Detroit YCI Launches Project which Identifies Ways to Increase Creativity




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Apr 26, 2018
by Maryam Ghaddar
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Detroit YCI Launches Project which Identifies Ways to Increase Creativity

Melvin Henley hosts discussion on Creativity in “Non-Creative” Places in Detroit Melvin Henley leads a discussion during Creativity in "Non-Creative" Places

What does it mean to be creative in a work environment that often challenges the very definition of the word? How is creativity integrated into sectors and communities that are not considered creative per se?

Everyone has a creative streak, whether or not it’s immediately apparent. Melvin Henley, who attended the third session of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in 2016, sought to explore this notion in a project titled Creativity in “Non-Creative” Places in Detroit, Michigan.

The event was hosted in October 2017 at Lawrence Tech University’s Center for Design and Technology, which welcomes people from various backgrounds, fosters design thinking, and serves students, professionals, architects, artists, designers, innovators, entrepreneurs, etc.

Henley received funding for the event through a follow-on grant from Salzburg Global after attending the forum for Young Cultural Innovators. Initially intended to convene industry experts from sectors not typically seen as “creative,” such as food, government, sports and education, Creativity in “Non-Creative” Places evolved into a series of group discussions, panel presentations, and an interactive activity between professionals from both “creative” and “non-creative” sectors. The aim was primarily to bounce ideas off each other, form networks, and engage in a friendly and open atmosphere for inspiration on creative brainstorming and idea generation. Shelly Danner, co-founder and program director of Challenge Detroit and another Detroit YCI from the 2016 Forum, led some of these idea generation exercises.

Reflecting on the event, Henley said: “Four core competencies were identified as being essential for creative expression: capturing, challenging, broadening and surrounding. All are measurable and trainable, which means that no matter what a person’s current creative output is, when you build on these competencies, your creative output is likely to increase.”

Conversations were prompted by a straightforward, yet thought-provoking inquiry: “Innovation and creativity are critical to our personal and professional growth as well as our economy. Do you agree or disagree?”

Four dynamic panelists were convened to speak at the event and were chosen based on their diverse work and experiences in the community. The speakers included Sandra Yu Stahl, lead evaluator at Citizen Detroit; Abir Ali, director of design and culture at The Platform; Delphia Simmons, chief strategy and learning officer at COTS, and Rachel Perschetz, director of community investment at Quicken Loans.

This particular project brought together 23 people from both “creative” and “non-creative” sectors, nurtured peer-learning opportunities for attendees, highlighted how creative thinking is used every day and offered ways to tap into that creativity in the workplace. In essence, it challenged participants to apply creative problem solving and encouraged individuals to acknowledge and embrace their creative confidence.

While Creativity in “Non-Creative” Places was geared towards peer-learning, coaching of young and green programs, and applying brain science and social intelligence in work settings, Henley explained that it was a “prototyping event” and that there is still much room for improvement. For instance, gathering more individuals from the community and focusing more on age diversity would emphasize the project’s central goal.

“Moving forward,” Henley noted, “the event has the potential to turn into a series of conversations that happen quarterly, but would like to start with one and see how it goes from there and/or if we can secure additional funding. One of the things that did emerge that I would like to build on is how creative can make room for “non-creative” in their creative output. Sometimes it feels like creatives produce work or spaces or experiences that can only be enjoyed by other creatives.”

Creativity in “Non-Creative” Places investigated creative leadership and the many methodologies that can emerge when a group of individuals endeavors to bring about positive change.

With this in mind, Henley said that “the THNK program in Amsterdam comes to mind as a great case study. One of the takeaways from the conversation is that people are unsure how to embrace creative ideas and use them to propel ideas and movements. The people in the room were unsure how to design programs for scalability, relevance, and impact outside of traditional business models. There appears to some [an] opportunity to further develop a framework or materials that could be helpful. If possible, I’d like to use more remaining funds to further investigate this subject and develop a Creative Leadership toolkit that is shared with others.”