“If everybody is thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.”
As I arrived on the University of Buffalo campus to attend my first Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) Conference, the first person I met, Laura, approached me warmly and we struck up a conversation. She is from Monterey, Mexico, and co-owns a private school with her sisters. She had attended CPSI before and was coming back for a refresher. Then I met Juliana, while standing in line for dinner. A “first-timer” like me, she is from Brazil but lives in Miami and is a 26-year-old entrepreneur. Leveraging her experience in advertising, she is building a consulting business in creative communications. After the opening keynote about what’s coming in 2025, I attended a session about drawing pictures to express ideas/concepts. We learned some simple sketching techniques and practiced drawing the first idea that “comes to mind” when a word or idea was said. This uninhibited flow of ideas to paper sparked a lively dialogue about the ideas behind the pictures. And I met three more interesting people: Sylvia, a former IBM manager turned consultant; Jewel, a psychotherapist; and Fraque, a graphic artist from Argentina. During the next three days, I immersed in Springboard, a creative problem solving facilitation workshop, where I learned new skills with a dynamic group of professionals, including engineers, artists, strategic planners, marketers, entrepreneurs, and teachers. Our facilitators, Dan, Gert, and Sue, role modeled techniques to foster divergent and convergent thinking to solve problems, and they energized us through a wide range of engaging activities. We wrote our own “Challenge Statements” and used the Four Sight process to develop creative solutions with help from members of the group. In my spare time, I attended two more sessions, learning ice breaking techniques and the use of photos to stimulate ideation and creative thinking. I walked out with a range of practical tips and techniques to engage groups in the creative process.
Friday evening, as I sat on the patio at my hotel, relaxing and watching a river/stream flow on the other side of the lawn, I started talking to a woman who had been in a session with me earlier that day. Kim, a professor and former dean at NYU, invited me to join her for a glass of wine. Shortly after, Spence, a former venture capitalist, who is pursuing a new career as a creative problem solving facilitator, joined us. The three of us talked for a few hours — I made two new friends that night. And I left CSPI with an expanded network of professional connections, including a new LinkedIn Discussion Group with my Springboard class.
My CPSI story is not unique. As I met people at the conference, I heard a common theme that one of the most energizing aspects of CPSI is the chance to engage with other creative professionals. But what else did I learn?
Keynote speaker and futurist, Mary O’Hara Devereaux, shared that globally we are going through a period of disruptive innovation in which there are new uncertainties and fewer guideposts than in the past. That said, Mary described some mega trends that predict what is coming in 2025:
Aging to Healthy Longevity – Human beings have added 20 years of productive life, which is redefining old age. Women continue to outlive men. We will experience two “middle ages,” the first around age 40 and the second between 60-70. But while we have increased longevity, we have decreased fertility.
Rise of Emerging Economies – China will be the largest economy. Economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India, and China outpace developed countries. These emerging markets will fuel future innovations. Diversity is a key growth driver: US economy is growing because of immigration.
Future of Work – The workplace is undergoing seismic shifts in how work gets done and who does it.
- Automation is replacing middle-knowledge jobs, while the demand grows for high-end knowledge workers and low-end manual laborers.
- A more entrepreneurial way of working is occurring globally. The US workforce is shifting toward a tipping point where the majority will be self-employed.
- “Velcro “ relationships (tight grips that separate easily and without damage) will replace long time employment as knowledge workers and Millenials reject a pre-defined career ladder and instead manage their careers to build an “experience portfolio.”
- By 2025, most knowledge workers will be women.
- The cloud replaces the office as digital infrastructures move work from place to space.
- An accompanying shift from text to visual communication with greater use of video, animation, and user-generated content
Rise of the Individual – Transition from a mass to “me” economy as cnsumers desire more customized solutions and technology enables delivery of mass customization.
Growing Irrelevance of Knowledge – Digital Age has proliferated the distribution of knowledge, but people struggle to make sense of it. Storytelling is a means to put knowledge into larger context and create value out of knowledge.
Mary encouraged us to look for “weak signals” that predict trends and may gain momentum. For example, if “net speak” becomes the lexicon for communications (OMG, LOL, BTW), how will our language evolve? Are we approaching a future where robots do the work that humans once did?
As we experience the disruptive trends that are reshaping our world, George Patton’s wisdom still rings true: divergent thinking is critical to creative problem solving.