Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Emotional Intelligence’ Category

The Green Stuff of Life

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Money on November 6, 2009 at 9:37 am

dreamstime_2684500Money. Money. Money. We simply can’t live with out it, and we wouldn’t want to either. Money is simply in every fiber and fabric of our lives. It is that basic and deep to us as human beings. It’s something we need to survive.

Think about the things that only money can buy—a better education for you or someone in your family; medicine to bring health of comfort to a parent who is gravely ill, or maybe a beautiful ring for the girl you want to marry. Are these things possible without money—99 percent of the time, the answer to that question is no. Too bad no one has invented a “money tree” just yet. Sure would make life easier, wouldn’t it?

Yet as important and vital as money is in our lives we often don’t stop to consider the long-term effect our values and beliefs about money will have on the outcome of our lives and our careers.

Let’s face it; to a great extent, our financial resources determine what our lives will be like. The amount of money you earn effects most options and choices that are available to you: where you live, the number of children you can afford to raise in the way you envision, how much you can save for your retirement, where you travel, and what kind of car you drive. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ is Alive!

In Author: Jim Hart, Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Health & Wellness, WEBSITES & BLOGS on November 5, 2009 at 7:03 am

IAE logoIn September of 2010 The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ will open its doors at 3020 N Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Our two year finishing program, will teach artists how to make a living from their artistry.

To learn more about IAE check out our website. Applications for early enrollment are now being accepted.

I Wanna Ride a Race Horse

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, Health & Wellness on October 30, 2009 at 4:11 am

dreamstime_5752927
I wanna ride a race horse
to see how fast she’ll go

I want an easy winner
to WIN, Place AND Show

The metaphor’s familiar
our dreams not too dissimilar

Work smart, live loud
feel the ground- come unwound

Be real, smile high, spring up, twitter, fly
Feet first, squarely planted on the ground

Were you expecting something more profound?

Who Gets to be an Artist or A Designer?

In Author: Tommy Dawin, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Recently re-reading Lisa Canning’s wonderful piece “Innovating through Artistry” I am reminded of a surprising challenge we face in promoting the value of art and artists. We work hard to demonstrate our value in a world that is hard skilled, bottom line, and ROI driven. We take the challenge to cross the border into the land of business, policy, and technology. And, yet, I wonder how hard we make it for ourselves in the ways we patrol our own borders and how easily we welcome others into our midst as fellow artists and designers.
One of the possibilities that inspires me most is teaching as many people as possible (and especially our kids) to be artistically and creatively adept, able to learn the skills and mindsets that characterize the “creative class.” Following the inspiration of local artists to democratize the arts and designers who promote the spread of “design thinking,” I have created curriculum and programs that teach the processes of art and design to “non” artists and designers, to give them a very powerful platform from which to change the world.
In the process I almost inevitably come against the question of who gets to be an artist or a designer. When I first started talking about teaching design to community members as a way to engage community challenges, some of the biggest resistance came not from business or community leaders but from some professional and academic artists and designers who I approached as potential partners. They expressed concern that I was trivializing or dumbing down their art and discipline by implying that anyone can be an artist or designer. Or, that if we share the knowledge too easily, it will be taken from us and that we will no longer be needed. Or, that one only becomes a “real” artist or designer after years of training and practice.
I struggle with this question, because there is an important distinction between someone with years of formal training and professional experience and someone who is an amateur. And, yet, we are all artists and designers by virtue of being human, and the more we cultivate and spread that capability and sense for the world, the better off we are.
So, who gets to be an artist or a designer?

I Care, How Can I Get You To?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, The Idea on October 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm

One of the challenges each of us faces when we contemplate the development of our ideas into a product or service, is just exactly “how do we generate interest from others in what each of us finds important”?

How do we know if what we see, believe, feel and think will “take root in the market”? What must we do so that others will care about and value our ideas, products and services as much as we do?

Well, if I knew the perfect answer to this, I would have an orchard filled with money trees in my backyard. But what I can share, based on personal experience, are three (less-than-reliable) assumptions about how to get people to care about our ideas and three rules-of-thumb for creating conditions that might actually get them to.

(Of course we never can be sure if people will care for sure– as we know, we all are free to choose….)

Assumption #1:
The House is Burning! Jump! FIRE!

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The idea of a burning platform is actually a metaphor based on supposedly a true story: In the North Sea an oil platform had caught fire and was burning fast. On it was a lone worker. He had a decision to make: Probable death if he jumped, certain death if he stayed.

What we are talking about here is creating a condition where we instill fear and apply pressure– a fear of being unable to turn back- pressure for fast, decisive action or else everything goes up in smoke.

When any of one us is presented with a “must act now” if “you want to live” strategy, most of us will support the strategy and will act. People, after all, do want to survive. However it is hard to predict how we will act. Some will get on board, others will panic and freeze, some will try and make themselves look good at the expense of others, while some will hide from the bad news.

Moral of the story: When faced with a burning platform, people will choose self-preservation over the common good.

Assumption #2: Create Buy-In
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Similar to the burning platform, “buy-in” is also a rich metaphor. Creating “buy-in” is an old sales term. When we create buy-in we:
Present a strong case convincingly
Create a motivational presentation
Make sure everyone understands what’s in it for them
Close the deal by asking for a commitment

The problem is that creating “buy-in” is set up for only one kind of answer. Style and technique take the place of substance and purpose leaving us, “the audience,” not sure if we like, let alone feel good about, what we are suppose to be “buying in” to…..

Moral of the assumption: People see through the art of subtle manipulation. Care cannot be packaged to be bought.

Assumption #3 Create the Perfect Incentives
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“If you want to teach a dog a new trick, give him a bone”… isn’t that how the saying goes? If you set up a scenario that rewards the behavior you seek, then you will get a treat.

The problem is that this system will only work if the rewards we are offering others are important to them. And while this system can certainly shape behavior, it does not produce care.

Take for example the customer service representative who is rewarded based on the number of completed orders they take in an hour. Predictably they will rush through each call and cut as many corners as possible so they can complete more orders and “earn” their treat. On one level the system is working because more calls are being handled per hour. On another, it is destroying the employees natural desire to provide quality service and show they care.

Moral of the story: Incentives don’t incent others to care.

Three Rules of Thumb
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Rule of Thumb #1:
Find Out What is Important to the Other Person and Act On It

We live in a world where, I don’t know about you, but I certainly walk around and wonder ” Does anyone really care about anyone anymore?” People are STARVED for attention- they crave being listened to and understood. starbucks cupWhen we ask questions and learn about others, we empower others through OUR listening and care. And when we ACT on their interests, concerns, wishes or hopes, and deliver something to them that they really care about, we find a much more receptive audience for our own ideas.

The days of mass marketing and appeal are over. We are in the age of “niching” to produce thriving. A grande skim latte with 2 equals, no foam, double cup it please, is the meal du jour and so we must learn to listen carefully to others needs to cater to those we wish most to serve.

Rule of Thumb #2: Support Others In Achieving Their Goals
How does your product or service help support others in achieving their goals? Products and services must offer real tangible benefits. Put the same time and energy into your clients to help them identify and achieve from your products and services something of real value to them. Designing (and redesign) your products and services to reach the right market where real benefit will be offered. By doing so you will find your clients really do care about what you have to deliver.

Rule of Thumb #3: Speak From Your Heart dreamstime_8018984
Stop telling people what you have to offer them. Start talking about what is important to you and speak from your heart when you do.

Story: Several recovering addicts were talking in an AA meeting about how to improve treatment services. The conversation began with the usual ideas– making the community a better place by helping people. And it wasn’t long before the conversation fell flat.

Then one person got up in the meeting and told his story– a story about how in his darkest hours as an addict, in his greatest need, people he did not know listened to him. Total strangers answered his plea for help and got him into treatment. They cared about him when there wasn’t much to care about.

Moral of the story: This recovering addicts goal was indeed simple and by sharing from his heart, the entire tone and energy of the meeting changed. While he really did want to “give back to the community and care for others”, the most important ingredient to getting others in the meeting to become more involved and care, came from his telling his story- his truth- from his heart.

So, tell us your story. (This is why I created the ETA competition by the way. And you still have time to enter or encourage others to do so.)

And if you’ve joined us here at ETA because you want to learn how to better lead “your tribe” forward, or begin to build a tribe of your very own– one that will come to care about what you find most important in life– then start by aligning your words and actions in a way that reflects your honesty and integrity. Even if you don’t know what products and services you would like to offer, this would be an excellent way to begin to figure out what you should offer.

After all consider this: If you are not willing to put your wholehearted-self behind what you care about and tell the truth to the world about what is in your heart, then why should anyone really care?

Having struggled to build, for over twenty years, profitable businesses, creating ETA (that is rising from nothing), written Build a Blue Bike, (a book that teaches how to develop entrepreneurial empathy and transform it into a creative venture), and now, embarking on the journey of launching The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™, I can tell you it is not for the faint of heart, the insecure or vulnerable. And this is also why we as artists need entrepreneurial training– so that every single one of us can learn how to wear our he(arts) on our sleeve and build our audiences for life from the ideas we care most about.

If there is only one thing in this post which I am certain is valuable to you–forgive me for it taking so much of your time to explain- it is this: Listening to others and speaking from your heart it is the only way to build a rock solid foundation of mutual trust in, and care for, the ideas you care most about. No Starving Artist 2010It also holds the key to opening the door to a sustainable artistic career: one that produces enough income for you to live happily-ever-after. Amen.

Signs and Change

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, Emotional Intelligence on October 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

The other day, in a bad mood, I went for a walk and asked the universe for a sign. I didn’t really have a particular sign in mind. I didn’t even have a question in mind that I needed an answer for. I just needed to know that there was something bigger than myself at work in the world that I could have faith in.

When it comes to signs, in the absence of religion any statistical improbability will do. On an empty street near a parked car I found eleven dollars on the ground- a $10 wrapped around a $1 and I took it to mean that the universe was listening. Being rather literal minded I took it to mean that what I was really looking for was change and that when I was ready for that change it would become available.

I decided that since I had gotten the sign that I had asked for (and since I hadn’t really asked for money) that it wouldn’t be right to keep the cash. I decided I would give the $11 to the next person to ask me for change, which turned out to be one of the ladies that I work with who was promoting a fundraising drive for the Off The Street Club to help get youths off the street in Garfield Park. For a low, low donation of just $10 I could get a kid Off The Streets. It just so happened that I had $10.

I gave them $11- I hope they didn’t mind.

What Does Your Blue Bike Look Like?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, The Idea on October 12, 2009 at 11:40 am

balloon_bike_transpBG_50%Bite-Size Arts Ensemble Member, Dharmesh Bhagat, built this blue bike out of balloons for me. Isn’t it cute? What does your blue bike look like? Do you know? And what does it mean to build a blue bike anyway?

To me, the journey of learning how to take the pain in your heart and transform it into an entrepreneurial vision that is so strong and robust it produces an economic engine in your life- financial transportation- is what I call building a blue bike. It is impossibly difficult to do alone and requires an undying amount of support from others to accomplish. And I want you each to know how grateful I am, that you have been here for me on my own blue bike building journey.

Ever since I wrote my book, Build a Blue Bike, the pain in my heart has only grown. While I was very lucky to land a big agent, Susan Schulman, who represented Economist, Richard Florida’s Rise of The Creative Class, my timing could not have been worse. As we entered into a Big Big Recession I was trying to sell this book…..

I still hold out hope that someday I will hear back from Tarcher- my dream publisher. Julia Cameron: Artist Way- continues to be a big hit for The Tarcher Publishing company. So currently my manuscript resides in the back of my sock drawer, while my deep desire to help artists transform from the inside-out continues to grow.

My pain comes from a lifetime of artistic experiences that one-by-one drove me to become incredibly cautious and careful around artists because of the dysfunction I experienced trying to share the music in my heart with them. It was the drama, self-destruction, withdrawal, denial, arrogance, insecurity, back stabbing and anger I saw in others that made me take the joyful music inside my heart and lock it away. This was not what tickled my funny bone and called my artistic name to the clarinet and it is not where artistic entrepreneurial vision comes from. As a child, it was a love for exploring my own artistry and sharing my creativity with others that seeded my entrepreneurial abilities.

And it broke my heart to pull away from my deepest desires to play the clarinet for my life’s work when I was at the top of my musical game, at the end of my days as a college student at Northwestern. I truly wanted then and still want to share my creativity intimately with others. And while I went on to build creative ventures over the past twenty- years, creatively finding a way to put my need to play my clarinet each time at the center of my ventures, my heart continued to feel pain.

So after twenty years of living with my pain it grew so strong and loud, I wrote Build A Blue Bike hoping if I did something positive about it- by writing a book to share with others what only my artistry and unique vision blended together can see- it would help others heal and the pain I felt would finally subside. But the pain did not stop. So when Build A Blue Bike did not sell to a major publisher, my dream and hope for it still, I created Entrepreneur The Arts®. But it was still not enough.

From there came The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble™ and somehow, as this ensemble has struggled to take flight, I realized that while the pain inside of me was duller and throbbed less, as my vision for what I could do with it was growing stronger and clearer, it was still inside of me. I know that our show What is Your Imagination Worth? A New Kind of ROI is going to really help those who experience it learn about how they can change, evolve and grow. But I need what my audiences learn about developing their imaginations, to become something real: something that nourish their hearts and others souls. Something made to last. Maybe even forever- or for at least a lifetime on this earth.

And now, finally, last night, at Flourish Studios, with Stanley Drucker in the house, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ has been born. Finally, after three and a half years of struggling, I feel like I have found the ignition key for my vision and a turning point for my heart to begin its work of healing.

You see, I want so badly to help you to discover your own vision, like I have. I want your deepest pain in life to become a vision of what you can positively change in the world that will help you create an artistic life filled with meaningful opportunities for you, and others, to learn from and endlessly grow. I know you will be happier and emotionally healthier the moment you decide to. I know when more of you are living a LIFE YOU DREAM that the dysfunction I see in the arts will slowly, but surely, change. I still so want to experience what our shared positive creativity and artistry can do for this world. Don’t you?

So what does it take to build your very own blue bike? One that will last forever, and ever, or as long as your vision can see, and until the pain in your heart has been nourished into health?

OK. If you are brave enough to consider trying to, here are a few things you have got to know:

#1 However long you think it is going to take to transform the pain in your heart into entrepreneurial vision– know that building a meaningful creative venture- one that is built to last- requires a large investment of time– at least a couple of years if not more.

#2 You need to be willing to set aside your need for clarity and perfection and be able to live with a tangled web of ideas at first- a mess- in the development stage of your personal transformation. Turning pain into vision is a process that is not neat and tidy. And you need excellent role models to help you navigate through so you find the most expeditious way. Nothing short will do. The bigger the pain the greater the vision can be and the longer it can take for your artistic vision to become clear and focused and financially able to take flight.

#3 You must be willing to continuously attempt to launch your ideas into the world knowing that you will need repeatedly to rebound from many failed attempts until you finally find some traction for them. You will be laughed at, ignored, disrespected, ridiculed, slighted and humbled by this process every single time it happens– until your vision is perfectly aligned with the pain in your heart and it ignites the transmission of your creative venture. And then… you will be celebrated like the hero everyone always knew you would become. (It is the hero’s journey we are talking about here. It is what has to happen for your artistry to take economic flight.)

#4 You need tenacity to fuel ideas. Consistent effort that is unwilling to stop–What is it that your heart needs most to not be in pain? Whatever that is, there lies the endless source of your tenacity.

#5 You need to be or become a great collaborative communicator. When we share our vision and receive feedback from others about it, we learn how we are being perceived. When we get it right, our vision will manifest itself into economic opportunities that seemingly will pop right up out of nowhere– and become our transportation into our future.

#6 And lastly, you need to have excellent ethical judgement. What goes around comes around. If you do what’s right every single time, eventually you will be rewarded. And if you do what is right and true for you, eventually your heart will feel whole and your ideas will roll and the money will flow…

#7 Remember–Where there is money, there is energy and where there is energy there is a lifetime of economic opportunity…

And politics aside- Isn’t this really what Obama keeps telling us? This IS our moment. WE are the future of history. OUR time has come. It is Now. Are you Ready?

Big hearts come from Art

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creative Support, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Writing on September 18, 2009 at 5:25 am

Let Your Heart SoarWhat the world needs more than ever is to discover who we are.

Do you know who you are?
Still holding your one-way ticket there?

Big hearts come from Art.
YOUR IMAGINATION won’t dream small.

Wear your art on your sleeve with me.
Let me see you soar into the person you most want to become.

Today was a great day…. how about for you?

What kind of artistic life in the future will you live?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Health & Wellness on September 6, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Lisa 2009What kind of artistic life in the future will you live? What does the rest of this year, 2010 and beyond hold for you? Can you describe it to me?

Do you see yourself becoming more involved in the creation of your artistry, do you see greater connectivity to others, what about the twisty- misty road called your creative journey finally occupying center stage?

Does your future artistic life need more time, more money, more training, more love, less self-loathing, more what… to achieve what it most needs?

I think every artist I have ever met has said, in one way or another that for them, their artistic life is about making a difference. But exactly how big of a difference were you thinking you will make and for whom? Will that difference be for you, for your immediate family, for your friends, your community, for the world?

What arts entrepreneurship training offers- that NOTHING ELSE IN LIFE that I have discovered yet does- is a way to achieve, shape, re-shape, define, re-define, refine and live the artistic life you have always wanted to live– exactly as you see it from moment to moment, day to day, week to week and year after year.

Albeit, just like most things in life, enjoying the journey to your destination is the most important part of the ride, but entrepreneurial training offers you a blank map to start and re-start until you create the perfect road to be able to. A road that feels and looks exactly right for you to take- one that you will find infectiously helps you learn how to truly enjoy looking out your window as you tavel along your way.

The trick is.. how many roads are you willing to try and create? If you keep designing, unknowingly, roads that turn out to be dead ends how much gas, time and energy are you willing to sacrifice, with an open-mind, before you simply become another believer that an artists life is a dream, a hobby or nothing more than a disjunct, disconnected, endless string of failed attempts and not a life?

How many years will it take before you start telling yourself, and then your family and friends in so many words, ” I cannot indulge myself with this expensive addiction any longer. Who am I kidding- it needs to be controlled and limited..”

When we passionately decided we love the arts, it can happen at any age, and we naively declare our hearts intentions to our family and friends- in those following moments, days, weeks and years after, how often do we give thought to exactly how to protect our love– let alone build an artistic life that still makes our knees buckle, our hearts pound and makes us coo “After all these years I am still madly in love with you. You give me everything in life I need. If it were not for you, where would my life be?”

(Pause)

It is almost hard for me to write another word following that thought. It gives me a big lump in my throat as I let those words sit with me.

It’s an understatement for me to say that I really hope you feel this way and always do.

And yet, if I had not thought long ago carefully about what kind of artistic life I wanted to live and then developed my entrepreneurial skills as a vehicle to achieve it, I am not sure where I would be today.

I love the view from my window. How about you?

Do You “Play” Music?

In Author: David Cutler, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music on September 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

In my experience, few things in life are more enjoyable than the act of making music. Music is fun!  How wonderful it is that we use the verb “play” to describe this endeavor!

Yet for too many musicians, the activity pursued when singing or touching their instrument couldn’t be further from play. Instead they tense up, get nervous, or even break down. “Musicing” is used as a vehicle for proving self-worth. Obsessed with impressing others and (more importantly) themselves, damning condemnations come with every mistake or less than perfect articulation.  Each time a note sounds, the ego’s Gestapo-like jury weighs in. And the verdict is usually—guilty.  No wonder so many performers look miserable on stage. No wonder so many fail to connect physically with the sounds they create, or invoke even a smile. Who could possibly enjoy this kind of constant, brutal self-interrogation?

 But take a step back.  You’re not exactly doing hard physical labor, fighting a war, or stuck in a boring office job. You get to make music!  So love every moment.

 Successful musical performance is not about perfection. It is about connecting with others. It’s also about empowerment and liberation and a spiritual journey into an extraordinary place that no other human experience can deliver.

 Music is a blessing.  Remember this, with every wrong note you play.  Remember this every time you lose a competition or perform less than your best.  Be thankful that you can participate in such a miracle. And when you exude exuberant joy through your art, everyone around will cherish the moment as well.  We can all use more blissful energy in our life, and music is an ideal tool.

 So relax. Enjoy. Play!

I had a revealing exchange with an Indonesian gamelan composer a few years back.  He told me that after each performance, the players gathered around and discussed how things went that night.  Just like we do. They would recall bloopers from the performance. Just like we do. But then the conversation would take an unfamiliar turn: “Did you hear when I clammed that note during the quiet section?”  “Yeah, that was awsome!”  And they’d laugh about it. Laugh until they turned purple. No apologies.  Ever. Because music is fun. Because music is play.

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success and impact with your musical career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com, “Home Base for Music Careers,” for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, information about the most important music career book in print, and more.

The Institute For Arts Entrepreneurship- Opening Fall 2010!

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on August 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm

InstArtsEntrep_BoldIn the fall of 2010 The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship will open at 3020 N Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.

As an independent but collaborative effort with Jim Hart’s Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, IAE will be devoted to the development of the artist as entrepreneur.

Lead by my vision and passion, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship will be seeking applicants from any artistic discipline. Requirements for enrollment will be a minimum of a 4 year degree–a bachelors degree– in an artistic discipline. The program will be a two year program that is focused on artistic venture creation and servant leadership. It will begin as a school in the fall of 2010 with full accreditation. Auditions will begin February/March of 2010 for all interested applicants.

For more information about enrollment or if you are interested in partnering with either Jim Hart or myself, in some way, please email me. Lisa@EntrepreneurTheArts.com

Batteries Included

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Music, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on August 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

horse
bug
viagra

While there are lots of ways to feel like your batteries are super charged in life, I think the only one that really works is following your heart.

Unlike your camera, computer, watch, or the clock you own that needs batteries to run, you are self-empowered and come with a life long battery included.

You see your heart never needs a new battery to super charge your life. Nor does it need the thrill of riding on a mechanical horse, or zooming around on the wings of a battery powered bug, or the jolt of a pill to get your juices flowing.

If you think you need any of those things to jump-start your life, your taking your one ever-lasting battery for granted. Don’t do that. It won’t stay super charged anyway for very long if you do, unless you give it the energy it really needs by fueling your life with passion.

Yeah, I know. We have talked about this a few times before: passionate pursuits are never easy. It sounds great to pursuit what you love, doesn’t it, until you find yourself riddled with moments that don’t seem passionate at all- times when you simply are grateful you do come with a battery included so you can just keep on running.

Sure we all have moments like these on the road to our adventure. But keep your eye on your vision, pursue your passions, sleigh your dragons anyway, beat back the bushes with your home made machete, and be the first to walk where only your dream can see.

After all, this is why you do come with batteries included…

Lemonade Stands and Teaching Our Kids to be Entrepreneurial

In Author: Tommy Dawin, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea on August 18, 2009 at 6:16 am

Summertime is the season for lemonade stands, especially when it’s hot outside. In my neighborhood they sprout like pink and yellow flowers, advertise with markers on neon poster-board signs. Lately, they have even been diversifying their offerings. In addition to the usual varieties of lemonade, I’ve noticed one stand selling brownies and cookies, while another was selling dog biscuits (showing some astute marketing research since in our neighborhood there are a great number of people are out walking dogs).

Given my interest in how to cultivate and support entrepreneurs, I can’t help but wonder how these lemonade stands are seeds for the next generation of entrepreneurs. In an article in Inc. Magazine two years ago, George Gendron made the point that “kids with passion are our next great entrepreneurs.”* Lemonade stands are a great beginning for teaching our kids to be entrepreneurial, and for a great many reasons our kids will benefit. So, by teaching our kids to be entrepreneurial, what are we teaching them?

1) A habit of looking for and an ability to recognize opportunities, especially the ability to reframe challenges as opportunities. Opportunities emerge from the right people coming together in the right situation with enough resources to make something happen. In the process of learning how to do this, our kids will also learn to be more open minded and empathic, and will cultivate the habit of understanding others.

2) The know-how to do something with those opportunities when they are identified or created. Imagine the benefit to our kids if they learn how to use their knowledge to create solutions to problems that matter or bring meaning to peoples’ lives, pull together the necessary people and resources, and then build a plan for actually making it happen.

3) This third element is the most intangible and the most important—having the courage and willingness to act. What ultimately distinguishes an entrepreneur (in any realm) is that they are the ones who step up and say “I’ll do it.” This will teach our kids that taking on challenges doesn’t mean they should not be scared or act as if failure is not a possibility. It means that despite all this, they are willing to take the chance to start something and to see it through.

Whether our kids ever start businesses, they will start and sustain many ventures and undertakings during their lives. And, the willingness to squarely face a challenge which is at the heart of entrepreneurship will be ever more important as they inherit the world we have created.

*Gendron’s article is at http://www.inc.com/magazine/20071001/guest-speaker-the-real-world.html

Are You Relevant?

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Money, Music, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on August 17, 2009 at 4:48 am

Are you relevant? Do you define your artistic work based on its practical, economic and social applicability to satisfy the needs of those who experience what you do? And if not, then I cannot help but ask the question, why not?

I realize that we all have a need to create and experiment in life. By doing so we are offered extraordinary opportunities to not only affirm who we are but get to know ourselves better. We learn from what works and, more often, learn the most from what does not work for us– which often allows us to find new more meaningful paths to explore.

But at what point in life do we need to become more practical, more disciplined? Is it ever to early (or late) in life to do this? And when you do, or find the help to, what are the benefits you receive for doing so?

The other day I had a young talented clarinetist– a sophomore in college- in the shop. We were discussing his future career aspirations and performing was right at the top of his list- like most of my clients. When I asked him what about performing was so motivating for him, his answer was ” Well, for a long time I was not sure I could rise to the occasion and play well enough to become an orchestral musician. It is only recently that I am starting to feel I can. Now the question I am asking myself is, do I want to do this?”

I realize that as a young adult- and even as an aging adult- coming to know who we are is a very important part of our educational journey. And alongside this process of growth and development routinely we must be challenged to answer questions like: “And if you do want to perform who specifically will want what you have to offer?”

I cannot help but wonder what we are really learning about the meaning of art, not to mention effectively reaching an audience who cares about what we have to offer from our chosen artistic field of study, if we are not challenged to explore questions like these. If you excel at Music Theory from the Middle Ages, even if you get a PHD in it and can teach it at the college level– who is it relevant to– besides you?

Take a look at my dear friend Gary Beckman- Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Network founder. His received his PHD in musicology in 2007 from The University of Texas at Austin. During his doctoral course work, Gary realized that his course of study was not really all that relevant and went on to pursue something that he felt was not only more relevant, but also deeply motivating for him– developing arts entrepreneurship curriculum. Now don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot from my musicology courses and loved my professors who taught them. I also think it is GREAT that Gary has vision for the growth and evolution of arts entrepreneurship curriculum, but think of what he could have accomplished, and how much happier and entrepreneurial he might have become sooner, if he had been challenged to think about how relevant his field of study was, to him and for others, at an earlier point in life?

Questioning and experimenting with our relevancy through action is at the heart of WHY the arts must become a field of entrepreneurial study in addition to traditional skill building. THE ONLY WAY artists can create sustainable happy career paths for themselves is to learn how to produce a product– relevancy.

As a young clarinetist I too asked myself the same questions my young client shared with me. I remember wondering if I could become good enough, play perfectly enough, musically enough and in tune enough to win an orchestral audition and be at the top of the heap. I challenged myself to get there with no other focus than to succeed. ( And of course, without a course or educational guidance to help me think about my goals differently.)

I started out almost last chair my freshman year at Northwestern. By my sophomore year I was at the top of my class– beating out all the masters and doctorate students, some of whom were finalists at regional orchestra auditions around the country. And when I reached that goal, all of a sudden I realize I had no idea what was next. It was not the feeling of eternal bliss I thought I would have, nor was anyone beating down my doors asking me to audition for any major orchestra. Instead it was in the middle of my senior year that I realized that I did not feel relevant. I did not feel that what skills I had developed really mattered to anyone significantly, except for me.

So it was then that I asked myself “how can I use the skills I do have to be relevant?” and from that thought I tested my ideas by putting my solution into action- by opening up a clarinet shop and helping others develop their career paths by helping them find the perfect instrument for their “relevant” music making. It was only then that I actually understood what truly it felt like to become relevant. It’s kind of funny to me, right now, that I am back where I started- after a 20 year adventure building a large business- but life is funny like that. I am being given a second chance to look at how I am relevant and I, again, am figuring it out.

But you see what I realized the first time, at 17, was that what I did have that was relevant was a gift to help and connect to others. I also had a gift to play the clarinet well. I also knew that artists needed to feel better about who they are and find their own confidence, through finding their own relevance, to become kinder to themselves and to others and strong enough to trust themselves that they could actually change the world.

Don’t ask me how exactly I knew this then– call it my God given vision- other than I did not then, and often still do not now, see the kind of inspirational collaboration or connectivity amongst others I crave in the world to see. Of all places- the arts should be outstanding examples for others of both.

Finding my relevancy at 17 gave me my first glimpse into what it meant to make a difference in life. Is it ever too early or too late to find your own? (It’s ok too, btw, if you need a school and a mentor to help you. You don’t have to find your relevancy, like I did, alone.)

Finding your relevancy will give you vision to lead. It will temper your being into a refined piece of artwork that the world wants and that you will be happy to share.

Finding your relevancy means you will feel at peace- because you are valued. You are payed- because you are needed. And that you will feel confident- because when we feel connected to ourselves and to others simultaneously, life does not get any better.

“Are you relevant,” I ask? If not– it is time to learn how you can be….

An Entrepreneurial Lesson and a Little Bit of Magic

In Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Leadership, Legal, Money, Networking, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea on July 30, 2009 at 9:03 am

Lisa 2009Today I drove into Chicago to meet two women who run and own a two-year-old-child- development center. For the purposes of this post, they and their business will remain nameless, but the jist of their story I will share because it holds a few really important entrepreneurial lessons…. and a little bit of magic.

First- a little bit of background: My meeting with these women was my first. I was referred to them by another client. They expressed interest in finding a business coach, so I made the trip to meet with them.

What I learned while I was there: These two women have created a center that over the past two years has grown from an idea, into a business plan, to a real physical location that now 100 families 3-5 times a week use weekly for their children to play and learn through arts based experiences.

These ladies are extremely intelligent, well educated, hold advanced degrees, and have had very successful careers. They were inspired to start a business together based of their common interests and past lives where they realized the importance of arts education and what it could bring to a child’s developmental learning through play. Childs Play Touring Theater, which I have written about before, has a similiar focus through theater- another extraordinary business in its own right.

But my point in sharing their story with you, is to reveal how close they are to failing in their business. While they bravely and fearlessly invested their time and money for the past two years, and risked their futures while passionately embracing their mission, they are finding themselves feeling uncertain about their future in business mostly because they did not plan for change in their business plan.

Every business plan changes. We start with one on paper and then need to keep revising it as we go. These women wrote their plan and then when it no longer made sense to follow it, stopped using it as a measuring stick.

What I mean by this is that a business plan is written with both intellectual mastery of your venture and emotional mastery of your understanding of what it will take to accomplish. It is written with a certain level of profitability to achieve, sales and specific offerings in mind. When any one of these elements is not being achieved, as a result of economic conditions, clients needs and desires or for any other reason, it is extremely important to revisit both your thinking and emotional understanding of what has changed and why.

This allows you to not only figure out how to get “back on track,” or find an equally new parallel track, but it also educates your “gut” –increasing your awareness– about what it looks and feels like when the sand under your feet is shifting and you need to zig or zag, right then. This awareness becomes critical as your venture grows, and remains critical through out the life of your entire venture.

So, as a result of having distanced themselves emotionally from their plan, and not continuing to revise their course, NOW they have a real problem- their business might not survive.

What created their problem? Where was the zig they missed acting on?

With an extraordinary economic downturn looming unannounced before they opened, plain and simply- their passion lead them to open in a large location and spend more on space than they now can afford. The business did not grow as quickly as they had projected. While they have retained customers through this downturn, they have not added them, as predicted in their plan. Having not taken a salary in two years, they are now weary, their planned savings has run out and their landlord wants his money for rent past due and frankly wants them evicted.

So what would you tell them to do? Pray? Close their doors and run?

Sometimes, in key moments in a venture- when everything can turn to dust ( and everyone has these moments) the chemistry is perfectly ripe for magic to happen. Let me explain.

You see when I was driving down to meet them, I was following the directions my GPS was giving me. As I left the expressway and turned on a major road that intersected with their street, I looked to my left and saw a business that sold kids furniture that had a name that was extremely similar to theirs. At first I thought maybe it was their location. But then I realized, while the name of this business complimented theirs nicely, it was an entirely different business.

Thinking nothing more about it I drove to my meeting. Well, as their stress filled tale unfolded before my eyes, and we began to brainstorm about how they could avoid bankruptcy and closing their doors, I remembered the building with the sign I saw around the corner from them. I quickly asked them if they knew the owner and the business and they said yes. In fact the owner of that business had made a point, on several occasions, of coming to visit and offering advice and encouragement. In turn, they had referred business to him.

It was right then it popped into my head that their business was an excellent marketing opportunity for the owner of this childrens furniture business. His store would benefit from having a play center inside of it. Why? Because nothing but parents walk in and out to pick up their kids. Parents could browse while they wait for classes to finish or as they come and go with their kids.

By pitching the idea of moving their business into his store- which by the way is a huge store with lots of extra space- not only could their synergy help each of them, but potentially these women could negotiate a free place, or almost free place, to run their business because of their ability to bring in clients to the furniture store daily and build traffic and interest for his products. Not to mention the fact that currently the owner is not open Monday through Friday- but only by appointment- and by allowing these woman to run their business in his space, he would have built in store hours and be open for business as these women easily could allow people to browse and set up the owners appointments.

It turns out that this owner is a furniture manufacturer first, and a retail store owner second. He also runs large print advertisement in major publications–the same ones that would help these two women and their business. By encouraging him to include in his advertising that he hosts a learning development/play center for children inside his store, it will only add to the communities positive impression of his business and interest in it.

Seems as though, magically, we might have stumbled into not only a clever marketing proposition for both businesses but also a way for these two women to not close their doors. And the most magical part about it was that for the most part, the idea that held the most promise and quickest fix for them was right there for the taking– if they could have been a little more able to zig and zag.

It just took them inviting a total stranger in to speak with them, with a good mind for out of the box ideas, and a lot of experience “zigging and zagging,” to let them see the connections they already had and could leverage.

Next week these two ladies have asked me to take the lead in negotiating this vision over lunch with the owner of the furniture store. I hope the cosmos keeps the fairy dust sprinkler on until then–when your parched enough to die, a little goes a long way to restoring you to life.

What Role Does Artistry Play in Creativity?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Health & Wellness, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk on July 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Last week, when I attended Columbia College’s Creative Entrepreneurship Conference, an interesting tension arose between myself and a participant of the conference.

In my panel discussion, “Creative Entrepreneurship in A Time of Change”, I raised the issue of why is it that there are not more artistic individuals becoming leaders of creativity in the 21st Century Creative Economy? Why is it that on Fast Company’s 2009– 100 most creative individuals in business list only 22% are from classical artistic disciplines and shouldn’t there be more?

It seemed the thought that artistry should be at the center of creative leadership struck a nerve with a woman who, though not an artist herself, often trains teaching artists. While I won’t name this individual, her comment back to me was that artistry “is just one of many tools and that creativity does not require it nor should it have to.” She went on to add that ” it is more important that creativity be embedded in all we do and it matters little if art is part of it or not.”

Ever since that exchange I have been thinking about her comment. I agree, creativity needs to be embedded in all we do. And I feel no shame in adding that I am sure we MUST place all of the classical art forms in artistic education at the center of teaching artists themselves, and the rest of the world, how to become more creative.

For artists development, the path is simple. Artistic development first. Creativity Training second. Synthesis into an Entrepreneurial Mindset third. For all others: realization of the value of artistry first, learning from others to expand their creative thinking through artistry second, synthesis into their chosen fields third.

For artists: Those who study the arts professionally deserve more than anyone to be taught to have the vision to lead in this area because they come to it, first and foremost, with integrity, a desire to learn the discipline and the glue– passion to do something positive with their art form to change the world. While often, through the educational process, this energy becomes misguided into ” its all about me and how I FEEL when I create art,” because of all the individual focus, private lessons, single-skill building, that often translates into a myopic view of artistry and consequently few professional opportunities resulting in low self esteem, like Jim Hart said, “We need to teach our students how to have vision. Imagine the cultural implications.”

What kind of cultural implications come immediately in mind? Take for example the amazingly creative investment bank, Goldman Sach’s. Not only did they make oodles of money from their creativity, but they did it on the kind of scale that almost destroyed the US Economy. If your into economics, the Rolling Stone article about their “creativity” is a worthy read.

And in case you are wondering what “culture has to do with this”, culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:
~ Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
~ An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
~The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

It seems unlikely that anyone in leadership at Goldman Sach’s learned their “culture” of creativity from a school trained dancer, poet, actor or film maker, but, clearly, for better or worse, they are, and continue to be, a creative culture. But what if they had? What if artistic expression had been embedded at the core of their “creativity training” as an organization? Might it have changed what kind of company they built?

Certainly “creativity” does not depend on dance, music, writing, theater or film to exist, but one’s heart is purest when the passion of well honed creative expression through a classic art form is expressed. There is nothing like feeling connected to yourself and to others through the expression of artistry. This is a very different sensation that the expression of creativity that does not necessarily create this kind of connectivity to heart and mind.

I believe artistry, unlike creativity brings a higher purpose, a need for self reflection and examination, a connection to other that can transcend words or ideas and an openness of thought that creative training alone, side swipes, at best.

And yet, artistry quickly becomes short sided and littered with dead end signs professionally without being fueled by creativity. Artistry needs to transcend itself into a creative profession, just like Alex Beauchamp writes about in her blog Girl at Play.

Artists need to develop their creativity to offer others their gifts. Creative individuals needs artistry to give their employees, companies and communities a sense of higher purpose and connectivity to their lives and the lives of others.

Artists can change the world. We simply need vision AND creative skills to embed our artistry into the cultural learning of an organization, and humanity, to become the next generation of leaders our world needs.

The Arts and Business

In Author: Barbara Kite, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on June 24, 2009 at 7:39 am

I am always questioning how connected am I with my purpose to make a difference in the world through my art and my desire to make money is.  How concerned am I with making sure the right questions are in bold letters across the human sky?

It is a constant questioning, a constant struggle, a daily need to remind myself to constantly examine.

I come from a generation that believed that if  you weren’t aligned with the “truth” connected with your art you were selling out.  In the ensuing years the lines have blurred quite a bit. 

Artists feel it’s okay to do crappy work just to get the money they need to do the important work.  I wonder.  My younger colleagues remind me that if they do everything that comes their way they will gain exposure, valuable experience and eventually power over their creative life in the business world,  which will allow them to express their true art.  I wonder.

So little I find, is done that deals with truth and the result is that we end up in the mess we have created through allowing, encouraging, supporting and covering lies. 

I remember this one saying that really got to me and I try to connect to it every day (not successfully always but with the intention to move in that direction)

From Chinua Achebe
“The poet
(artist) who is not in trouble with the King
is in trouble with his work.”

What advice do any of you give to young artists in this regard?

Serendipity’s Role in Entrepreneurial Development

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Health & Wellness, Marketing, Networking, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, WEBSITES & BLOGS on June 23, 2009 at 6:46 am

In the last three months I have been working with a new client-Dr. Julia Rahn, the owner of Flourish Studios www.ICanFlourish.com.

Flourish is a self and family development center located at 3020 N Lincoln Avenue here in Chicago. As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Julia’s experience lead her to combining art, retail, individual therapy and support groups in one glorious space. While Flourish has many ways it can contribute to helping change lives, its initial offerings to the public are in the areas of parenting, self development and wellness with the sole mission of creating positive change in the lives of all who come in contact with Flourish Studios.

The mission of Flourish Studios is fabulous. Julia’s vision to help others Live. Learn. Love. could not be any stronger. Yet 14 months into her venture her vision had begun to get fuzzy as to where she was headed. Getting any business started, let alone one in the beginning of hard economic times, often can lead you away from your core mission- your “tag line”- the reason you started doing what you are doing and for whom.

This happens because reaching your target market always takes longer than we think and at some point it is easy to begin to take “whatever we can get” instead of holding true to our vision to find who we really need to serve. While Julia had done a better job than most, as evident by the fact that her business was surviving through such rough times, her business seemed to be lethargic and not doing as well as she expected.

Coincidentally, at about the same time Julia was coming to realize this fact, Arianne Votasmeets entered the Entrepreneur The Arts Round I competition. Arianne’s art work was currently being hung in the gallery of Flourish Studio’s when she entered. After reading her entry and learning about Flourish I went to see her exhibit and meet Dr. Julia.

Within the hour I spent at Flourish Studios, Dr. Julia and I hit it off so well she asked me, more or less on the spot, if I would consider working with her and her staff to refocus their efforts and realign her vision to help her business continue to grow through this tough economy. How could I resist such a wonderful opportunity. And so my work with Flourish Studios began.

For the past three months I have been going to Flourish at least once a week and working individually with Dr. Julia and her three full time employees. Each one of her staff needed focus and clarity as to how to better do their jobs selling and marketing the service Flourish offers. In the time I have been there we have shifted the focus of Flourish to hosting ONLY events that fulfill their mission to Live, Learn and Love, Increased Vendor participation in their mission by asking vendors to sponsor workshops for their buyers, retail stores or do training at Flourish, developed group programming in the initial three areas of Focus for Flourish of parenting, self development and wellness, and provided more time, structure and support for employees and Julia to devote to cultivating relationships to continue to find the target market they need to provide their wonderful services to.

Not only has our work together already significantly improved Flourish’s bottom line, but the staff and Julia are feeling more at ease, clearer about their roles and feeling more optimistic about their future. While I recognize the role I am playing to help Flourish Studios to “flourish”, none of the help I have offered would have made any difference at all if they were not willing and eager to act on what I am teaching them.

The joy in teaching entrepreneurs about sales and marketing, for me, is watching a world of possibility open to them when they act on what I am teaching them to do. Truthfully, I am not sure that a single one of Julia’s staff, at first, really believed the behavioral changes I was asking each of them to make in the way the communicated to clients would work. But they tried it anyway and agreed to being open minded and to continuing to do, consistently, the work I asked of them.

It is only now- three months later- that they are becoming believers in their own individual abilities to develop as entrepreneurs for Flourish Studios. When we learn how to express our care and nurturing to others through the services and products we believe in, we too, can begin to flourish, just like Flourish Studios.

And lastly, you never know, when you become an entrepreneur, who will cross your path that can change the course of your venture in positive ways. Thanks to the ETA competition Heartbeat of America and I created, Arianne Votasmeets desire to try her hand as a new artist and Dr. Julia Rahn’s passion to help others flourish, something amazing happened when our paths collided.

What amazing opportunities will your entrepreneurial efforts create? How will you flourish?

You Are Jazz

In Author: Michael Gold, Emotional Intelligence on June 5, 2009 at 8:34 am

Improvisation . . .
What do you imagine?
Jazz? Stand up comedy? Experimental theater? Modern dance?
If you were asked to improvise in the moment what would you think?
Probably your first thought would be fear, ooooh no- not me. I’m not going there.

A lot of us imagine improvisation to be some sort of magical talent that one is born with. The ability to manifest something out of nothing; to act with great purpose and spontaneity at the same time; to embrace and manage change with no prior preparation.
That set of circumstances couldn’t be further from the truth, especially in such art forms as jazz, dance and theater.
These art forms that have interactive improvisation at their core are representations of a human condition fundamental to every single one of us. That condition is simply that we do not know for certain what will happen as we move from the present into the future.

However we choose to define our lives we all live in a flow of time that can only move in one direction- from what we know to have happened in the past into an future that we do not know. And that means that, like the improvisers in jazz, movement and drama, every one of us is always improvising their way from a state of relative certainty into a future of relative uncertainty.

Consider the art of conversation. What happens when, by chance, you encounter someone you’ve known since childhood but haven’t seen or spoken with in a decade. Before the conversation even begins the recognition of the event transforms the context of your inner dialogue almost like shifting from watching one movie to watching a completely different movie. You experience a reorientation. a torrent of experiential memories and emotions that trigger assumptions and judgments perhaps leading to expectations about new possibilities. Amidst all of that, you begin to converse. Wordless ideas that form in your imagination (Noam Chomsky notwithstanding) that you spontaneously translate into creative language. You give sound and wings to your ideas intending the other person to understand them in a very particular way. All of this happens with no script, no score. It happens with the skills of linguistic improvisation, gained only through trial and error, acquired over the course of hundreds of thousands of past conversations.

This is improvisation. It’s sort of an existential technology. It happens on a circular continuum that transcends the medium of spoken word, music, dance or drama.

It begins with an idea. Some form of agreed upon common ground. Each party uses their particular skills and knowledge to create a structural foundation around that idea that will support its meaning and value- protect it so to speak- for the interaction that is to come. But at the same time, in order to hopefully achieve innovation- prepare that idea for transformation as well. Each party also uses those same skills to lead the exploration, the probing and the development of the idea. At its best this continuum of improvisation yields transformational results that the participants call innovative- an improvement for both in the meaning and value of the ideas they started with. At its worst this continuum yields chaos, confusion and alienation.

Think of the family structure. When two people decide to have a family they share the idea of the child. But it is hypothetical because until that child is a reality there is no real improvisation- it is all theoretical- even the planning purchasing and physical transformation. Once the child is born those parents, for better or worse, begin improvising. The duo becomes a trio- each parent using every skill and bit of experiential knowledge to work together to create a structure of safety and support for that child. The child is improvising as well, exploring their reality, making discoveries, formulating ideas and constantly feeding back a stream of behavioral information to the parents. Hopefully the parents integrate these responses in ways that expand their capacity to provide the framework of safety and support for the child. For better or for worse, the family is the ultimate improvisational organization

But what is the relationship between improvisation- and the realization of results that all would agree are innovative- an improvement in value and meaning?

How does improvisation lead to innovation?

In one regard the answer to that question would depend on who is asking and what they are asking about. But that approach to the question is quantitative. One that assumes the value of innovation to be based on very specific qualities of past outcomes that can and should be measured and adhered to.  In other words if we were building a jet engine or a nuclear power plant where the allowable margin of risk was very slight this approach to the question would be appropriate.

The question is more interesting, though, if asked in the qualitative sense. How does the action of improvisation begin to yield innovative results? Where and when, in that process of parents observing the child, do their responses change the world of the child in a way that allows the child to move beyond what he or she is familiar with, to risk, trust, explore and grow? And how can parents recognize and interpret the qualities that child will discover and manifest in a way that transforms the parents’ behavior so that they can continue to grow as well?

The jazz ensemble is an amazing microcosm of this process. We can observe how the improvising soloist feeds back to the supporting members of the rhythm section (also improvising) so that they can expand their support in the way the soloist needs to continue their exploration. More on this to come in future blogging.

But what can be gleaned from the way improvisation leads to innovation in jazz is that the process is always uncertain. Improvisation is always an uncertain process and does not in and of itself imply an innovative outcome.

But when innovation does occur it means that the within the process of improvisation there has been an alignment in understanding between roles of exploration and support – in jazz the interplay between the improvisation of both the soloist and the supporting rhythm section. That alignment allows for the release of the old to allow for the new. It also implies a consensus about what knowledge and truth from the past shall continue to support the meaning of what is emerging in the present.

This is the constant edge of improvisation leading to innovation. It is a state that is ephemeral, elusive and extremely vulnerable. And yet it is where all positive change begins.

The dynamics that jazz improvisers practice on a daily basis are musical. But they are also linguistic and empathic in a deeply humanistic sense. These dynamics begin and end with listening- an act that many of us have become very subconscious about. To really listen means to be aware of our position on this continuum of improvisation-to understand that our smallest actions and decisions contribute to the equation of improvisation manifesting innovation. . . or not.

Art is a reflection of fundamental aspects of how we perceive and relate to each other and the world.
Jazz is a unique art form that captures and musifies certain interpersonal dynamics that are fundamental in the improvisation of life.

Because life is improvised there is the art of jazz.

It’s about you.

Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot on Creativity and Innovation after 50

In Author: Lisa Canning, BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea on June 1, 2009 at 9:00 am

Bill Moyers interviewed Harvard educator Sarah Lawrence- Lightfoot on May 11th, 2009 on his show Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot is an American sociologist who examines the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, socialization within families and communities, and the relationships between culture and learning styles. She has been a full professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education since the 1970s.

Sarah recently wrote her ninth book called The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50. The book is about redefining your life, later in life, by learning how to take risks, be more creative and innovative and why it is becoming increasingly an important priority for many. Based on two years of research, the topics she shares in this 35 minute interview include the psychology behind what she describes as a new way of learning in this stage of life, the value of mentorship, artistic expression and how to learn from generation Y. This is a worthy investment of your time.

Thanks Anne Breeden from Arts At Large for passing this along.