh — your focus goes right down on the thing, and you get in this associative mode. It’s amazing. When you are trying to switch contexts, you can’t do it. You can’t actually do it on a neurological level.

These are all the fears that I was talking about. Fear, there are two acronyms for fear. I don’t know if I have to be family friendly in this conference. But I’ll start off with the nice one. False evidence appearing real. Taking false information and thinking it’s true, but it isn’t actually true. These things where I can’t do this, I can’t share things and the ideas and all that stuff. That may be true or not true. Or it may be something that is true and it can be changed.

The other acronym. Sorry Russ and Shay. The other acronym is fuck everything and run.


That also can be fear, too. Enough about talking about the problems. Let’s talk about some solutions. So one solution can be to start encouraging some experimentation mindset within the company. An experimentation mindset is nice because it expands the network of possible wanderings. Very poetic. It gives you the intellectual space that you need to explore and solve problems. The larger the space, the better. What we’re typically in, in companies and at work. And this is the culture of work.

By the way, has anybody ever stopped to wonder where the culture of work came from and why everybody keeps doing it and doesn’t question it? Okay. That’s like your homework for tonight.

So typically in work situations and everything, office situations, companies, we have more of what’s called an implementation mindset. You have to do it and you have to get it right. Pretty much out of the gate. Right? There is no space for exploration and whatnot. Whereas an experimentation mindset is all about exploring different ways. Well maybe this will work. Maybe this will work. Maybe one part of this will work and maybe what we need to do is shift this part and we get to another place and figure out what is going on there. That actually is also be somewhat parallel with like an agile process, right?

So within the experimentation mindset one of the things to do is to explore stupid ideas. Right? Like so much of us have been engrained to like really fear failure and failure is the absolute worst thing that you can do. But that fear of failure blocks experimentation. Right? And then it blocks the creativity and innovation that would come from experimentation. And this is what we actually need going forward. Like we got a lot of problems to solve in the world! A lot of them! And if people aren’t actually trained to start thinking creatively and to start being really creative problem solvers, we’re going to be screwed I think is the technical term for it. Yeah.

So encouraged stupid ideas is really, really important. As a matter of fact, the stupid idea may be the thing that actually is the one that works. There is a website and I can’t remember the name of it. I believe it’s like Heaven forbid. What does it say? I can barely read it here, but I can read it. So the guy who started the website is like if you’ve got a stupid idea, go for it. Because that might be the idea that is the revolutionary idea.

For example, you know, like he is taking a picture with a smart phone. You know. What 70 some years ago, 100 years. Let’s just say 100 years ago. When were telephones invented? Someone is going to call me on it. She didn’t even know when the telephone was invented. Does anybody remember the date? I don’t feel bad at all. [Laughing] Probably somewhere roughly in the 100 year range. Maybe a little sooner or later. But people didn’t even think it was possible. Cars, not possible. Airplanes, crazy talk. What do you mean? Stop it. Sit down. People are not designed to fly! And that’s what people are doing all the time anymore.

So all the things that have been like these crazy ideas, somebody is just crazy enough to actually make it something that will work. Right? And you can be one of those people.

Another thing with the experimentation mindset is tinkering. Tinkering is kind of like, you know, when you kind of do something without really having an end goal. Right? You’re just kind of doing and you’re just kind of playing. Like just seeing. What happens when I do this? What happens when I do this? What happens when I do this? How many of you guys actually learned how to use a computer that way? I sure did. I didn’t know how. So I’m showing my age a little bit. My first year of college, the Mac, the boxes had just come out. They had only been out for a couple of years. And I didn’t know what a Word processing program was or anything. And I got on there and I saw Word. I knew what it was. But I had been working on DOS‑based computers. Crazy things. Black screens with the amber text.

So I saw the graphic computer interface. Oh, snap, this is great! I opened up Word and I was like, what? Type stuff in here? And then I was just like okay, menu. What does this do? What does this do? What does this do? What does this do? And now people are just like how do you do that? Word? Because I’m a Word bad ass ninja because I’ve been using it for 25, 30 years now. Tinkering totally helps. You learned more through tinkering than you have through being taught something.

And it comes from a lot of times a place of passion and obsession. We all know that that’s when you actually get really good at something. When you’re passionate about it and you’re kind of obsessed with it. Another thing is that’s interesting is that good ideas, as you guys all know don’t come from meetings. Good ideas don’t really happen in the board room.


Most of the time — office brainstorming session, 2%. Most of the time in the late at night, in the shower. Sex, zero. I guess you’re focused on different things. I don’t need to have a good idea. I’m just in the experience. [Laughing] Oh God, I wish I could expand on that, but I can’t. Later. At the work desk, 2%. Low. So getting away from your desk. Getting out of meetings and everything is what encourages good ideas. That’s where they come from.

So another thing as a solution then is to allow for inspiration. Right? To allow for these kinds of moments, you know, build it into your day if you can. If you can build it into, if you’re in charge of a team, build it into the structure of the team. I’m going to talk about 20% time in a little bit. But to really have this kind of place where people can get inspired. Where they can, you know, it’s okay if people stare off into space.

Has anybody heard of something called the headset rule? The headphones rule? So there’s actually a website. I think it’s It’s a really simple site. Basically how it works is this. If you want to kind of block out some time for yourself where you can kind of just, you know, not have people talking to you and not have input coming in, get yourself a headset. You don’t have to listen to anything through it! Just FYI. Get yourself a headset. If you’re wearing no head set, you got one, but you’re not wearing any, you’re basically telling people you can come and talk to me.

If you’re wearing one side and you got the other side off, then that’s telling me you can come to talk to me if I want you to. If you’re wearing both headsets, both sides, that’s basically saying don’t talk to me, I’m focusing. And here’s the interesting thing. How many of you guys have not actually known about the headphones rule, but had been in the office and had both in and nobody talked to you? Oh, hi. So it works!

So that could be a way for you to block some of that time out to get yourself a little bit of a barrier or a buffer so that you have that time. At least you don’t have the external stuff. So you have that time for inspiration. How many of you guys have heard of like idea paint? The paint that you can paint on the walls and make like the whole walls white boards? Yeah? Maybe there’s another thing you can do too, that you can do spatially in your organizations and your offices where you can have a wall where it’s like idea paint or white board where you can have that and dry erase markers and you can let people put ideas up there. It can be totally anonymous. You can let people sign their names. Tag it. Whatever they want. But it’s a place where ideas are out and available and can be shared, and you can erase it and start over again. So that is an idea.

So basically the upshot of all of this is you start to unblock. You start to create these environments where people feel more comfortable sharing, experimenting, tinkering, exploring ideas and everything. Then you will start to have a more engaged group. And kind of a more engaged workforce. And engaged makes them creative. So that’s a good thing.

Now let’s talk about the next directive which is communicate. The thing about communication is a lot of times again is lip service. We’ve got to communicate and we’ve got to talk, blah, blah, and do we do it? No. I actually have to say I’ve been guilty of this kind of thing. I have a housemate. My best friend, chosen sister lives with me. I was going to plan a trip and have them come and visit. I’ll have them come and visit and then go leave. I actually wanted to go somewhere that weekend. Oh, I was trying to be out of your hair. Like total non-communication on my part. She was like I do actually have times where I want to leave the house. You can’t just go galavanting all over the world and think I’m going to be home all the time. So this communication thing is a big deal. It takes practice. Even if you think you’re a good communicator, you can always up level.

So one of the things about communication though isn’t just saying stuff, it is actually listening and taking things in. And becoming an adept listener is really important because adept listeners actually end up being stimulated by what people say and end up making connections in that way become creative because they’re actually making connections between what other people are saying around them. And so the thing that’s important is to kind of give the people, give people when you’re listening the same kind of attention that you would want them to give to you, right? You feel like you want your ideas to be heard. You want people to listen to you. And it’s the best thing in the world, right? When somebody is listening to you and totally engaged in what you’re saying. That’s great. That’s great. Uh‑huh. We don’t have time for it. If this was an hour‑long talk, I would have you guys do an exercise right now. Maybe we can do it if I have time at the end of the talk.

Another thing for being an adept listener, really important, is to be present. Like really to be present. Really to pay attention. And really even most importantly I think it goes along with that is to relax your own agenda. I totally have been guilty of this, too. When you’re listening to people to try to make sure you can say the clever thing next. You don’t have to. Nobody has to out themselves on that. But this is like one of those things. That’s what we do. We’re trained. Especially if you’re in the alpha geek culture! Ah, I’m the smartest person in the room! Then of course the only reason you’re listening to people is so you can prove something that you say. Instead of genuinely listening to what they’re saying and trying to make something with that.

Last year I spoke at a conference in Norway. And Douglas Crawford was there and he did a keynote. He said this thing which I thought was interesting. Unless you really learn a language, it can’t teach you. Unless you really learn to listen, you can’t actually learn. Right? It can’t teach you. It’s listening for what people say. Listening to those nuggets etc., those kernels of brilliance. Unless you really listen for those, you won’t be able to hear them and then you can’t use them for something else.

So there’s the listening part. Now in terms of the sharing part, because again communication is like a two‑way thing. Taking stuff and then sharing it. Really important is to not keep ideas to yourself. You probably have amazing ideas and people, other people need to hear them. Right? So it’s really important to keep, to like even if you think it’s stupid, right? Even if you think it’s not and doesn’t have any legs, it’s better to get it out there and to start getting it out into the general kind of milieu rather than holding onto it.

Did anybody see the movie Lucy? I saw the movie last year and I was like ahhh! I basically think that I’ll see anything that the director does? He also tends to have really strong female characters. John luc Besson. He did the fifth element. Yeah! I saw that movie like five times. It’s a great movie, right?

In Lucy, one of the things that was really interesting that she proposed that cells will work to preserve or pass on their information. That’s what cells do. That’s what people do. Do you want to be a person who tries to keep all your information and ideas to yourself? Because you’re worried that somebody is going to steal it or take credit for it? Or are you going to try to put it out and share the knowledge so it can go out and do something in the world.

So think about that for a moment.

Being generous with your ideas. Another great movie. It’s like my movie section right here. Being generous with your ideas. Share them. Show them to people. You know. Put them out into the world. And then the other thing, too, is it’s a good idea to say “Oh, you need to share your ideas.” But there’s actually something even more than sharing ideas. What ends up happening if you want an idea to actually take some traction within your company? Then you actually have to sell your ideas. And has anybody read the book To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink. I haven’t read it yet. It’s on my shelf. But one of the premises is basically we sell all the time. Right? It’s a natural part of what we do. When you have an idea, you want like creativity and innovation to move forward within your company, you kind of need to have this kind of like selling of ideas. Basically convincing people of their value. Right? Because that’s basically what selling is. Convincing somebody of their value so they’ll take it and give it to you and give you something of value back in exchange.

So you need to have the support and kind of horsepower behind it. And then also like with presenting skills and being able to sell ideas, then you can deflect criticism and engage listeners and inspire commitment. So super important. So that’s communicate. Let’s talk about collaborate. Because I am running out of time.

So with creativity, creativity is known as being super linear. In other words, the more people you have, and the more ideas you are able to share, the more creative it’s going to be. Right? The more creativity you’re going to basically essentially generate. Now the thing is that none of us is as smart as all of us. We got great ideas. We are all brilliant in our own right. But if we take our brilliance and we combine it with one or two or three or four or five other people, then we can have like ultra brilliance, uber brilliance. Collective, creative ideas in my mind means that you’ve got an infinite number of ideas. And we can be solving these problems. We have to learn how to create well together. Super important. And we need everybody to be able to create well together. We need all kinds of thinking and all kinds of brains. People who are potentially predominantly left brained oriented. People who are right brained oriented. You need to be able to gather all of these people together to work together. You need to desalinize yourself. You actually need to make an effort to get out and talk to other people in other parts of the company who have other areas of expertise. And that teams should be made up of people from different background, different ethnicities, different experiences, different genders, different ages, everything. Because the more diversity you have of experience, the more diversity of ideas that you will have correspondingly.

So doing that is really important. Then once you’ve gathered all these people together, it’s not just enough to gather up these like, you know, try to create these diverse groups. Because you can create these diverse groups and then somebody shares an idea and somebody says invariably what? That’s not going to work. It’s a bad idea. No, we can’t do that! Bahh! Just think about it. How many times you have been in a meeting and you dredged up the courage. You know you had to dredge it up. You didn’t just share an idea. There was a process going on internally, like? You’re totally like “should I say this? I’m just going to say this oh, that was a good point. Okay, I’m just going to go.” Maybe we could do this. And then some punk on the other side of the room. Oh, no! We tried that last year. It didn’t work. Oh wait. Instead of doing that. Instead of having the yes, but, yeah, but, no. Not so much. Instead of having that, you need to use “yes, and.” Take a chance from improv people. I saw an awesome improv show last night at IO. Highly recommended if you are from out of town. Go and see a show at IO or Second City. Even if you don’t like the idea, just to get it going. Because that one person’s idea. It’s not so strong. Inside you’re thinking that. But you’re saying yeah, yeah, we could do that. And you add on something on top of that. And somebody goes and we could do that and we could do that and we could do that. And the next thing you know you’re building up on top of things instead of ripping things down, right? Which is a bad way of doing stuff.

And then finally you want to try to, so hopefully you start to amplify ideas. When you start finding yourself saying “yes, but” really challenge yourself to say “yes, and” instead and just see what happens. And even if there’s some wet rag on the other side of the room or next to you or behind you or whatever, see if you can be the person that day who is the "yes, and" person and just tries to shift the energy and shift the direction of stuff.

And then finally, you want to kind of have this culture of mentorship. So bring diverse people together. Encourage and amplify ideas. And then also make sure that the people who are senior within the organization start to help the people who are junior in the organization, right? And help them like encourage and grow and develop so that these people don’t feel, especially the junior people that they don’t have the confidence. They don’t have the experience and everything. But if they are helped by somebody ahead of them to get that support, then it can really transform stuff for them. It builds trust and, you know, then the dynamics of the team will actually start to change.

Finally, last but not least is allocate. So it is all well and good to talk about this stuff. You’ve got to unblock, communicate, collaborate and work together and everything. But if there are no resource to support that, you can’t go anywhere. Right? So we need the space, they need the support to be able to generate, develop, and experiment and execute upon ideas. So again, Theresa Amabile says that it’s really important deciding how much time and money to give a project is a judgment call that can either kill or support creativity.

It’s a great idea. But there needs to be the backing and funding for it. There needs to be the time for everything. Time was the biggest barrier to creativity. Things like meetings. Decluttering time. Is that really a necessary meeting? Or maybe it’s a meeting where only it’s a 15‑minute meeting. Maybe it’s a meeting where people stand up, they don’t sit down at all. Somebody times it. You got an agenda. Peace, you’re out. That’s it.

Something really important like that can get that so that’s more time that people can use on doing stuff. 20% time. Really important. It works when it’s used. I’ve actually talked to organizations where say we have 20% time but nobody uses it. Well, is that a personal choice? Or is that response to culture? Right?

So it’s not enough to just have 20% time, but you actually need to have the structures in place so people feel like it’s okay for them to use the 20% time.

If there’s no 20% time, if you’re at somewhere in the organization where you’re like I’m not making the decision about it, but I would really like to have that, you need to ask for it. And if people are being — then you need to band with folks and stand up and have that space. Because there is a strong business case. Google and a long list of other places have used 20% time remarkably. It’s not like there aren’t anything to support the fact that it does work.

Finally, not finally. But then also giving people tools. So in terms of allocating resources, actually giving them the proper tools. Allowing them to go to trainings outside the company. Allowing them to go to conferences outside the company. And then also bringing in experts and bringing in expertise within the company to conduct trainings and workshops within it. Really important.

And then finally having the resources. So having the funds. Actually the moneys. Not just saying we want to do creativity and be more innovative and all this stuff. But actually allocating budgets toward endeavors that support that. And also bringing in people to support that, as well.

So all of these directives end up adding up to being able to produce something creative and something innovative and something more. It actually will end up encouraging and creating empowered makers within the organization. Right? That you have these people you’re working so hard to like bring in talent and attract talent. But this will actually engage and keep talent so that people won’t feel like they need to go and look someplace else to get their needs met.

And the thing is that people have, like I said, these great pools but they don’t actually tap into them. So you’ll actually be able to do that and tap into the existing talent that you have, which is really important.

Now I have a thought leader crush. I have several, but this is my main thought leader crush. His name is Umar Hake. And he wrote a book called betterness. I don’t know if you guys have heard of this. It’s a short book that you can buy on Kindle for like $2.99. He’s an economist by training based in London. And he talks about in the future, basically what we need now is we need to have a different economic paradigm by which we’re basing, whether we’re evaluating how successful a company is. A company isn’t successful if they just make a lot of money. A company should be evaluated to be successful if it actually is contributed positively to the world in some way. Right?

So he calls this betterness. Is the company contributing to betterness? Is it making things better for the whole? I love that. The greater good.

So we can take this, this kind of imperatives, these directives and actually get us to move toward betterness in a lot of ways. Umar says the sum total of human effort can add up to not only be more, but to be better.

So super important. He’s my thought leader crush. Right? So like you know how it is when you have crushes on people. Dude, last December. What? Oh, yeah. Last December I actually end up running into him in a coffee shop in London! Ahhh! I had a little fan scream. I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Are you Umar Hake. And he was like “yeah.” And I like “hi.”


Had a really great conversation with him. Achievement and loft. Got that. Bucket list.

Great person, great ideas.

What we’re trying to do is infuse what I think trying to deeply search for is more meaning in our lives. More meaning in our work lives and personal lives. Wake up and feel like we’re here for a reason. Right? Creativity contributes to that. 78% of these people in the Adobe create study says that being able to create makes a real like actual difference in their lives. So when we have reason and we’re contributing to betterness, we’re trying to do something that is bigger than us, then we do this. So a reason is not a purpose, right? It’s a purpose of a set of accomplishments, but a reason is like an animating force behind them. And that only reason has a magic to ignite the spark that makes a life feel like it’s been more than a series of accidents colliding with fate. It’s beautiful.

So these four directives: Unblock, communicate, collaborate, allocate. These directives guide our reasons. These directives help us get clear, right? And clarity brings about purpose, purpose brings about action, and action brings about change. So these directives actually will help us bring about change.

So my advice to you, I implore you in fact, to follow the imperative and just to create and support creativity and innovation around you as much as possible.

Thank you.


We have a question! Question? I only went five minutes over. Not bad.

Temple Grandin:

My question is like a company like Google really fosters creativity. I’ve worked with more, many companies. Some with creative managers, and others were horrible, controlling managers that don’t allow any creativity to take place. This is where you need to be doing this talk to management. Because I found in my work with the meat packing plants, the only equipment would fix half the problems. You got to get the management to allow this to take place.

Denise Jacobs:

Absolutely. Yes. I totally agree. And actually this talk is really designed for, you know, like really to speak to management to try to get them on board.

Temple Grandin:

You get a control freak manager, it makes you go automatic drone because you don’t care.

Denise Jacobs:

You want to get away from them. Absolutely. One more question. And I’m going to go out during the break and stuff. I don’t want to keep you guys from your break. I’ll be the one in the red and black and white. I don’t know if you guys noticed. Oh my God! Totally! Yes.

[Speaking off mic]


When you’re not management getting or for the lower management getting the people above you to think of things not in terms of limitations and time and money without totally abandoning the aims to create the creativity.

Denise Jacobs:

How do you get the management to get on board with that? I think back to that selling of ideas. And I do a lot of talks that kind of try to help people work on their creativity on an individual level and then spread creativity out around them. Some of these tips you can do that. A lot of times, have you guys heard of social contagion theory is we have the ability to affect people like three degrees beyond ourselves. It’s one of those things where you don’t even have to try so hard. But you just doing your thing and being clear about that can affect other people around you on kind of a subconscious level and it can spread beyond you.

So doing like, starting to really focus on that stuff for yourself at work and then maybe encouraging other people around you to do that as well can start to actually do a little bit of a grassroots up type of thing and could be something to use to use that and say hey we’ve been working on this together. We’ve been trying this. We’ve had these successes. Why don’t we take this forward and present it to management. Take it to your manager and your manager can up level it and you can start to get some buy‑in that way.


[Speaking off mic]


I think creativity is a buzzword for some people at the top. And how do we define it for them so they don’t cringe at the word creativity. — Because I think even hearing that word sometimes, because I get it from my boss “Oh, you’re creative” will immediately turn them off. That’s the challenge I’m putting to everybody in the room. How do we define creativity in words that are accessible and open to those people who are afraid of them.

Denise Jacobs:

So what my recommendation is to talk about what the creativity is going to produce rather than the creativity itself. Talk about the outcome. Look, what we’re going to be able to do is produce better products and services. We wanted to create a process so we could come up with products better. Whatever it is. I think if you talk about that. For me, the creativity part is implied. But it’s not explicit. Right? But if you talk about the outcome, then you say we need to build a process so we can achieve this outcome and then the process is a creative process. Right? Yeah.

Thank you so much you guys! I appreciate it!


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