Exiting the Silo

Week 5

This week in Creative Leadership, we understand what it means to be linked to community.  

Talented colleagues in my course have had insightful perspectives regarding their connection to the world, and so far it has been a privilege to understand how interconnected we are to a variety of different modes of thinking.  

Mark Chamberlain’s Week 4 post regarding Scott Belsky’s “Making Ideas Happen” provided some valuable insight into the inner workings of in-house design teams. Mark’s insights around the power of an introspective approach when confronted with the myriad responsibilities one has within an organization revealed the importance of knowing yourself before being able to push change from within. While Belsky affirms multiple times in his novel that creatives posses the qualifications to lead, and to organize, teams of people, I appreciate Mark’s honesty in expressing discomfort in this role, in part from whole-heartedly relating to experiences in my own practice. Managing teams of designers, I have found, is the most uncomfortable hat I have had to wear. And yet, of all the validation-seeking and self-marketing tactics I have striven to adopt, this “leadership potential” feels like the least obnoxious hat to wear.

Olivia Pederson, in her expose on three blogs, unpacks transparency within organizations. While I am familiar with understanding social media within context of … well, social situations, I had not fully grasped the capability for it to work as a feedback loop within communications systems in an organization. Her notes on the power of the consumer to influence a company’s stance and production power gives me hope, and affirms that local organizations in town that are tackling the achievement gap are on the right track.  

In fact, in related trends, I’m inspired by social justice organizations that are fighting the good fight. For those who are interested in learning more of this social transparency and diversity, Reve Academy and TheBrandLab are two organizations that are doing amazing work in Minneapolis.

In applying what I’ve learned from Belsky to these two perspectives, I find that my personal reality lies in a multitude of factors, stemming from a disjoint from what I have within, and how to relate to without. What I have appreciated about Zen Habits, both the blog and the book, is this perpetual emphasis of the internal workings of your process. By thoroughly watching what the inner life is doing to sabotage the ability to learn from external sources, and by continually shying away from weakness, the creative professional gets nowhere, fast.

I’m reminded in this moment about a yoga practice called ‘jnana yoga’, or “The Yoga of Wisdom”, which addresses the path of the mind used to inquire into its own nature and to transcend the mind’s identification with its thoughts and ego. And while this may be a turn off for the more logical-minded folks, what has been most helpful in this practice is the fairly straightforward comparison between stretching and fear. I find that my mind has a tendency to get lost in the confusion fear brings. If I use fear as just an indicator, things like growth tend to be less scary. It is your mind’s job to create fear to let you know you might get hurt. The same thing is true for stretching. In my creative pursuits, fear then becomes a form of stretching. Into these things – leadership, organization, self-discovery – I, therefore, lean.

My Inner Child

Week 4


I suffer from what Belsky describes in his book “Making Ideas Happen” as pure idea intoxication. I find it extremely difficult to stop the flow of ideas in favor of pushing forward the ones that are life-giving, employing all the resonance that I have as a creative professional. I have resonated inordinately with so many of the concepts he discusses, and am at danger of plowing through the entirety of the book in one sitting.

It is gratifying to know that a lot of the project management structures that I have in place mimic the suggestions Belsky outlines in his Action, Backburner, and Reference system. Project management for me has never been much of an issue. I typically enjoy creating reference items and a file name convention that makes sense. The problem becomes when I need to get things I’ve written down into a form that I can grasp. Project management softwares such as Slack and Trello have made it really easy to get on board with myself, my husband, and with a team. They’re also very pretty to look at, and so I’ve resonated with his note about how the means for the project management software also mattered.

So, while I feel that this makes sense and is a no-brainer way to look at the world (in that, my system already closely resembles this), I’m still running around after my child-like wonder with this system held out like an appealing mother with a laundry basket. More often than not, inner-me is just having a ball - leaving notes scrawled nonsensically all over everything she can get a hold of, throwing temper tantrums when I try to establish rituals of personal check-ins for goal-setting, and using up so much brain CPU for a Backburner tasks that it becomes incredibly difficult to keep focused on maintaining an action oriented mind state. Mind you, my super power is that if I manage to get my mind on track with the heart, it gets DONE. Period. So, how come I can’t manage to get to that state, more often, with greater success rates?

I am excited to usher in this new era of systems – using one funnel for the brain dump and tips for technological catch-alls. Emailing myself an idea was a novel new way to look at idea generation, and even better that they can get filed in an elegant way with using an idea-related “file name” convention made of Action, Backburner, and Reference. I’m already taking steps to use it and find that my brain matter has more literal SPACE to get things going and generate. Too often I kept trying to maintain a hold on all of it – rarely did I watch my energy line.

John Clease talks about this space-making as a way to provide a moment for your brain to freak out. I appreciate that he honestly and openly discusses the need to allow your brain to panic. I think my biggest problem at times is residing in that strange, tough place where nothing is happening and I’m feeling unproductive. It makes total sense of course – if you jam a space full of junk, and suffocate a seed with too much water, soil, and what-have-you's, you do not have the optimal conditions for growth. But really, in the work environs I have found myself in, this is a refreshing reminder in the importance of mindfulness in my creative practice.