For our ON-Business column, our Business Innovation Strategist and Artistic Director Daniela Pavan distills tips on creativity and success in times of COVID-19.
For years people in creative roles were kind of left out of serious business conversations, which instead used to take place only among the upper management in boardrooms. More recently, it looks like Creativity is knocking at the door of those rooms and has gained the right to sit at the decision-making tables as a driver of innovation. The creative spark that used to be just an aesthetic abstraction and somehow light and breezy concept, is now an important leadership quality that is dramatically transforming the way we do business.
By Daniela Pavan
The challenging scenario created by the pandemic emergency is giving creativity an even more crucial role in our lives. We’ve been through so many changes during the past months: we changed the way we work, the way we interact with each other, the way we shop. Change looks always scary, and facing change can throw us in a state of chaos. In times of crisis like these, who should we turn to, and learn from? My answer is: from creative minds, from artists. You may remember Darwin’s evolution theory about “the survival of the fittest”. It’s not the strongest or the smartest one who survives but the one who can adapt more quickly to change and to new contexts. The ability to adapt to change combined with resilience (the quality of recovering quickly from failure and adversity, and using the opportunity for your personal development,) seems to be the best match to navigate this unprecedented scenario. A set of skills that are part of artists and creatives’ natural attitude.
The Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs video and podcast series wants to demonstrate this exactly. We started the project to give voice to prominent figures from the world of art, culture, and entertainment during the COVID-19 emergency, inviting them to come together to reflect on the central value that art brings to humanity during the harsh quarantine times. We have been blessed by so many great contributions from artists from all over the world: 50+ artists for 10 episodes plus a special one celebrating Pride Day. Following these artists and watching them from a privileged point of view, we realized that even between their differences in terms of disciplines and artistic attitudes, they all have two fundemantal traits in common: resilience and adaptability. In fact, they all managed to keep their creative spark alive and produce arts against all of the odds. Even the performing artists who have seen their venues abruptly shut down, basically overnight.
So now the question is, how can we learn to be ourselves, as resilient and flexible? Here are some of the reflections that our series #CreativityWillSaveUs inspired me:
1 Change the narrative: when something bad or unpredictable happens, many of us spend a lot of time in a “rumination mood”, reliving the event over and over in our heads. This way we don’t allow ourselves to move forward. What I learned from our artists is the importance and the courage to change a story by building a new one. How? By writing, singing, playing music, painting, acting, there are infinite creative ways that we could all explore. The goal is to be brave enough to face our deepest thoughts and feelings, and not to necessarily produce a memoir-like masterpiece, courage as a first step is already a big accomplishment. And precisely about this topic, I found out that there is a study from 1988 that demonstrates how a sample of people who embarked in an Expressive Writing program for four days was healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later if compared to some others whose task was to write about some more random topics. This is valid, in my opinion, for any form of art because it forces us to deeply analyze each one of our ideas and allows us to see things from new perspectives. I personally enjoy changing my narratives through acting and dancing, because they both allow me to explore the story from different angles.
2 Practice Meditation: you may already know that usually, our most painful thoughts revolve around our past and our future. We may regret things that went wrong or we are anxious about the things that will happen or not happen to us. Practicing mindfulness and meditation keeps us centered and concentrated on the present. being, the now. You may think that our main concerns are attached to the present time we are living. You might have this sensation, even though really, our lives are made of a series of circumstances that often we can’t control. Therefore meditation can help us stay focused on what we can control, accept what we can’t control and think more clearly about our next steps. The past months have been very painful for me as well, on a personal level. I want to suggest a practice that I like to do: mindful breathing. I usually get very anxious because I am always projecting my thoughts into the future of what might happen. This exercise can be done for 5 or 7 minutes a day, or every time you feel under stress. Find a comfortable position. You can be seated on a chair or on the floor, on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight, with your hands rested comfortably. Allow yourself to relax and become aware of your body seated, the sensations that it experiences, the connection with the floor or the chair. Remove any tightness or tension. Simply breathe. Feel the natural flow of breath, while inhaling and exhaling. Notice how you feel while you breathe. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time. Now as you do this, your mind may start to wander and think about different things. It’s very natural, so no worries. When this happens, gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
3 Find your Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese word that means purpose in life. We can say that Ikigai is the secret ingredient for happiness. Ikigai is about finding fulfillment, happiness, and balance in life. Many of us think that our job, family, and passions are different solos, like separate aspects of life. The Ikigai philosophy instead puts the accent on a fundamental truth: nothing in life is a solo… but everything is connected… as we always say here at Creative Pois-On. So yes, according to the Ikigai, it is possible to be true to what you love, live a fulfilled life, and make a positive impact on the life of others. So let’s dive in, what’s the definition of Ikigai. The Ikigai is the intersection between what you love, what the world needs, what you can get paid for, and what you are good at. Take a few minutes to write down some keywords, concepts, and ideas that come up to your mind for each of the four categories above and for overlapping areas. Think about how these elements may relate to each other. And then, leave space in your mind to whatever element, word, category, may naturally emerge by bringing these four elements together. So when you have this centerpiece clear in your mind found it, think about what is the first very simple step you can immediately take, and that it could be a practical expression of this centerpiece, which is your Ikigai. Are you curious to try? Artists, creative minds as well as successful businessmen all over the world, have in common the fact that they have found their Ikigai, that they are crystal clear about their purpose in life. That is what keeps them motivated, resilient but also flexible and perseverant.
Now it’s up to you. Ready to take your first step?
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About Daniela Pavan
THE STORYTELLER WHO CONNECTS THE DOTS OF CREATIVITY, INNOVATION, AND BUSINESS
Born and raised in Italy, Daniela Pavan is now based in NYC. This is one of the reasons why she is blessed with both Italian artistic passion and NYC’s unique edge. With 20 years of experience working in the world of digital, design and communication with big companies, agencies as well as small start-ups, Daniela has also a strong collaboration with the University of Venice (Italy) where she won a grant for a research focused on understanding if and how creativity and design can be drivers for innovation. Co-Founder, Artistic Director, Creativity Curator, and Business Mind of Creative Pois-On. She is also our resident “bridge builder” as she is fluent in both business and creativity! Our creatives would be lost without her! Follow her Creative Bridge episodes on the Creative Pois-On Podcast.