When we set the theme for our 2019 conference — The Creative Future — we imagined a future where creative skills are more pervasive and prized, and how that might reshape the world around us. As we prepare for the event in May, we’re asking our speakers to share a skill they think is important for all creatives to navigate what’s to come.
Jessica Orkin is the President of SYPartners, a consultancy that helps organizations transform into more vibrant versions of themselves. Jessica will be at the 11th Annual 99U Conference taking place May 8-10 in New York City.
A. To navigate the edge of the unknown, both with Fortune 500 companies and with my SYPartners team, I have cultivated a practice of deep listening—an intentional quieting of the ego and the desire to apply past patterns or jump to solutions. The result is an openness to a much richer, less obvious world of information: the energy of a room, the connections between people, the things unsaid, the voices missing in a conversation, ideas that jolt and jar rather than fit in. From that place of deep listening, I start to sense what lies beneath the surface of things, and often a different understanding of the “problem” emerges, giving rise to radically different ways forward.
A. Design thinking has inspired many people, particularly those who don’t self-conceive as “creatives,” to recognize their creativity and generate ideas at high volume and velocity. I think of this as the "creative exhale"—emitting ideas into the world. But as more interconnected, complex human challenges and opportunities emerge we will all need to get better at the “creative inhale”—attending to the information we take in, the signals of the future we are sensing, the voices and perspectives that may be missing, and how we define the problems we solve. Listening deeply and differently changes our creative exhale, enabling us to generate fundamentally new solutions.
A. In my work with companies, I’ve seen inspiration happen when leaders seek out new perspectives and focus on their creative inhale before jumping into the exhale.
For instance: What does a luxe Danny Meyer restaurant and your local CVS have in common?
They are both pursuing purpose-driven service and hospitality. CVS executives saw this firsthand on a recent visit to Manhattan. SYPartners had organized a tour of hospitality experiences to inspire new thinking about customer-centricity. It would have been easy for the pharmacy leaders to dismiss the restaurant’s extra-mile hospitality as irrelevant to CVS. But they didn’t. By leading with curiosity and suspending skepticism—in other words, practicing deep listening—they came away with insights that are changing how they think about their culture, not just their approach to service.
A. I took a fairly radical approach—three years ago, I became a student of sound meditation with Sara Auster to learn about the science and practice of deep listening. This led to some wild adventures (ask me about studying raga in India for 10 hours a day, with no musical background). This path is decidedly not for everyone. Some easier ways in:
Hear from Jessica and other creatives shaping the future at the 11th Annual 99U Conference, May 8-10, 2019 in New York City.