Eight Project Summaries from around the Globe
The United Nations
Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative
"Management Education for the World"
It is well known that many business schools and university-based executive education centers have been in transition for more than a decade, merging their traditional MBA programs with elements drawn from the liberal arts curriculum. Ever since the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal published their declarations that the new MBA needed to be more like a liberal arts degree, business schools have been scurrying to catch up and find their way into this brave new world. In 2012, the United Nations convened its own summit of business school deans and directors from around the world, commissioning them to work together on the design of a wholly new model for management education matched to the new realities of the 21st century. Called the 50+20 Project, the effort drew its name from the 50 years since the origination of the traditional MBA model as created by the Ford and Carnegie Foundations and the 20 years since the last Earth Summit. Working over a period of a year and a half, I was privileged to collaborate with deans and directors from dozens of countries meeting in a series of conference working groups in New York City, St. Gallen, Switzerland, and Brussels, Belgium, ultimately delivering our new creation at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
John Cimino, Creative Leaps International
Learn more about The 50+20 Project and “Management Education for the World,” by clicking HERE
Or watch on YouTube: HERE
Society for College and University Planning
Exploring Leadership, Creativity and Imagination to Strengthen and Transform Higher Education
It was the spring of 2015 and the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) was organizing its largest international gathering ever, more than 1700 educational leaders from around the globe gathered in Chicago to celebrate the organization's 50 anniversary and, more importantly, to attempt a fresh approach to the daunting challenges facing higher education worldwide. Our team from Creative Leaps International was contracted to design and perform the opening keynote, a project that in our hands becomes a "Concert of Ideas". The goal was to take the assembled guests by surprise, energize their collective participation and spark their individual imaginations towards some game-changing new thinking. This plus providing everyone with a terrific, good time. Our Concert of Ideas, entitled "Unless the Mind Catch Fire..." proved a huge success, elevating everyone's energies and setting in motion brave new discussions and conversations that bubbled through the duration of the conference. Our own debriefing workshop with about 200 hundred of the participants was full to capacity and generated dozens of 'take-home' ideas, insights and inspirations. The Concert of Ideas was recorded for broadcast and may be accessed via either of these YOUTube links: Concert of Ideas - set of seven 2-min excerpts Concert of Ideas - entire (80 min) . Creative Leaps president, John Cimino, was also commissioned to write an article for the SCUP Journal available now on this website: "To Think As Nature Thinks - Optimizing Connectivity: Envisioning the University as a Complex Living System".
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
Association for Managers of Innovation
Celebrating 40 Years as an Innovation Community
Imagining the Future: "THIS IS OUR TIME"
Early in the spring of 2021, AMI leaders Rob Brodnick and Danielle Kaynor formalized plans to work with Creative Leaps International and the Renaissance Center on AMI’s upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration. In recognition of Covid constraints, they opted for a virtual event, that is, a virtual Concert of Ideas honoring AMI founder, Stan Gryskiewicz, and celebrating the values and ideas that have made AMI the remarkable organization it is today. Importantly, they also wished to use the occasion, and especially the Concert of Ideas, as a catalyst for stimulating new conversations about AMI’s future. This would be Creative Leaps International's very first virtual Concert of Ideas and the technical challenges associated with 'going virtual' would be significant. After consultation with everyone involved, the team agreed on a plan to move forward.
To maximize the engagement of AMI members, Creative Leaps president, John Cimino, invited their individual input in identifying key themes and insights native to AMI to be incorporated into the design of the Concert of Ideas. Several members were also recruited as readers of quotations harvested from the member input. The readers recorded the quotations on their phones and forwarded the recordings to Creative Leaps for processing. All the music for the Concert of Ideas was recorded during the summer by the Creative Leaps performers. All the editing and visual enhancements of this material was completed in August and September by Creative Leaps technical coordinators, Jon Klibonoff and John Cimino, together with original slide images contributed by the team's wonderful new visual artist Xue Bai (Snow). Final production coordination was managed by AMI’s leadership team (Rob, Danielle and Debra) and ‘live in-the-moment’ technical coordination of the Zoom interface with our pre-recorded musical files was handled by AMI colleague, David Culton. The event proved over-the-top successful for both AMI and the Creative Leaps International/Renaissance Center team. The entire 2.5 hour event was recorded and may be accessed via the link below.
[Click HERE to see the virtual Concert of Ideas]
Worchester Polytechnic Institute
Innovation, Leadership and Entrepreneurship
My talk at WPI came as an invitation from the dean there, Mark Rice, a friend of mine from our own undergraduate days at RPI. It was sheer pleasure to see Mark again and the students he assembled were a joy to interact with. Mark was hoping that I would take them by surprise by singing for them in the middle of my presentation, midway between references to Einstein and Freeman Dyson whom I'd recently met. I did and it worked like a charm, but the best part for me was how the students came alive with their questions even before I sang simply by inviting them to think. I mean really inviting them by thinking out loud right along with them and being happily lost in the flow of the moment. That became contagious and that's when things really came alive. So I told my stories of Pavarotti and Bucky Fuller and boggled them a little with Escher's tricks in perspective and William Blake's "As a Man is, so he Sees. As the Eye s formed, such are its Powers." And asked them, "What are you crouched in eagerness to become?", a great line from "The Last Unicorn". In the home stretch, we talked about metaphors and how they jump us from one island of knowing to another as we contend with the ocean of unknowing that's always up ahead of us. In the last moments, my hope was to bring them into an awe and reverence for feeling -- not thinking and understanding -- but that species of knowing which is feeling. I quoted my great friend, philosopher Maxine Greene, "The opposite of aesthetic is anesthetic. Aesthetic means to feel; anesthetic takes the feeling away. To be without the arts is to be deprived of feeling, to become numb, and that's where evil finds it way in, when there is no feeling." Then I paused and showed them a picture with some famous faces: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Robert Greenleaf, Albert Einstein and a boy reading to an elephant crouched in immense gentleness in front of him. As we took in the images, I shared the following:
"The aesthetic dimension of leadership is one of felt knowledge, felt relationships and deeply felt values. It is seeing through the Eye of Imagination and feeling the heartbeat of the world.
And the heartbeat of the world, which is also our own heartbeat, calls us to our highest self, our highest truth which is service to others. To lead is to serve. Without the decision to serve, no woman or man can ever be a true leader."
Young Freeman Dyson
Cimino and Dyson
"Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see."
"The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers."
Queensland Institute of Technology
Creative Leaps International Comes to Australia
Having met Creative Leaps president, John Cimino, in Brussels at a meeting of the United Nations 50 + 20 Project “Re-designing Management Education for the World”, Deputy Vice Chancellor Peter Little from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) was keen to bring the entire Creative Leaps team to Australia to introduce its unique interdisciplinary, arts-based methodology to leaders in business, government and education. Within a year, that vision became a reality and QUT sponsored a series of one and two-day conferences, workshops and training events in Brisbane and other premiere venues across the country. The Creative Leaps team worked with government change agents and innovation experts in Queensland and with senior government executives at the federal level in Canberra. They worked with university faculty and students on the campus of QUT, with the Business Leaders Hall of Fame and business executives enrolled in the university’s Executive Education Program, and with educational leaders from across Queensland gathered to learn about Creative Leaps’ innovations in teaching and learning.
Perhaps most memorable for the Creative Leaps team was their journey into the Australian Outback to the community of Longreach, at the time deeply depressed by a six-year drought. Right from their plane, the Creative Leaps team was ushered into a small faculty lounge where 40 of the community’s teachers were waiting for them with curious, open smiles. The impromptu Concert of Ideas and friendly, energizing conversations which followed set the tone for the next three days. The team was open to anything and the sky was the limit. The following morning, the Creative Leaps team met with student groups from every grade level. They listened to them sing and perform on their instruments, coached and cheered them in their music making, and answered their hundreds of wide-eyed questions. The next day took the team deeper still into the Outback for an adventure amidst roving kangaroo mobs, hay deliveries to clusters of surviving cattle, and a traditional barbeque on the banks of an historic billabong. The vast heart of Australia was beginning to reveal itself. On returning to Longreach, the Creative Leaps team performed a concert for the entire town at the Qantas Museum:
"The space was filled to overflowing with parents and children, babies toddling across the performing space, historic planes suspended above, and two student groups ready to collaborate with us in our performance. The concert began with the brass choir joining us in our opening fanfare and everything that followed seemed bathed in a light radiating from all our hearts. The music overtook us. It fell like rain upon our heads. For a few precious hours, the drought was suspended, and we filled up on something akin to pure joy." (J. Cimino)
"The inspiring work of Creative Leaps International offered a world class transformational experience to our participants who were given a unique opportunity to reimagine their professional and personal journeys of development. I was amazed at how quickly the team was able to draw the participants into active participation. This was especially impressive as some of the groups contained large numbers of conservative, “hard-wired” leaders. In short, each workshop was a triumph. Every team member has the great gift of engaging the hearts and minds of participants, thus enabling them to quickly open to new horizons of thinking and imagining or awakening creativity that laid dormant or under-utilized. Importantly, participants learned how to apply these creative experiences and techniques in setting professional and life goals. It is worth noting that both their “Concerts of Ideas” and workshops are extremely well designed for active learning and the delivery is carried our sensitively. The feedback we received was overwhelming positive and, in most cases, the participants also observed that they had been exposed to an entirely new way of thinking. I can only offer the highest praise and recommendation of their work."
Professor Peter Little—Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Corporate Programs and Partnerships,
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Oklahoma City University
Placing Creativity at the Center
The occasion was Oklahoma's 100th anniversary of statehood and the State Legislature had contracted with celebrated creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, to brainstorm with them on how to use this occasion as a platform for rebranding the state as something more exciting and noteworthy than "the OK State" or "the Sooner State", its longtime popular nicknames. Under Sir Ken's guidance, they chose "the State of Creativity" as their new branded identity and then set about in earnest to make that a reality. Along the way, they founded, "Creative Oklahoma", a statewide non-profit advancing Oklahoma's economy through programs, projects and collaborative ventures in education, ultimately winning for themselves the coveted designation as a Global Creativity District, one of just 14 designations around the world.
The educational side of this venture was piloted at Oklahoma City University (OCU). Sir Ken had asked Creative Leaps International's president, John Cimino, to lead this part of the creativity mandate and helped to secure funding from the Priddy Foundation of Wichita Falls, Texas. The Priddy Foundation challenged OCU deans and directors to design a project that would "put creativity at the center" of the university’s learning culture. A number of proposals were forthcoming, but the one that won the day came jointly from the university's Fine Arts Institute and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The proposal called for the recruitment and training of 12 faculty fellows each year from across the schools and departments of the university. The 12 would meet weekly among themselves and periodically with experts in the field initially, to take deep dives into the nature of creativity and arts-based approaches to pedagogy and ultimately, to design new courses in their respective fields grounded in creative activity and arts-based approaches to teaching. What's more, the year following, they would teach their new courses and help to mentor the incoming cadre of “Priddy Fellows” throughout the five-year lifetime of the project. Creative Leaps president, John Cimino, advised on the project's design and facilitated the development of the faculty fellows. From the start, the project proved both popular and impactful, and in its second year, went viral generating program extensions reaching into student leadership development, young teacher formation, faculty leadership development, counseling and community outreach -- all designed and personally facilitated by Cimino. By the third year, students were mounting their own “creativity festivals” and "Concerts of Ideas" linked to socially conscious projects around the world. Creativity had moved center stage at OCU both literally and figuratively.
Sir Ken Robinson
"A mind once stretched by a new idea cannot shrink back to its original size."
Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Necessity may the the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father."
Roger von Oech
Center for Integration of Business Education and Humanities (CIBEH)
This project was an invitation from Stonybrook's Center for Integration of Business Education and Humanities to Renaissance Center, president, John Cimino, to give a talk based on his article "Leadership and the Inner Work of Art". Originally published in the LEADER TO LEADER Journal of Frances Hesselbein and Peter Drucker, the article explores the formation of the self that leads and serves, the self we bring to each moment, each decision, each action we take. Cimino's approach draws upon three adjacent disciplines: aesthetics, neuroscience and creativity. He begins with the simple assertion, "It's about leading our own lives" and takes his listeners on a journey inward and back in time to the cave drawings of Lascaux and once there to the delicious proposition of imagining one's own interior Lascaux, a personal space of cherished memories, images and ideals, stories of the 'not yet' and the possible, curated by us alone. "I am large. I contain multitudes!", says Walt Whitman and now we wonder if one day, we might be able to say the same. How much of the world will we allow in? How large our capacity of embrace, compassion, understanding? The inner work of seeing, listening, feeling, reflecting, imagining is work only we can do on our behalf. "As a man is, So he sees. As the Eye is formed, such are its powers." (William Blake). We must be invested in the formation of our Eye, the "Eye" that is the Mind, the "I" that is the Self. It is after all, a future oriented proposition.
"Leadership and the Inner Work of Art" can be read in its entirety by clicking on this link to its location in this website:
The University at Albany
The State University of New York
Strategic Planning & Faculty Engagement
Our team from Creative Leaps International was brought in to assist with a strategic planning initiative at the University at Albany. It happened to be a rough time for the university. The governor had slashed the budget, cuts to programs and departments were ongoing, and otherwise immensely good and dedicated people were at odds with one another. Our job was to persuade 350 of these unhappy campers to participate in an idea generation process. The account below was published shortly after the event.
On the way into the auditorium, Jim Stellar (the provost who had hired us) was greeted by deans and faculty alike with assorted grumbles and comments suggesting he was taking a big risk doing something like this. But he kept his cool and remained calm, positive, and inviting. One would almost think he knew something no one else did. Pascal said it best: “The heart has reasons that reason cannot understand.” As a neuroscientist, Provost Stellar knew that if we could somehow touch the hearts and humanity of his faculty, the skies would clear and people would come together. Happily, he was right. True to form, the Concert of Ideas worked its magic, and people were soon electrified and smiling ear to ear, and suddenly Jim Stellar was a genius again! Everyone moved off to the discussion circles to jump-start their idea generation. There was a buzz in every room and people talked into the night. The next morning, when they gathered again in the big room to report on their ideas, a number of other faculty who had not been at the Concert of Ideas the night before, joined the meeting but could not understand why everyone was so jazzed about what they were doing. What had happened to everyone? In the course of that second day, more than 300 exciting ideas were mapped out for the strategic plan.
In the words of Maxine Greene, “Imagination is thinking of things as if they could be otherwise…you value what is ‘not yet’ and work to bring it into being.”
"Gravitate toward people who value community and can handle disagreement with equanimity."
"Collaborate even when it is hard. Everyone sees the world a little differently. Take advantage of this."