After talking with a friend from college the other day, I pulled out my college trunk to look through some old photos and take a stroll down memory lane. What I stumbled upon was a copy of my senior thesis project, a requirement for all South Carolina Honors College seniors. Billed as a community within a community, the South Carolina Honors College is a small college within the University of South Carolina. What attracted me were the smaller classes that averaged 14-16 per class, individual attention, and the unconventional courses (like our theater class which included trip to Chicago). It was the best of both worlds.
As an English major, I had more than my fill of papers, so I was eager to change things up in my senior project. However, I still had to write about my project and it was 30 pages!
My project started out as a study of leadership training programs offered at USC, then morphed into how male and female leaders approach scenarios differently. But neither one was really doing it for me. After perusing the self-help section of the bookstore, I had my AHA moment: finding books on creativity. Couple that with the need to plan and execute an officer transition for my sorority that would be fun yet also productive, and I had my idea. Drawing on my fair share of meetings, leadership experiences and programs on teamwork, synergy and diversity, I decided to develop an interactive workshop talking about creativity and its nexus to student leadership.
Here’s a shocker: I made a Disney connection by calling my project “Beyond the Bare Necessities: Creative Leadership.” On my handouts and evaluation forms, I had photos of Baloo and Mowgli transposed. And naturally, the song “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book was my intro music. Hey, it fits, right?
I presented my project twice: one at the University and the second as a presenter at the LEAD conference in Charleston, SC. One major bummer: my video camera didn’t work! Since part of the requirements were to have it recorded, my project was incomplete. Oh if only we had smartphones then! Fortunately, I filmed it at the LEAD conference and was clear to graduate. Phew! I wish I had a copy of my presentations if only to be able to laugh at myself!
The best books on the subject of creative leadership were A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, both by Roger von Oech. von Oech categorized four roles in the creative process: explorer (searching for new information), artist (turning resources into new ideas), judge (evaluating the merits of an idea) and warrior (carrying your idea into action).
- When it’s time to seek out new information, adopt the mindset of an Explorer. Get off the beaten path, poke around in outside areas, and pay attention to unusual patterns.
- When you need to create a new idea, let the Artist in you come out. Ask what-if questions and look for hidden analogies. Break the rules and look at things backwards. Add something and take something away. Ultimately, you’ll come up with an original idea.
- When it’s time to decide if your idea is worth implementing, see yourself as a Judge. Ask what’s wrong and if the timing’s right. Question your assumptions and make a decision.
- And when you carry your idea into action, be a Warrior. Put a fire in your belly, eliminate your excuses, and do what’s necessary to reach your objective.
Good rules for us all to follow!
What My Project Would Look Like Today:
Keep in mind: my project was completed over 20 years ago and before social media. Imagine! So the biggest change in my project would be in the workshop. I would have a PowerPoint presentation instead of laminated slides on an overhead. Plus, I would have multiple cameras to record it, including friends filming on their smartphones.
If I were working on my project today, here are some resources that I would have to include:
How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery
Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City
Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius
Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of Inspiration
Although it is certainly not publishable, it was fun to unearth my project and reminisce. Thanks for indulging me!