IGNITE! Transforming Business With Creativity

Thanks to all of you who came out to IGNITE! For those of you who attended, you know what a spectacular event it was. Eliot Pfanstiehl kicked off the Speed Networking session, and after that, it was ON! As any of us who have attended a meeting or conference with people we haven’t yet met know, those first few moments after registration can be uncomfortable.  But Eliot made certain that we all got to know each other right quick, and by the time the announcement urging us to grab our lunches for the keynote sounded, the halls were abuzz and there was real excitement in the air. Sara Rosen from Congressman Van Hollen’s office remarked on the buzz as she made her way to the keynote and afterward, said she found it energizing, stimulating and informative!

Conference attendees during the speed networking session. Photo by Archer Sierra

Seth Kahan delivered a mesmerizing keynote and provided us practical and creative ways to interact with others in the workplace; ideas on how to start a rave for your business or product; creative problem solving tips and techniques and much, much more. Seth was fun and honest and I left knowing that I too, can get change right!

Seth Kahan with presenter Sam Horn during the lunch keynote. Photo by Archer Sierra

Frankly, I know many would agree that though the sessions were wonderful, they were simply too short! Nonetheless, Sam Horn crammed her session chock full of great ideas on how to use alliteration and alphabetizing techniques (to name a few) in ways I had never even considered for business, and people walked away with a new understanding of the tenets of improvisation and idea implementation steps from Bruce Nelson and Jimi Kinstle that had idea “light bulbs” igniting over many heads! Win Wenger gave us the Wind Tunnel concept to sharpen our ability rid ourselves of brain clutter and  open ourselves to the right idea for any business or personal conundrum. Several attendees noted that they were inspired to close the dichotomy between the creative, artistic self, and the professional business self as a result of the conference, and frankly, I was too!

Conference attendees in Sam Horn's session. Photo by Archer Sierra

I loved Joan Michelson’s idea that consensus can mean plain vanilla and her challenge to embrace conflict and see what we can do to use conflict to help us get to the next phase in our thinking. While embracing conflict may be counterintuitive for some, I’ve learned that something that emanates from a different perspective can stimulate creativity — that is, if you let it. Sometimes a crisis or conflict can force us to look at thinks in a new light, with a new mind. And, considering the competition, that is surely a good thing!

Michelle James helped participants explore how improvisational theatre can help leaders enhance leadership performance, and when crisis, conflict, challenges arise, that’s just what’s needed. This is where “thinking on our feet” comes in and it’s certainly helped in my career! While I tried to be everywhere at once, I simply couldn’t, so I missed Julie Lenzer Kirk’s session, but I hear it was fantastic and why wouldn’t it be? She’s a great speaker and writer, and businesses need to be able to evaluate and recognize the best of many good ideas and act on them – anybody got Cliff Notes from her session?

Playback Theatre during the Conference Finale. Photo by Archer Sierra

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Playback Theatre did a spectacular job of tying the whole thing together by playing back  the effect of the conference on participants and demonstrating how the creative actually ties in to business practice – simply fascinating. Frankly, by then I was spent. But our aerialists Ann Behrends and Nina Charity and Happenstance Theatre helped create just the atmosphere at the Schmoozefest conducive to chatting up my colleagues and hearing the plethora of great ideas they were taking home in the “goodie bag” of their minds!

Ann Behrends, our fabulous aerialist, during the SchmoozeFest. Photo by Archer Sierra

Happenstance Theatre during the SchmoozeFest. Photo by Archer Sierra

So there you have it. We KNOW creativity is THE business imperative and at IGNITE! we saw it. We felt it. We experienced it. We embraced it. We’re harnessing it. Away we go! How about you?

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Suzan Jenkins is the CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County.

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