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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration

JoVonnda Chresfield, B.Sc.| 2024 AIAMC Annual Meeting Planning Committee| Senior GME Program Administrator, Internal Medicine Residency | Chair, Baptist Hospital DE&I Council |Baptist Health Academics |Baptist Health South Florida

Why this Book? 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” That’s how I equate my journey through life personally and professionally. Taking the dive into waters of inspiration, creativity, and adventure. In taking chances, the best way I equip myself to navigating uncharted waters is by a pen, paper, and a good book. Books have always been my gateway to un-sparked creativity like a map to learn foreign territory. A story has all you need. The relatable protagonist, the misunderstood antagonist, the trials and triumphs, and the character development. Books are like food for the soul that comes in different flavors. There are adventures for the thrill seekers, romance for the hopeless romantics, and much more. Pivoting into a different phase of my story, I stumbled across a challenge for me, leadership. 

The Spark of Leadership

Leadership is the ability of one to influence and guide others. The word triggered mixed emotions for me, but one that stood out was doubt. Alike what John C. Maxwell teaches, I view leadership as how you take on a position, educate, and support others to become leaders who continue the same methodologies. Leadership is not an innate trait that kicks on by the snap of fingers. It is taught, cultivated, and nurtured over time. So, what sparks true leadership? What sparks true inspiration? Ed Catmull, a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, and Amy Wallace shares remarkable insights and timeless wisdom in their book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. In the book, they reveal the inner workings of one of the most creative and successful animation studios in the world and unveils a treasure trove of invaluable lessons applicable to a diverse array of industries. As I read Creativity, Inc. it uncovered profound themes and how they resonate with the multifaceted landscape of creativity, leadership, and innovation in our own lives and professional endeavors. 

Fostering a Creative Culture, Open Communication, and Collaboration

Catmull and Wallace highlight the importance of creating an environment that nurtures creativity, collaboration, and innovation within an organization. 

EXAMPLE: Room Set Up

Within the book, there was an instance of restructuring the layout of the room. For over a decade, there was a large conference room they called West One. There was a long, skinny table that created an ambiance that felt exclusive versus inclusive. He urged for the table’s removal because he preferred an intimate space that allowed for all to address each other directly and not introduce any feelings of exclusivity. In changing the environment to allow for an inclusive space, the atmosphere allowed more collaboration and a better facilitation of ideas.

Example: Getting the Right Team

Catmull et al, emphasize the need to review the members and dynamics of your teams. They stated, “Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.” It is imperative for a leader to know who is pulling their chair up to the table. Connecting with each of the members allows you to see what strengths they possess that will help execute the goals. 

NOTES DAY: Creativity Inc. introduces the concept of a "Notes Day." This is a crucial practice at Pixar where leaders, including Catmull himself, dedicate an entire day to meet with individuals across the organization. These meetings focused on listening to concerns, ideas, and feedback from employees at all levels within the company. The benefit of Notes Day is that it dismantles the hierarchy paradigm and allows for creativity and knowledge transfer while amplifying and diversifying voices and inclusion.

As a leader within diversity, equity, and inclusion, I leverage the Notes Day strategy by always connecting with my teammates understanding them and how I envision them in conjunction with how they see themselves. This is a vital connection because how they operate may not be a replica of how one does things… yet there is some power in playing up their strength.  We know it takes some emotional intelligence and acceptance to know your own weaknesses as a leader to allow for your team to come in and knock out the barriers. In connecting and lengthening the table (or changing the structure of the room), the creativity switch flicks on, and opportunities will appear.

F.E.A.R. -- Fear, Failure, and Shifting the Gears

F.E.A.R: FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. In medicine’s culture of perfectionism, we tend to shoot down the adventure that comes with creativity with a fear of failing. Why is it that we heighten fear rather than resilience? Is it psychological trauma? Are we triggered by a previous experience that didn’t go in our favor and now we are stuck in the idea of failure with a negative connotation? Catmull et al. stated “If you create a fearless culture (or as fearless as human nature will allow), people will be much less hesitant to explore new areas, identify uncharted pathways, and then charge them down.” Failure is the gateway to valuable insight, discoveries, and revelation. 

My relationship with failure goes back to my undergraduate days. I was on a path to become a pharmacist, but in taking a college-level Calculus course, I failed. It was difficult to accept failure after being someone who was used to excelling. The years of accolades had me in delusion that failure was not an option. Amid my personal trials, I enrolled again and failed again. In failing, I began to lose my ‘why’. Stepping away to gain clarity on my game plan and get to the root of my problem saved me. I had to change my understanding of what the failures were teaching me. Navigating a failure isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible. We must allow ourselves to shift gears to get into the next lane and accelerate past our challenges.  In recovering from uncertainties, resilience preserves us from faltering. 

Armed with wisdom Catmull and Wallace provided in this book, I embrace leadership with open arms. One commonality among all the books I read regarding leadership is that the journey in sparking true inspiration is ongoing. It may start with you, but it will continue through those above, under, and next to you. I encourage you all to take that journey with me to uncharted waters of inspiration, creativity, and adventure.

Brief Bio

When she is not reading, learning another language and/or leading in her faith-based organization, JoVonnda Chresfield involves herself in process improvement initiatives and pursues opportunities with project management, data science, strategic planning, and research development. The Miami, Florida native has a background in STEM earning her Bachelor of Science in Biology with additional studies in Chemistry and Foreign Language. She is set to graduate December 2023 with her MBA with a concentration in Data Analytics. She currently holds the position Senior GME Program Administrator within the Baptist Health Internal Medicine Residency program. She participates in multiple taskforces including Health Equity Initiatives. Nationally, she sits on multiple committees and councils in the medical education sector.