Dr Cathryn Lloyd Founded Maverick Minds after experimenting with the intersection of creative, academic and business principles at one of London’s leading art and design universities. She realised that creativity and art could be used as a central methodology to solve complex business problems and inspire innovation within teams.
You facilitate ‘arts based learning’ by incorporating business, artistic and academic principles in organizational settings. Why do you believe this is more effective than traditional learning approaches?
Creativity manifests itself in many ways and I have always combined a creative life with a business mindset. I’m an avid life long learner and to evolve my work it made sense to spend time researching how I could bring these worlds together in a really effective way. I undertook a practice-led research doctorate at QUT Creative Industries to allow me to do just that. I approach my work in a multi-disciplinary way. I’m a bower-bird so I’m interested in bringing different methodologies, processes and people together and I believe this way of working is increasingly important.
We need everyone’s creative intelligence and disciplines at the table. Arts/creative industries, science, business, technology and academia all working together to come up with good solutions for the ‘wicked’ issues we face in our organisations and society. People are seeking different and unconventional approaches to learning and working. They want experiences and content brought to life. They also want to bring their creativity to their work. That’s where I bring in ‘Artful Inquiry’ processes and facilitation.
Tell us about how you combined creative and business thinking to shape your role as the Professional Training Manager at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design at the University of the Arts, London.
Central Saint Martins is part of the University of Arts London, a leading UK art and design University. It was a catalyst for deepening my understanding of how the arts/creative industries and business can work together. In particular it further focused my thinking around how much business can learn from artists and creative industries. The Professional Training Manager role was a new position and enabled me to use and develop my entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial skills.
Working across the various creative disciplines to develop bespoke programs for corporate clients, I cultivated a great team of highly professional creative tutors/facilitators. I learned a lot and established a strong network of people, many of whom I continue to have a relationship with either personally or professionally. It made me realise that I wanted to facilitate and deliver interesting learning experiences. To be at the pointy end of things and engage directly with people in what can be a very dynamic space.
What is ‘artful inquiry’ and how can it be useful in problem solving?
Artful Inquiry is a term and concept I came up with while doing my doctoral research. It relates to how we expand our consciousness and creativity through different learning approaches particularly aesthetic, arts-based and artful processes and experiences to provide new insights into existing issues. It’s about helping people open up and get beyond conventional thinking. It’s about creating disruptions to produce a shift in our thinking for new ideas, possibilities and action to emerge.
Think of Einstein’s quote – we can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. How do we get new perspectives and insights? How can we challenge our own habitual thinking? We do that by opening up to new processes, conversations and experimentation. It may be challenging, but if we want to create change that has value, then we need to go there and potentially ‘fail’ as well. This is probably one of the more difficult concepts for businesses to grasp.
In your experience, what are the essential ingredients for a successful team building program?
Get people involved in the process and create ownership of what is going on. I love working with motivated and enthusiastic people. It’s an absolute joy. Having said that I have also worked in situations where people have not been so keen at the beginning for all sorts of reasons. Yet I have seen those same people change and come to value what creative work has to offer.
I try as much as possible to involve people in the process, and respect the creativity and wisdom that people bring when they allow themselves and their colleagues to go there. The issues in teams that seem to regularly emerge and require attention include communication, trust, accountability and relationships. If we can get those things happening a lot of other things will work as well.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Letting people know about Maverick Minds so they understand how I can be of service. Word of mouth is a gift as people are receptive. I’m grateful when people refer me to their networks. When I returned to Australia I felt I was speaking a foreign language about the work I had been doing, and what I saw could be possible here. People were skeptical (maybe that is an Australian attitude) about the idea of creativity as a way of thinking and doing business.
I have seen changes over the past few years, particularly as creativity and innovation have been on the rhetorical agenda for a while. There is room for organisations and institutions to provide meaningful and less conventional ways to engage people in their work. People need to realise that innovation and change often takes time and there may not be a quick fix. It’s worth taking time to explore what is possible.
What are you most proud of?
I can’t pinpoint one thing. I feel fortunate to have a varied professional life. I’ve been able to develop and utilise my creative skills in different ways. I get to combine the arts, business and the academia in my work. That’s a pretty good achievement I think. I’m a work in progress.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
There is a lot of discussion around gender parity/equality. This is a really important conversation that needs action. We need significant changes to our institutions/organisations for women and men. We all benefit in the long run. The idea that women don’t need fixing resonates for me (thanks Catherine Fox). I find that more convincing than the idea of simply leaning in, although we do need the courage to do that at times. My view is that the system needs fixing. We seem to be stuck particular paradigm that needs to change and we need women and men to be part of the process. That’s probably a bit more challenging because it doesn’t put the onus on women and say the problem is you.
So I would say to future female leaders – nurture and value your creativity. Your creativity is unique; no-one else will have your ideas, your way of seeing the world. Creativity is the most renewable resource we have. The more we cultivate it the more it grows.
I’d like to leave you with a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton “Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another”. May the creative force be with you.