Ep 182 | Building Creativity into your Organization for More Growth with Karin Davis

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Creativity isn't just about arts and crafts and singing and dancing. It's about how you think about the problems you're solving and creating new solutions. By doing this work, you'll have even more opportunities to make an impact on your community and the cause you're championing.

Learn how you can create a culture of creativity in your organization. This will help you all around and even kep with retention of your workforce.

What you'll learn:

→ what workplace creativity is all about.
→ the four elements of the creativity framework.
→ what types of organizations creativity is good for.
→ where to start with this process.

Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:

[3:28] What is workplace creativity? Its a practice to help you see things from a new perspective so you can create new solutions to problems, innovate and accelerate growth and success. There are four elements here, mindset, divergent and convergent thinking, creating habits and routines and taking risk and failure.
[21:45] Creativity is a process that works in all business types and categories.  Even in those nonprofits that are in more sensitive or research based areas, creativity can really help you figure out new ways to create more impact in any category.
[27:45] This process must start with leadership. Adding a culture of creativity requires leadership to lead with example. But also, it's all about communication. Sharing this with funders and your entire team is critical. Especially when it comes to the fourth phase of risk and failure.

Karin Davis

Karin Davis

Founder, Pink Pigs Fly

Hi, I'm Karin, and I believe that creativity is serious business.  I founded Pink Pigs Fly because today's business challenges require new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Our work goes beyond traditional training and is more than just consulting. We take your business to the next level by shifting mindsets and culture to develop lasting organizational change.

When I'm not immersing myself in the latest creativity and innovation research, I can usually be found doodling or daydreaming. I always get my best ideas when I'm walking my dog Scooby.

Let's make pigs fly! Learn more at https://pinkpigsfly.com 

We love creating the podcast. If you like what you learned here please give us a tip and help us offset our production costs.

When you leave a review it helps this podcast get in front of other nonprofits that could use the support. If you liked what you heard here, please leave us a review.

Full Transcript

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] When you think of creativity, what does that bring up for you? Is it arts and crafts is it I have to be a singer or a performer? Creativity shows up in so many ways that you might not think and is a critical piece in growing and building your organization. But it's not something we often think of as being a part of our organization, or our plan or our recruitment or retention of employees, donors, volunteers. So I'm really excited today to have Karin Davis on the podcast to talk with us about how to integrate creativity into the workplace so that we can have a thriving organization that comes up with new and fun ways to fundraise and take all of the work that we're doing and amplify it.

Karin believes that creativity is a serious business, she founded pink pigs fly because today's business challenges require new ways of thinking and problem solving. Her work goes beyond traditional training and is more than just consulting. They take your business to the next level by shifting mindsets and culture to develop lasting and organizational change. When Karin's not immersing herself in the latest Creativity and Innovation Research, she can usually be found doodling or daydreaming, she always gets her best ideas when walking her dogs, Scooby, let's make pink pigs fly.

You're gonna love this conversation. Because it's really not what you think creativity is something that's in all of us. And it doesn't mean you need to be an artist or it doesn't mean you need to have some sort of Fine Arts talent. I always love conversations that I have with Karin, because she leaves me inspired and excited to jump back into my work to come up with new ways of solving this problem that we're working so hard on, and how to really elevate everything as an organization. And whether you're a leader, or an employee, and you're working to build this thing together, she's gonna give great insight on how to keep these employees around how to create an opportunity for failure. Don't be scared, and how to really engage with your team in a way that leaves everybody feeling fulfilled and excited and ready to go.

But before we get into this episode is brought to you by our website Wednesdays, these are 30 minute free workshops where I talk on a particular topic, share some insights to help you get more conversions from your website and leave time for q&a. These are non pitch, there's nothing that I'm going to try to sell you during these sessions. And if you stay to the end, there's always a bonus PDF or worksheet for you to continue to take action. We've covered topics like your donation page, content creation, your headers, all the things that people are seeing when they land on your website, but may not be taking action on so go to https://thefirstclick.net/website-wednesdays to find out what the next month's topic is going to be. Or you can follow us on LinkedIn at the first click to find out as well. For now, let's get into the episode.

[INTRO] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business. 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, please join me in welcoming Karen Davis to the podcast. Karin. I'm so glad that you're here.

[Karin Davis] Thank you. I'm so honored to be here. Thanks for having me.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, so creativity I feel like is one of those buds buzzwords kind of like mindset or accountability. I don't know, like, whatever all the words that we have for things, we all attach our own thing to have our own emotional connection to. But I love your spin on creativity and what it means in our lives and in our work, work situation. So why don't you just kind of give us a little rundown? What does creativity in the workplace mean to you? And what does that look like? Yeah, so

[Karin Davis] it's so true. Because, you know, create the talk about creative workplaces. And people will say, well, well, what does that actually mean? You know, they, they might think it's like, oh, well, we do marketing. So we're creative. But you know, it's just it's so much more in the way that I look at it. It's really encompassing of who you are as an organization and whether or not you are able to look at things differently, see different perspectives. Take risks, there's just so much to it and the way I break it down into four different areas. So one is around mindset. And of course, you know, you just said that's kind of a buzzword too. So when I'm talking about mindset, it's like are you able to, as an individual be imaginative can you be curious, can you again, look at things from a different perspective, can you think big, so There's a lot of components around an individual mindset. And then there's some skills that you need to have to be creative. So for an organization, do you have teams that are able to do divergent thinking and convergent thinking? So that's part of the process that we use in creativity, as well as things like creative problem solving and design thinking, you know, I use sort of a combination of those two processes in the work I do. The third area is around the habits and routines. So it's great to be creative on a one day retreat, or, you know, when your strategic planning, but how do you keep that alive? You know, every day, every week, every month, as you're slogging through other, you know, priorities. Right, exactly. So how do you keep that creativity alive? Because that's when you need the most, right, like, as you're doing things that are sort of, you know, this is a better way of doing this, that's when you need that creative burst, right? And then the fourth area is around what's the culture in an organization like? So? Do you empower individuals to take risks? Are teams able to spend time being creative? Do you? How do you? How does an organization deal with new ideas? You know, are they shot down? Are they considered are they valued, and then risk and failure is a huge one. So what happens if you make a mistake? What happens if you try something new and it fails? How is that? How is that viewed? How is what's the actions that the senior leaders take? Some of the best companies in the world actually celebrate failures? And actually like say, Hey, this is we failed, like, this is amazing. Look what we tried, and what did we learn? So it's just this shift in terms of how you look at failure in terms of what you can you learn from it versus Oh, man, we really screwed up. Right. So those are sort of the four areas that I talked about in terms of having an organization that's creative. Those are the four areas that need to be included.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love this framework, because I feel like it is we talk a lot on this podcast, and I think a lot in the industry on like, don't do things the way that like the killer of an organization is well, we always have done it this way. Right? Yes. But nobody really kind of gives a framework to well, how do we move out of well, we've always done it this way. And it's so it seems like this creative creativity framework, and these four elements are are that solution to kind of then saying, Okay, well, we understand we're stuck in this place. Now we need to move through it and do something a little bit differently.

[Karin Davis] Absolutely. And I think that's exactly the struggle that organizations have, it's like near the, they kind of talk about being creative or innovative. But when I say well, what are you actually doing to facilitate that they kind of just Whoa, we don't really know, right? So having having a specific framework in action, and sort of actions that can take place in those four areas are super important. And I think the connection also between the creativity and the innovation. So innovation is another buzzword, especially in our sectors, if we have to be innovative, well, innovative innovation, and creativity are so connected, you can have, you know, creativity is I look at creativity as being sort of that foundational piece of innovation. So you can have creative CREATIVITY WITHOUT innovation. But you can't have innovation without creativity. So you need to have that foundation of, you know, being able to think differently in order to produce or to do something differently, which is the innovation, you know, putting that into practice in the sector.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, and workforce is a big hot button issue right now. And people I think, you know, are really being more hypersensitive and where they choose to work and the types of environments that they live in. And I feel like this also provides that framework for not just creating innovation and growth within your organization, but also providing like that safe space for all of these things so that you have the best talent that can thrive and grow and help you escalate faster.

[Karin Davis] Absolutely. And there's a correlation between environments that are supportive of creativity and employee engagement. So that, you know, you can empower people to try to solve challenges and come up with new ideas. And that actually helps them feel good about themselves and the place that they're working in. And that motivates them that connects them to you know, the purpose of the work makes them feel included and as if they're really contributing. So there's there's definitely that correlation between between creativity and employee engagement and satisfaction. Yeah, it's important. Okay,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] so where do we start as we're trying to build this culture in our organization because like you said, the easiest thing His creativity and brainstorming are in marketing and around strategic planning like that feels like you probably are already doing that. But like, where would you kind of lead organizations to start in this work?

[Karin Davis] So it needs to, it needs to come from senior leadership, it needs to be a very purposeful strategic decision to say, we're going to take our organization to the next level. And we're going to do it through creativity, which will lead to innovation. And we're going to look at how, through, you know, a systems perspective, how do we infuse creativity throughout organization, in individuals in teams in our leadership, how we walk the talk? So what I do is I really I start with an assessment. So let's, first of all, let's where are you? You know, where do you think you are as senior leaders? And where do the staff and other employees feel like they are as well? Because often there's a discrepancy in terms of failure risk opportunities for creative ideas, senior leadership might think, yeah, we're open to to ideas, we like to, you know, support ideas. But there might be a different perspective perspective from other other areas of the organization. So it's important to sort of get that broad perspective of where are you? And then looking at, not how do you add on creativity as another thing to do? But how do you infuse it as part of the work that you're already doing to take it to the next level? So I do lots of little micro opportunities to infuse training at staff meetings, at team meetings, just at during projects that you're already working on? How do you be more creative in terms of the work that you're already working on? If you're on a project? How do we look at using different techniques, and different skills in that work that you're already doing? And then as a culture and an organization, that's probably the hardest part, because there's often a shift. And that takes some time. And it's, you know, really looking at where do we want to go, you know, what our goals in terms of setting for a creative organization, and then looking at those milestones in between? So how do we just shift you know, these different components of our culture so that we can become more creative. In the end,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] it almost seems like a revamped modernized version of a like the old team bonding retreats that used to happen, you know, where you would do trust falls and like the ropes course or whatever, right. But this is kind of building that trust in a way where we can feel open in our ideas, because I want to I really, the piece for me, that I love about this so much is the is the last part, which is the opportunity and ability to fail and, and kind of work through some of those things. Because I think that that's so critical. And I think that's what really stagnates growth for people. So I love like, at the beginning, you're really just kind of building that trust within the team. And like you said, coming from the top down, allowing people to feel to feel safe and secure. So like, do you see like that failure piece like that part of the culture is the hardest for people for employees to embrace, but also for leaders to allow it to happen?

[Karin Davis] It really is. Because they there's, especially in the sector, when you're working with, you know, grant money and money, right? There's, there's you feel like you have to be so accountable. And so you know, exact with what you're doing and show results. So it becomes a real challenge, because you can't really solve these complex problems that these organizations are working on. Unless you do sweeping big changes, right? Like, we can, we can do little ones to get there. But we have to keep doing those little ones. And so there's a lot of communication in it as well. So, you know, you've got to communicate to donors to grant providers, why we're looking at doing this in a different way. Because a lot of the times the way we've been doing it isn't really working, right? We need we need big change in a lot of these different areas in terms of complex problems. So it is a challenge.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] It is a challenge. So okay, so let's talk a little bit about the mundane tasks or like, you know, the keeping creativity alive as just part of the day to day culture. So we've gone through our strategic planning, we know where we're going, we're excited, the whole team is on board. And it's just like that, how you come off from a conference and then you sit down at your desk and you start doing the work and everybody kind of forgets about all the things that just happened that we were so motivated by right. How do we continue to use that in our day to day work?

[Karin Davis] So let's say there's a few things we could do. regular team meetings that are we have to have, you know, we need to go through a certain number of things. But what we could do is add something different to each one. So an activity where we just are thinking outside the box, we're having some fun, we're being a little playful. Those are elements that support creative creativity and the development of new ideas. We have things that we can do online activities that we can do online and virtual for virtual teams. If you're in a physical space, the idea that, you know, we kind of get into the habit of going into a room, the same room for the same meeting, we sit in the same chairs, something as simple as switching up the rooms, switching up the way you sit, sit, you're changing the space and how you are situated in the tables and things. Small changes like that can spark new ideas, because you're looking at things again, from a different perspective. So it really doesn't have to be complicated. The physical space is important. There's a great example, Google has what they call a barrage, Google garage. And they use this space to test things to play to come up with new ideas. But the furniture is all very flexible, it's all on wheels, so that you can come in, and you can move the chairs and the music, small tables to make big tables, and you can move the tables into area like corners, you can just move everything around. And if you can build a meeting space like that, that is brilliant, because then you can actually do more in that space. Rather than having one large conference table, just kind of stuck in the middle of the room, you know. So it's little things like that, that can make a big difference. Walking, go outside, we have a walking meeting, where you're just moving and in a different place. Like there's there's little things like that, that can be implemented, that I suggest organizations just to start building into their regular routines.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I think that's so good. And it's I love that as an example, because I think, you know, we we hear creativity, and now we think well now she's gonna make us get out crayons, and paper, and we're gonna have to, like draw our feelings and draw our ideas, or we're gonna have to like write songs and do poetry like you know, I think we automatically associate creativity with like the fine arts or the performing arts or marketing, right. So I love what you just said, because it's a so easy to do. But be, won't really pull people out right away too much out of their comfort zone, but give their brains a different way of thinking. So I think another good example of this would be kind of what you mentioned earlier, like giving people the space to think so I don't know what company it is. But there's companies out there that will literally have half a day a week where they're not working. And all they do is just work on fun free projects. Right?

[Karin Davis] That's Google as well. Yeah. Google also. Yeah, yeah, they give they give employees a certain percentage of time where they're allowed to, to work on their own projects. And again, that just imagine having that space and time to go, oh, I can do something like really fun and really different and really unique. And then you have people talking to each other about what they're doing. And then oh, well, wait a second, you're doing that I could do this. And we could do it together and do the next level, right? And things organically can shift into amazing things that you wouldn't otherwise have thought of, because you're in your strategic plan that says you can only do A, B and C,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] well, maybe even in your silos, right? Like because would you often also be like if I'm working on something during my quote, unquote, free time, and we have a conversation about now that I'm talking to my CFO, or I'm talking to my IT person, and they're like, Oh, well, you think that's hard, like that's easy, we can totally do that you don't like that collaboration can

[Karin Davis] be magical. So breaking down the silos is an important part of developing a creative organization, we we specifically do things to start to break down those silos. Because when you sort of have that information in these, you know, protected little areas, you cannot build new ideas from one idea to the other. Right. And that's your ideas are really just two separate ideas coming together for a new idea right? So you have to have access to that information in the right way at the right time for an idea to be sparked. So absolutely it's important

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] so change is hard we all know this and especially kind of something that can feel as big as this is although I love your examples are very easy to do. How long should accompany maybe give themselves to kind of work through this process? Because I think a lot of times we say oh this is great. I love this idea. I'm gonna do it. We do it for a month doesn't take off or whatever we had in our big brain. So we just did And a bit and move on, like, what does this look like?

[Karin Davis] Yeah, and I think that's, that's why I break it out into the four components, because you cannot do just one of like one activity in one area and expect to be a creative organization, right? It is really much more complex. So you need to do multiple things in each of those areas over a period of time to see that change. And it's not going to happen overnight. Because it also depends on where people are at in their own comfort level with creativity, both employees and senior leadership. So you know that that shift, can be faster in some organizations might be a little slow, and others and you need to sort of wait for people to get to a better comfort level. So I recommend, you know, a six to 12 month plan to start to see some changes. Again, because it's not something you can sit down and say, Okay, we're going to be creative tomorrow. It's adding pieces, little bits here a little bit there growing the skill set, improving the mindset, and you know, that does take time, but the the value of doing it can be so I mean, it's just, you cannot put a price tag on how amazing the result can be the end. Yeah, in terms of what you can do in terms of impact.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, and speaking of impact, somebody might be listening to this and say, Well, we're a research based organization. So this wouldn't do anything to benefit us. This is only good for like, you know, museums or theater programs or whatever. But like, what would you say like, does this is this something that has that you've seen make an impact on like a broad type of organizations? Yeah,

[Karin Davis] well, I remember when I was working with an Accounting Association, and people were like, You do creativity with a cactus like never, like, that sounds a little, you know, little knots, you did a little out there. And I'm like, well, it's not the numbers that they're being creative with. It's how they work is what they're trying to achieve. It's the challenges that they're, they're faced with in the process of doing their work. So it's really looking at what the problems are, and what solutions can Can, can be developed to overcome those problems. And so that's that, I mean, any organization doing any type of work, has problems, has challenges has opportunities that can be that that you can leverage creativity to have greater impact.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. Okay, so one of my last questions that I have for you, and then I'm gonna let you kind of offer any additional insight that I didn't ask. But like when we think about then how we're going to frame our I guess, for me, when I think about workforce and our company culture, and we talked about bringing in like the younger millennials, and Gen Z, we talked about the boomers generation kind of retiring, and all of that good stuff. Going through a transition like this in your organization, you're going to win some you're going to lose some whether that be employees, whether that be board members, whether that be volunteers. So what would you kind of say to people overall, as far as part of this in their overall culture of their workplace, and kind of not having fear about really just trying to build this, like, best machine that they possibly can? Right people?

[Karin Davis] That's a great question. I think it really has to connect to who, who you are as an organization in terms of your identity, you know, it has to connect with your values, it has to connect with your mission. And if you are, you know, if that's what you want to achieve, and that's what your your goals are, and you need new ideas to get there, then yes, there may be casualties along the way. And you have to be okay with that. Because, you know, individuals if they decide to leave, because there's too much change, there's, you know, this isn't the way we've always done things, I think you need to be okay with that. And it's unfortunate, but if you look at the overall goal of the organization, that's where you have to put your priorities, and those that you may lose, you know, there's always ways to engage people, if you lose them, you can engage them in new ways, right? Like even using creativity to figure that out. But you're also going to if you position yourself as a creative company, as we said earlier, you're going to attract some amazing new talent that can really help contribute to your goals and help you be successful. So I think, you know, as hard as it is to make that shift, I think it's important to do.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, I think the more the more that you can build this creativity into your business. I think the more in your gut, you'll know like this, this is who we are and what we're doing. You're not just going to attract great talent, you're going to attract donors that are going to be more in line with your cause and more people that are going to champion for you because you're like, I don't know I I just for me, I get excited. I know we've talked about this several in several different places. And I get excited about this topic just because I feel like by building this into your organization, you're really building that strong core. Like, it just deepens that core of who you are and how you're able to support so that I think that that's magical.

[Karin Davis] Yeah, and I think it helps you, it would help you stand out as you're saying to, to donors and to, to grant givers, because there's not a lot of organizations doing it, right now, there's a lot of organizations say, we are really going to lean into creativity, we're gonna lean into being as innovative as we can, and we're going to push the boundaries, to achieve new results, and to increase our impact. There's not a lot of organizations doing that. So it'll help you stand out. And the other thing, just going back to employees that just popped into my mind was, when you don't make that shift towards creativity towards pushing for new, you're at risk of losing some very good talent, because they're not able to meet their own standards to be able to contribute, right. So myself included, I was, you know, I was in the nonprofit sector for a long time. And I was passionate about it. And I wanted to stay at multiple different organizations, but I was like, every time I sort of get to a place where I'd be like, Why don't we try this? Or, you know, I have some ideas around that I was shut down. And so for me, it was like, you know, I need to fulfill that in me. So I need to go elsewhere. I think that's the other way of looking at it is, you know, what are you risking? If you don't embrace creativity?

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, I think it's always something like, I mean, we look at a company like Patagonia, who like their CEO made tons of news for like, not selling his company and just giving it to the founder, you know, I mean, like, people think that, but it's because he's, I mean, Patagonia does all sorts of amazing creative things and their marketing and the way that they kind of mix their, their company with their values, but because he's so rooted in what it was that his ultimate goal was, the legacy he wanted to leave behind. That was an easy decision. But like, that was not something that he I'm sure just came to, like, there was, you know,

[Karin Davis] that absolutely. The process? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Well,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Karen, I'm inspired by this conversation, you know, I always love talking to you, but what kind of takeaway would you want to give leaders or even employees in nonprofits to kind of help build creativity in their organizations?

[Karin Davis] Yeah, I think, you know, as much as we talk about it, it has to, for an organization to be creative, it needs to be senior leadership, and it needs to come from the top. I think there's opportunities at different, you know, other places to start that conversation. So you know, in your own team, you can start that conversation about how can we be more creative, so and so I don't want someone to give up just because they don't have that buy in at the senior leadership level yet. So there's ways to get that buy in, there's ways to talk about the value of creativity, and sort of push it up the chain. But in terms of implementation, it really does need to come from from the top. The other thing is that, what I find is that there's a lot of work that needs to be done in partnership with with funders, to understand that you may not have the same results. If you are open to failure, you may have more learnings, and it will take longer to get to, you know, specific outcomes. But you may, it just may take that time to fail to learn to redo it, fail to learn to redo it, but that your eventual outcomes can be 10 times greater if you build that opportunity and to fail and learn. And I think funders are, you know, in a position again, to be accountable with money. But they need to sort of ease into that, that culture of creativity as well.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] But I want to touch on that real quick. Sorry, I know I said we were done. But you said this, this is a great point. And that instead of looking at it as the standpoint of like, you know, it might take us longer to get there. If you have certain funders that are entrepreneurial minded or creativity minded. This is also a great opportunity to bring them along to say, hey, like we've got these great ideas. We want to be innovative. We want to be the game changers in this marketplace. We want you to be the hero behind us, like will you help us fund this particular thing? Because then they can enter into that risk with you. That takes us to Russia.

[Karin Davis] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. If you can find a funder who is that wants to be that leading edge innovation driven funder and be that organization and then build, build that partnership and where you are looking at those four areas and how to develop, you know, true, long lasting, sustainable creativity, you're gonna get amazing results.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love that. Well, Karen, if people want to learn more about you how to connect with you, and just get to know all of your offerings, how do they do that?

[Karin Davis] You can come to my website at https://pinkpigsfly.com 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love it. And we'll link all of that up in the show notes at https://thefirstclick.net/182  Karin, thank you so much.

[Karin Davis] Thank you so much fun talking to you today about creativity. I could talk all day.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Oh, no, right? Were you not as amazed by the episode as I was. I love Karen's insight and the way that she approaches this conversation around creativity. I get that it's a long term process and something that you'll need to make an effort to work on. But it can have dramatic results in the outcomes and the impact that you're able to make. Thank you so much for listening today. I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss out on a single episode. New episodes are released every Tuesday. And check us out on YouTube at the first click.net forward slash YouTube to watch video versions of this episode. And share it with a friend while you're at it. We can all learn together, support each other collaborate together, get creative together. And of course the show notes will be available at https://thefirstclick.net/182  We'll see in the next one


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