Ep23: How to bring creativity to business with Michelle James

TalentGrow Show How to bring creativity to business with Michelle James

Michelle James bridges creativity and business. She helps leaders rediscover their creativity and apply it in the workplace. In this fast-paced conversation between Michelle and me, we discuss the path to generating new ways of thinking about your challenges by tapping into your creativity as a leader, team member, and for organizations as a whole. Michelle shares the importance of balancing discomfort with safety, the infusion of improv theater principles into leadership, and how to cultivate more creative employees. She provides a great action tip for reevaluating some of your assumptions and even offers two great free resources to the listeners that can help them bring more of their creativity to work.

What you’ll learn:

Listen to Stitcher
  • How to build bridges between business and creativity
  • The role of discomfort and safety in generating a more creative workplace
  • Ways to borrow principles from the world of improv theater to bring more creativity to business
  • What it means to be a creative leader
  • Where resistance comes from and how to overcome it
  • Why using creativity gets you more business bottom line results more easily and joyfully
  • The key to applied creativity
  • Ways you can create your own job description, think in new ways, go beyond the status quo and existing structures and create something new
  • What’s the most important foundational element that can help cultivate creativity
  • What’s the metaphor Michelle uses that Halelly goes gaga for that describes perfectly the importance of protecting your creative ideas from initial criticism that could otherwise destroy them?
  • Why is it okay to let go of comfort, but never of safety, when working on infusing more creativity in your work and your team?
  • What’s a great improv principles that can support greater creativity, innovation, and risk-taking in your team?
  • Why is it important to simultaneously think of the immediate challenge you’re trying to creatively solve and the long-term relationship and culture you’re trying to foster when coaching employees to creativity?
  • How to use transparency to get your employees to support your own growth and creativity
  • What’s one tip Michelle suggests everyone can put to work right away that will help you shift your thinking about creativity?
  • Michelle offers not one, but two different free resources to support your development – make sure to grab them by emailing her (listen to the end of the podcast to find out what, how, and why!)
  • and more!


Michelle’s website: http://www.creativeemergence.com

Email her and get your great resources!!

Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn, Twitter, and

Michelle founded the Capitol Creativity Network and the Cville Creativity Network

Here’s the blog post Halelly read from about Michelle’s definition of a creative leader

Here’s her blog post about the improv principles that Michelle mentioned

Check out Michelle’s Creativity in Business Conference and her online Creativity in Business Telesummit (I’ve attended all and loved them!)

Subscribe to Halelly’s free weekly newsletter

Subscribe to Halelly’s podcast on iTunes (don’t forget to leave a rating and review!)

Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine.

About Michelle James

Michelle James, CEO/Chief Emergence Officer,is a pioneering creativity catalyst who has been using universal creative principles and the process of emergence as the basis for her work with thousands of people - individuals, corporations and communities - since starting her first business in the mid-nineties. Michelle’s passion is infusing creativity and imagination into current knowledge and information systems for individual, organizational and social transformation. Her commitment is to cultivate and focus creativity, aliveness and meaning in the workplace as part of the emerging, holistic new work paradigm - one where creativity, service, purpose and commerce are linked.

Michelle has consulted on, designed and delivered creativity and innovation initiatives and programs for organizations of all sizes. She provides generative processes, a grounded framework, whole-brain integrated learnings, and novel experiences to allow organizations to naturally co-create what is essential for them to remain consistently vital, resilient, and innovative in rapidly changing times and environments.

People naturally expand their capacities to engage their environment. Michelle expands the "playing field" by integrating multiple dimensions of creative experience into all of her work. She developed the Creative Emergence Process, Principles and Practices - which is both a framework and integrative approach for creatively unfolding what's next within an individual or system.

Known for her original and richly textured dynamic learning environments, Michelle presents at learning and creativity events internationally, and creates such events in the Washington, DC area. Her original programs and techniques have been featured in newspapers, audios, books and on television. She is one of the pioneers in the fields of Applied Creativity, Applied Improvisation and Somatic (body-centered) Creativity.

Michelle founded The Center for Creative Emergence based on her experiences with the natural creative emergence process that unfolded over time in her multi-faceted personal journey, as well as and years of work with and study of various facets of creative process and complex systems. For Michelle, the work of the Center is a calling many years in the making that began with a profound life-changing vision that emerged at age 22. This vision became her mission, passion, and purpose - and initiated the long, and sometimes rocky, road of cultivating and integrating that vision. The Creative Emergence Process, Principles and Practices are based on years of work with clients in which certain themes, patterns and self-organizing principles showed up in every emergent creative process. She later discovered a coherent fit with this process and what she learned studying process work, depth psychology, systems thinking, complexity sciences and improv theory.

Before founding the Center, Michelle owned and operated a creative services/marketing firm followed by an organizational development and training company. Prior to that, she spent a few years spear-heading innovative projects while working in communications, sales, marketing, and the media, including co-establishing a newspaper (where she got her taste of entrepreneurship and never went back). In these worlds, she learned first-hand how creative environments function and thrive. Also informing Michelle’s work is her experience and education in creative processes and techniques, brain research, organizational change, group process work, depth psychology, integral theory, emerging group/system dynamics approaches (such as holacracy, appreciative inquiry, world cafe, open space, futuresearch, polarities, psychodrama, dialogue, participative design), accelerated learning, the arts, movement, bodywork, mythology, improv theater, systems thinking, consciousness studies, storytelling and the complexity sciences...and first-hand transformational experiences in her life. Her degrees are in English Literature and Communications Studies with years of diverse post graduate study.

Michelle performed full-length improvised plays with an improv troupe for 10 years through 2010, is an abstract painting artist, and is a CoreSomatics Movement and Bodywork Master Practitioner. CS is an psycho-physical creative healing modality. She also founded and ran the Capitol Creativity Network - an experiential creativity hub meeting monthly in DC since 2003, and in 2014, started the Cville Creativity Network in Charlottesville, VA. In 2008, Michelle was recognized for Visionary Leadership in Fast Company's blog, Leading Change. She produces and curates the bi-annual Creativity in Business Conference in Washington, DC. In 2012, she developed and hosted the first online Creativity in Business Telesummit with creativity thought leader-practitioners from all over the world, and curated an accompanying ebook, Navigating the new Work Paradigm. Michelle is currently writing a book on creativity facilitation called Pattern Breaks: A Facilitator's Guide for Cultivating Creativity.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. This is episode 23 and I am your host, Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist. My guest this episode is my friend Michelle James. She is a creativity and emergence catalyst, consultant and coach. She is CEO of the Center for Creative Emergence, where she brings applied creativity to the workplace for entrepreneurs, leaders, teams and organizations. This is a great conversation in which Michelle and I talk about how to build bridges between business and creativity and why the two have a false separation that we are working to break down. She talks about the role of discomfort and the role of safety in generating creativity in the workplace, ways that we can borrow some great principles from the world of improv theater, and what it means for Michelle, at least, to be a creative leader. She also talks about what the sources of a resistance we often see to bringing more creativity into the workplace and ways in which leaders can help overcome it and maybe even prevent it in the first place. And of course as always, Michelle shares an actionable tip at the end of the episode that you can and should apply right away to make yourself an even better and more creative leader. So I hope that you enjoy this episode and I hope that you stick around until the end because Michelle offers two free resources that I think you’re going to want to snag. So here it is, episode 23, and thanks for tuning in.

I am here with Michelle James, and Michelle is a creative emergent and also the originator of the Capital Creativity Network, which is where I met her. Michelle James is all about creativity, but what I really like about Michelle is that she brings creativity to business. And she is like a bridge builder between the creative world and the business world. There are so many ways in which business and creativity go hand-in-hand, and so many of the things we use today come and have emerged from that intersection. But some people think of them as separate and I think that Michelle is fighting the good fight to unite them. Michelle, thank you for being on the TalentGrow Show and welcome.

Michelle: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Halelly: Me too. And I always ask my guests to tell about their professional journey before we get started into where they are now, because it’s always kind of different and interesting, although a challenge for you because you have an interesting long journey. If you can isolate it into just a couple of minutes, but here’s your challenge – let’s do it.

Michelle: Right, that is true. There’s been such a series of events that have led to where I am, and I’ll just kind of focus on a thread. So like most people, I grew up with the belief that you do your creative work on the side or after the real work is done. You do your day job to make money and you do your creative job on the side. And I put all of my creativity kind of on the side. And then when I was in college I took a course, it was a communication class, and we had to do some sort of expression of what we were learning, and we got to do it in any way we wanted. I was in a group and we did it with theater and skits and I came so alive, knowing that there was some kind of seed of something for me in that. That you can bring things to life using your creativity. But I kind of put it on the backburner, went to a field of marketing and communications and sales, working at radio and newspaper, and then when I was with a group where a group of us started a community newspaper, and we went under. We made no money. But during that year, I got a taste of being the arts and calendar editor, a writer. I got to do interviews. We all got to create our own roles, and that led me to realize that I will only feel alive in my work if I’m getting to use my creativity in it and create my own roles and that I didn’t fit neatly in a job description. So I started taking, reading every kind of book there was on creativity and innovation, life purpose, like path. I was going to every kind of conference and I made it my mission to do work that was creatively alive for me and that I would get paid for, and so in my own life, I had to become that bridge.

Simultaneously around that time, I broke my jaw in a car accident and I found that conventional treatments weren’t helping, but I got into some body work and through that started learning how much more alive I felt when I started using my body in different ways and how my creativity was skyrocketing. I got into improv theater to overcome my fear of public speaking, and to have fun, and it totally transformed my work and life and when I started applying what I was learning there into my work, I started seeing huge differences. So, my first company was Creations Unlimited, which was a marketing company. But then I realized I was doing the creativity for the people. And then I met up with a man in the late 90s – I started my business in ’94 – and by ’97 who was running a natural learning center and he was an OD director and we formed a business, Proteus Center for Change, where he was doing organizational development and he trained me and then I was doing organizational creativity and then by 2001, we went our separate ways. He retired and I continued on with my Center for Creative Emergence, which was fully dedicated to applied creativity in the workplace. Applied creativity to leadership, to team building, to personal and professional development, that if you use your creativity and if you use creative prompts – theater, visual thinking, movement, embodiment, all kinds of things – you get more business bottom-line results, more quickly and more easily. And, more joyfully. And so that became the focus of my work for many years and a couple years later I started the Capital Creativity Network because that helped people and that helped me be able to explain it better and it helped people find a place to go to experience it. Because the key with applied creativity is in the experience.

So, now many years later, I am doing that and I’ve put creativity and business conferences on, and it’s become a much more popular and accepted thing out in the world of work. But it was tough going at the beginning. That’s the short version.

Halelly: Yeah, that’s true. I guess I didn’t really think about the evolution of the business world along with you, in a way, to kind of be more accepting and welcoming of what you bring. That makes sense. So there’s probably a lot less resistance than there used to be in the days when people had to wear, ladies had to wear skirts that covered their calves and a lady tie, and pantyhose, in dark blue pleas! Yeah, that’s true. So it’s all moving in the right direction and I’m so impressed with your career. In fact, I love that you told that story because I think that a lot of the people that I meet are in a place where perhaps they’re feeling constrained by whatever they’re doing at the moment, or they feel like they’re supposed to have these two separate lives, where they can’t really fully, completely maximize their strengths and their gifts within one way to make money and you are a good example of someone who created what she needed to be fully present in her work.

Michelle: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I would say sometimes what I’ll tell my coaching clients – because I do a lot of one-on-one coaching with entrepreneurs – is that the split that I heal, that I work with with people is healing the split between doing what’s most alive for you, doing what your highest creative expression is and income generating work. Because you can’t look to the current job descriptions out there, necessarily. A lot of times you have to be a new structure creator. You have to create your own job description in order to do that. And it’s a journey. But, you can do it, and that’s what creativity allows you to do. It allows you to think in new ways, to go beyond the status quo and to design new structures and design new ways of working.

Halelly: Yes, that’s true. And I would say to add to the creativity, there’s probably a lot of ingredients that go in there, but something that’s very present for me because I’m starting to go down a path to explore it more, is that you probably also need a lot of courage to move in that direction when there isn’t anything there. You’re going into the unknown to create something new, and so people sometimes have creative ideas that they don’t act on, and you acted.

Michelle: Right. Well, thank you, and I do think you certainly need some persistence or courage. I think what helps that become easier is if you start to treat and honor your own ideas, and the way to do that is that you keep, like whether it’s a journal or some sort of visual way of writing them, you keep them sort of sacred. You keep them sort of under the vest for a little while as you’re beginning to emerge. And the reason is because if you put your ideas out too soon, and you’re still insecure with them and you’re still not sure about them, other people, as well meaning as they might be, if they can’t make the leap or if they’re not in a job where they’re feeling fully creatively fulfilled or they’re not sure how to do it, they might inadvertently not be able to support your ideas. So I always say to people, when you have those seed ideas about your new business or new direction or something you might want to bring in, in the initial stages – whether that’s a few days or a few weeks or sometimes a couple months, it depends what it is – treat it like a new seedling tree. You know, how people put that little tiny white fence around it to protect it? And then as soon as it gets some roots, as soon as you begin to feel a little bit more secure in your capacity for ideas, that hey, I’ve now explored this idea, I’ve honored my own idea, I’ve taken it seriously, I see it having some roots, as soon as you get there, that’s a good time to share it because that’s when it can start to grow in community.

Halelly: That is such a great metaphor. I love it. I can totally see it. When it’s just a seed, if you don’t bury it for a while and allow it to germinate, it’s going to fly. It’s going to be sort of, it’ll respond to every small gust of breeze and it won’t have a chance. I love that, thank you so much! So, something that I will share with listeners, you’re a friend of mine – I’ve known you for several years and I admire you so much and I think you’re so multifaceted – that having a 30-minute conversation with you is my biggest challenge of the day! Not because I don’t have enough to talk about, but because I don’t know how to contain it within 30 minutes. So that’s my challenge today. But my goal is to allow people to have a very juicy and fruitful window into your world, and I know that they will follow up afterwards and learn more from you. So something that I think is a great meeting place between what you do and what many of my listeners are thinking about, as I think that you know, most of the listeners are leaders already, but many of them have already a leadership role within an organization, and many of them are aspiring to grow into a leadership role. So I want us to focus on the creative leader for a moment, and I read on your blog this really interesting piece about your perspective about what makes a creative leader. So I’m going to read it and then I’d love for you to expound on it a little bit more.

So you said, and I’m quoting, “A creative leader is a leader who chooses to use more of his or her own creative potential on an on-going basis, choosing to always learn and evolve personally as well as professionally. One who is dedicated more to exploring possibilities than being right, and more to discovery than maintaining the status quo. Creative leaders facilitate meaning, creativity and contribution of those he or she serves – employee, colleague, team member, customer, participant, etc.” So tell us more. What is the creative leader? And help us break down how everyone here who is listening can embody this quality.

Michelle: Sure. And most of my work now is with leaders and helping them become more of “the creative leader” so I feel very excited about this question. I think what happens a lot of times is people will say, “I want you to go be creative,” and what happens when you tell people to be creative, you’re going to bump up against, within them, all of the stories and all of the reasons that they weren’t creative. That’s true if you’re a leader and that’s true for your staff and employees. Something called natural resistance can emerge, where whatever was safe and protected, your creativity is there, and so then as soon as something new, you want something new to emerge, people might be distracted or they might start resisting because they might not feel safe. So, if you’re a creative leader, for me that means you’re going to facilitate an environment. You’re going to cultivate a creative environment for employees. And the way to do that is by pushing your own creative edges, by breaking your own patterns, by consciously and intentionally saying, “How can I expand as a creative individual?” And it doesn’t mean you have to be full on, expressing your creativity all the time. You just don’t want to get to where you’re limiting or inhibiting your employee’s creativity.

So for example, a lot of times we’ll see – because I do creative leadership programs all the time – and a lot of times we’ll see people that want their staff to be more creative, but their staff’s creativity, because the nature of creativity is so unique and expansive and different, might look differently and it’s messy and it doesn’t come out all nice and neat and it looks differently than what the leader first anticipated. And so in that moment, as a creative leader, you have a choice – is what I’m going to say going to foster and enhance the creativity coming into this meeting or from this person or into our team, or is it going to inhibit it? So a lot of times someone will throw out an idea, and you might right off know that idea won’t work. So rather than cutting it down, draw more out of it. Allow the person to say, “How would that look and what do you mean?” And draw more questions out. To use an improv term, “Yes, and” it. Add new elements to it because a lot of times the seed idea isn’t the best idea. The first idea that comes out usually isn’t the best idea that becomes workable. Sometimes it’s five iterations out. Often times people feel inhibited to present that to their boss or their leader, because they’re afraid, because it isn’t polished. So as a leader you’re thinking, “How can I support it becoming polished,” versus, “Wow, it doesn’t look familiar to me. I know this won’t work. I know it’s a bad idea,” and immediately cutting down. Because then you’re cutting off all the potential.

The other thing is, you’re going to be much more comfortable with the unknown and navigating uncertainty if you try that in low-stakes environments than when it comes to real high-stakes environments where you have a lot on the line. You have become more adaptive and responsive. And I’ll just finish with that piece for now. In my mind a creative leader is an adaptive and responsive leader, one that can meet the needs of the situation as they emerge. And that’s why I think improv theater is such a great practice. So you go do improv and you’re goofy and having fun, no stakes. All of it. But you become more adaptable and easy in your adaptability, so then when you go into the workplace and you have situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, you don’t just go to autopilot or habit. You actually have more options in front of you. You don’t freak out. You handle the uncertainty. So creative leadership, a creative leader, embodies the ability to respond and adapt to what’s really happening, not relying on habit only and not relying only on what worked in the past, but maybe having to create something new to meet the situation. And, allowing the creative resources of the team to emerge and creating an environment where it’s safe for the employees to play a little, to explore, to tinker with ideas before having to present the final one, because it’s through that exploration that the next level solutions can emerge.

Halelly: There’s so much in there that I want to follow-up on. Thank you Michelle. Well, the first thing that came very present for me is I hear in your explanation, things that I often say, which is your response teaches people your approach. And you’re modeling what you’ll do if somebody comes up with a different idea. Your response, everybody is watching it. And it’s not just about that idea in that moment, but it actually creates a precedent that people will use the next time you ask for something to make a decision about what they’re willing to offer. So being able, so you kind of have to have two minds. You have to think about the present situation and what’s needed, but you also have to have a long view and recognize that you’re establishing a long-term pattern with this action. And sometimes, probably for many leaders, maybe it’s undoing an existing pattern or maybe they’ve been doing it in a way that’s less effective and maybe they realize that now. Now they have to kind of start to break down the pattern they’ve established and to create trust in you, in people that they are now willing in being open to new ideas, even if they’ve shown in the past they weren’t. Because we’re all able to change.

Michelle: Absolutely. And I think being open and transparent and authentic about that – hey, in the past, I wasn’t so open. But I’m now trying to adapt and explore, and I think if you’re open with your employees that, “I’m trying a new way of being here, and I’m learning this as we’re going,” then you side with them. It becomes non-confrontational. They want to actually support you in succeeding, because you’re partnering together. Like we’re a team now. I’m learning his new way of being to support your creativity, so you help me and so you get to use their creative resourcefulness to help teach you how to be a more creative leader. And you said something else that I thought was really key, and that’s a good distinction that I always like to make myself, too. You know, how you act is going to tell your team or your staff or your employees or customers, “Is it safe?” And so in other words, because creativity for people to really thrive and be creative and try new things, they need to feel safety. Most people get confused between, many people get confused between comfort and safety. Discomfort is natural in the creative process. It’s natural for all of us. It’s the discomfort of learning something new. You’re not going to be masterful, just like the baby walking across the floor. They fall and they might get a little bruised. They’re learning something new, but they keep going and keep doing it, because it’s a natural part of the creative process. Discomfort is okay.

So a lot of times, people will try to avoid discomfort, but then they don’t make it safe. But safety is essential. So you can be uncomfortable and be safe, but you can’t be unsafe. So safety is often created by establishing rules of engagement, by establishing rules of engagement that people feel safe in. For the next 30 minutes, we’re going to go into divergent thinking, no judgment. You can say anything. You can explore anything. You can do anything. That’s one way of making it safe. Another way of making it safe, for example, improv principle is make everyone else look good. So let’s tell my group, I’m committed to making you all look good. I can’t promise it’ll be comfortable because you’re going to learn something new, but I can promise you it’ll be safe. All the sudden that tells them that I’m going to be on their side and so I think as a creative leader, if they think you’re for them, and they think you’re on their side, that will help bring out more of their creativity.

Halelly: I like that principle a lot. Make everyone look good. It’s a very benevolent kind of intention. And just that alone, my goodness, that’s going to change the quality of many people’s work experience if more leaders use that. So I want to follow-up on the improv principles you just mentioned. And I know much of your creative awakening, you said, was through learning improv and one of the things that you teach – you do a lot of different kinds of workshops and people should go to your website, which I’m going to link to in the show notes to go see how many really cool workshops you do and all the kinds of things you do – but one of them is improvisation for leaders, using the practices of improvisational theater for leadership effectiveness. Some people might have a deer in the headlights look about them and not know what the heck that means, and then other people might be like, “Ooh, fun!” But, I also know personally, I have seen, a lot of those people out there to whom this does not feel safe. And for whom that feels really out in left field and outside their comfort zone, especially as you bring in using your body, and being silly in the workplace situation. So I bet you experience a lot of that resistance and overcome it successfully. I know you do, because that’s why you’re brought in again and again. But I would love if you could just maybe share one exemplary story of a transformation you’ve seen where someone came in with that sort of “arms crossed, I ain’t doing this improv BS,” and came out on the other end changed?

Michelle: Sure. And so right now, for example, over the last couple of years, I do regular improv for leaders programs with the Federal Executive Institute for their senior leaders that come, they come for month-long and one of the days they spend with me doing improv for leaders, for some of the group. These are people that have never done improv theater. Some of them will walk in, arms crossed, they’re not comfortable, it doesn’t seem fun, it is out of their comfort zone, and they are thinking the first thing is like, “This is what we’re spending our federal tax dollars on?” So I’m used to resistance and I’m used to that, all the time, for the kind of work I do. What’s interesting is at the end, it’s almost always the people that had the most resistance that are the ones that want to keep going the most because once they tap into their creative wellspring they realize it.

And so the first thing you do is you make it safe, and then you set up scenarios. You make it safe via the improv principles, “yes, and,” make everyone look good, serve the good of the whole – there are several improv principles, and I bring other ones. I also give them experiences of generative thinking. I give them experiences where I know it might be uncomfortable, but I know they’re going to succeed and they’ll do well. And slowly you unfold it and then the activities, you do a lot of warm-ups to get into a different state change. And so as a leader, if you just do, like I know for me, I’ll do a warm-up just to go, I do warm-ups before I facilitate. If leaders, before meetings or before you have to do a talk, if you do some kind of warm-up to break your pattern and get in a state change, you’re going to show up differently, more adaptive and flexible.

So one of the ways, one of the things that I’ve noticed – and I would say it’s more than one particular story, but it’s a pattern with certain types of people – they come in really cynical, and really like, “I don’t understand how playing a bunch of improv games,” and it is true, that you don’t understand until you ground the experience. So I give them experiences, then we ground it into the applications of leadership. So there’s a lot of science and philosophy and connecting it to what they’re already knowing and doing around leadership, so it’s not just random. And when I go into organizations, we actually do it around their actual projects, so they can see in real time how they generate more ideas. I’d say the biggest transformation occurs when you see somebody who – because often the resistance is because somewhere in their history, or whether it was through they’ve been learning or their teacher or parent, they’ve been socialized, traumatized or educated into believing they’re not creative, or into believing their creativity doesn’t matter. So they’ve shut it down. And that’s what the resistance often is. The resistance is just a discomfort in disguise. And when you get people to start to safely, in a safe environment, open up to that creativity, they have it. It’s not a skill to be taught. You’ve got nature on your side. It all comes back.

And what happens is, I see people going from, “This is silly, doesn’t have any relevance to the workplace,” to remembering how creative they are, accessing their creative wellspring, which leads them to feeling empowerment. “Oh, I have more options and choices in everything in my everyday work than I ever thought. I’m not trapped by only what I know. I don’t have to cling onto what worked before. I’m more adaptive to change. I’m more responsive. I’m more comfortable navigating the unknown because I have more confidence in my ability to generate new ideas, to facilitate new ideas, to respond in new and novel and different ways.” And so I’d say the biggest change I see is someone come in kind of stiff and resistant and leaving they’re so thankful to have connected to their creativity, which means options, choices and new possibilities.

Halelly: Fabulous. And you get to do this for a living, right? That’s so cool.

Michelle: I know, I’m so grateful.

Halelly: That is awesome. I hate that the time is running away from us because I want to keep going, but tell us, before we wrap up, what’s new and exciting for you? What’s on your horizon that you’re super charged up about?

Michelle: Well, sure. So I am currently working on a book. And it is called Pattern Breaks: A Facilitator’s Guide to Cultivating Creativity, that I expect to be done this year. And it’s focused both on for leaders and facilitators who want to facilitate other people’s creativity but also becoming a creative leader and creative facilitator. And being more creative, adaptive, resilient, both in the design and the facilitation of whatever you’re leading or cultivating. And how to bring more creativity to the group. So that’s exciting for me. It’s called Pattern Breaks, because obviously that’s the core essence is all about breaking your patterns and cultivating new. So that’s very exciting, and then I will be doing a creative facilitator workshop in D.C. If you get on my mailing list, then you’ll get all the information about where and when. But that’ll be in the spring.

Halelly: Awesome. And we’ll be sure to share with folks how to get on your mailing list, because you really only send out good stuff, actually. And I mean, really, I love how you communicate and I love the things that you create. So I highly recommend that people get in touch with you on a regular basis. And good luck with the book, that is really, really exciting. I can’t wait to see it when it comes out and to read it. So okay, let’s go into that actionable mode – what is one thing that is very actionable, that’s not too hard to do this week, even today, that you think leaders of all kinds can do to increase their creative leadership?

Michelle: Sure. I believe this is the most powerful thing anyone can do and it’s not as much an activity like draw with the opposite side of your hand or anything like that. It is start questioning why you believe what you believe, or why you take the actions you do, when faced with a time where you can either enhance or inhibit your own or someone else’s creativity. When you hear, “That won’t work,” why? Why do I believe it won’t work? Or whether it’s yourself or others. Question your foundational beliefs about yourself as a creator and about creativity and other people. And then you’ll get often to core stories or places that someone else told you, “Well, that won’t work, it’s creative. You can’t paint, or …” Once you access your core creativity story, you have choices and options. You can move forward. You’re not going to be limited, while it remains unconscious. So I’d say the number one thing is, start questioning assumptions. Start questioning your habits and routines, and asking, “Is this the most creative way to do it? What else is there? What else?” Question what you’re doing and ask “What else?”

Halelly: And that’s a very philosophical kind of exercise, and also one I’d say that puts you squarely in the discomfort zone right away, if you even do it. If you can overcome the resistance to doing it.

Michelle: And I have a simple, non-philosophical one too.

Halelly: We’ll save that one for the next time. So this one, I’m thinking it’ll probably be helpful for people to maybe even journal about it, right? Like right down your thinking or something to help process it?

Michelle: Right. Yes. Write it down, because of all the … creativity begins with curiosity. And that’s true, I think, and most people would agree on that. And of all the things that when you reach, when you locate your limiting thoughts, and you get creative power, so yeah, writing it down, drawing it, you know, drawing it – however you want to do it – is helpful.

Halelly: Yes, and/or get a coach, like Michelle, to help you think through it, right? So if people want to get you as their coach or bring you in to do a workshop or bring you in to speak or read more of what you write, how can they keep in touch with you Michelle?

Michelle: Well, first my company is The Center for Creative Emergence, and you can go to www.creativeemergence.com and you can email me and you can just email info@creativeemergence.com and we can set up a time to talk and I can tell you about what I do and how I work and hear what you’re about. No obligation, free call, just to see what’s up and see if there’s anything I can do to offer you or your organization. Also, I want to offer your listeners, who are listening right now, a free e-book that we did. It’s a 97-page e-book where I interviewed 33 thought leaders, business leaders and applied creativity practitioners and we asked them the same six questions. One of them is “what is creative leadership?” And we got some amazing answers. And there’s also, each one was asked to provide a creative practice that you can apply. And this is all about creativity and innovation in the business world. It’s called Navigating the New Work Paradigm, and it’s all about applied creativity and innovation. So, for anyone listening, put free e-book in the subject line of the email and it’s info@creativeemergence.com and I will send you an e-book and hope you enjoy it.

Halelly: Wow, thank you so much. That is very cool. And that is a really useful resource. I also love the recorded version of your telesummit on creativity in business, which I listened to. I bought that and I’ve listened to it so much. It is so useful. So Michelle, thank you. Thank you for spending time with us on the TalentGrow Show. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Thank you for the work that you do and for being a person who helps make the world truly, truly a better place. I really appreciate you and I hope that everyone, go out there and make today a great day.

Michelle: Thank you so much Halelly for having me. It’s great fun to talk to you.

Halelly: Thank you. Likewise. Make it great.

What did I tell you? Wasn’t that great? I love Michelle and I hope that you will take that action she suggests, even though it’s a little bit philosophical, but start journaling about or write or doodling about or drawing or just think while you’re driving somewhere and start questioning why? Why are you making some of the assumptions that you’re making? Because a lot of times the ways that we react and the way that we behave are basically embedded in habits that we’ve built over time, and sometimes they’re not really very consciously selected. They’re just sort of ways we do things by force of nature or unintentionally or subconsciously. So, I think she has a really great suggestion that I hope you’ll take her up on.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to this podcast, please take a moment and go to iTunes or to Stitcher or to whatever app you use for playing podcasts and make sure that you’re subscribed to the podcast, because that makes sure that you never miss an episode. And, I really, really would appreciate if you took a couple of moments and shared what you liked about this podcast with someone – at least one other person – that you think could also benefit from this. Because you know, people are often not aware that this is a resource that’s out there. They’re listening to other stuff and maybe they’re just looking for just the right way to develop their leadership skills, and you would be helping them so much by telling them about this podcast. So if you’ve been enjoying it, please tell at least one other person. You can tell them when you get together with them for dinner, when you meet them in the coffee shop or you can email them or send them something on social media. If every person who enjoys this podcast does that, it’s going to help me reach so many more people, which is why I do this.

So, right before I close, I want to share with you one of the latest great iTunes recommendation or reviews that I received, the podcast received, and this one comes from Michael. He said, the title is “Gems of practical wisdom,” and he gave five stars. And he said, “Listening to Halelly Azulay’s podcast is time well spent. She does a great job identifying diverse experts and asking thoughtful questions that draw out gems of practical wisdom.” Michael, thank you so much for writing that review, taking the time, and for those kind words. I appreciate you. And I hope that others, you are listening and you’re enjoying this, if you don’t mind, you would be doing me a huge favor and maybe kind of paying back for this time by just leaving me one or two sentences review. You don’t have to, but I would sure appreciate it if you did. And as always, if there’s suggestions you have or requests that you have, you just need to let me know. Because I am here for you. So, let me know what you need, tell me how I can serve you and until then, make it a great day. Thanks for listening. Bye.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

Don't forget to LEAVE A RATING/REVIEW ON iTUNES! It’s easy to do (here’s how to do it in 4 easy steps). Thank you!!

Get my free guide, "10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them" and receive my weekly newsletter full of actionable tips, links and ideas for taking your leadership and communication skills to the next level!

You Might Also Like These Posts:

Ep 06: How to be a more creative leader with Gregg Fraley

Premiere Episode: How Leaders Can Avoid Being Overworked and Overwhelmed with Scott Eblin

5 Lessons on being a creative leader from three TalentGrow Show podcast guests