Creative Leadership – Connections

I’m having a blast here at the 2013 Illinois SHRM conference. Kudos to the gang of volunteers that energise and galvanise these events, I feel privileged to be here.

Musical Connections

Thanks to the organisational skills of Dwane Lay and Jonathan Brewer, and the generosity of John Hudson, guitar provider par excellence, things got off to a lively start with a pre conference camp fire singalong on Sunday evening. This was a great way to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones too, and Dave Ryan was on the ball and captured a flavour of our musical time together for posterity.

The theme and purpose for the conference this year is all about HR helping HR – and we are being encouraged to discuss and suggest and encourage different ways of working better together. I chose to approach this challenge by preparing a session about connections, communication and creativity.


We looked at how we currently learn and work and how this seems to drive up convergent thinking and drive out creativity and divergence. I shared a little of what I’d learned from the recent RSA talk by Ken Robinson to help illustrate this. We also looked at how we react to experiences that make us feel shameful and the impact that often has on creativity too. Here’s a little something I learned from Brene Brown and Heather Bussing on this important, and yet little talked about aspect of vulnerability – an essential ingredient of creativity.

Vulnerability - Brene Brown

Vulnerability - Heather Bussing


We spent time talking about the benefits of investing in building a diverse network. Being able to connect, share and learn with and from people is increasingly easy, particularly with the technology available to us (we looked mainly at Twitter, blogging and Instagram as tools to help with this). And we explored how much more interesting things get when you reach beyond people you might typically associate with and strive to learn from others less like you too. Diversity is another essential ingredient of creativity.


We looked at Starbucks and Qantas and their ill timed #SpreadTheCheer and #QantasLuxury campaigns as examples of what happens when social goes wrong. Both of these examples could have been prevented , and we discussed how organisations that choose to work in a more conversational, open and transparent cross departmental way often minimise the chances of making these kinds of dumb mistakes. And if HR has a role to encourage smarter working in the business, and we agreed it does, then why not take the lead and be the oil in the machine. Conversations – essential ingredients of creativity.

I’ll come back to this subject after I’ve flown back from the US, and I’ll also take a look at some of the new thinking that Paul Hebert shared with us, some of which fits neatly in this connections space too. For now though, I’m off to enjoy Dwane Lay’s talk and the rest of the conference. Have a great day.


Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

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