Towards a New Cadre of Creative Leaders

To research and educate about new forms of leadership, and to deliver a new generation of creative people able to deliver this leadership.

shutterstock_347800229This is the new mission for our Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at Cass Business School. During 2017, research undertaken by the Centre identified increasingly complex, unstructured and dynamic worlds that leaders need to operate in. It revealed that societal, business and social challenges are no longer predictable, and traditional planning leadership and processes that are derived from single disciplines often generate inadequate solutions. Something new is needed.

Over the last 8 months, our Centre team has worked with its new external Advisory Board to develop the new mission. Together we recognised that the world is increasingly complex, unstructured and dynamic, even chaotic to the uninformed observer. We concluded that societal, business and social challenges are no longer predictable, and traditional planning leadership and processes that are derived from single disciplines generate inadequate solutions. Under the chairmanship of Professor Steven Kyffin, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Northumbria University, we have identified the need for new forms of interdisciplinary leadership to provide the new forms of structure that make sense of complex, unstructured and dynamic worlds.

Therefore, the Centre’s new, and exciting mission is to research and educate about these new forms of leadership, and to deliver a new generation of creative people able to deliver this leadership. The new challenge and mission statements are reported in full at the end of this message.

We are excited by this new mission for the Centre, and hope that you are too.

Now, we want people to involve themselves in the Centre’s progress towards delivering this new mission. There will be plenty of opportunities to do so. To get involved, contact the Centre Director, Professor Neil Maiden, at

The challenge statement – in full

The world is increasingly complex, unstructured and dynamic, even chaotic to the uninformed observer. Societal, business and social challenges are no longer predictable, and traditional planning leadership and processes that are derived from single disciplines generate inadequate solutions. Use of the skills and processes generated from these single disciplines does not inform people about what will happen tomorrow or next week, let alone how to respond to this perceived chaos.

The mission statement in full

New forms of interdisciplinary leadership are needed to provide new forms of structure that make sense of the chaos. The Centre will research and educate about these new forms of leadership. This research and enterprise will build a new cadre of creative leaders. The new cadre will be delivered with the new interdisciplinary frameworks, knowledge, techniques and skills to investigate, generate, envision, prototype, critique and reflect on creative solutions to these complex, ill-structured and chaotic problems, and provide new forms of intellectual resilience. Moreover, these new interdisciplinary frameworks, knowledge, techniques and skills will be synthesised from not only business and engineering disciplines, but also from the arts, the social and the creativity sciences. Framework development will both inform and be informed by emerging practices. As a result, the new leadership cadre will enable teams to take ‘leaps of faith’ in more structured and controlled environments, to empower their organisations and teams to do the same. It will empower businesses to be non-business in business, and to be entrepreneurial with these skills, in new contexts. It will enable a wider range of organisations to be more interdisciplinary and business-like.

The Centre’s external Advisory Committee members

Prof. Steven Kyffin (Chair), Pro-Vice Chancellor of Business and Enterprise, Northumbria University

Prof. Alan Blackwell, Professor of Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge

Claire Bridges, Founder, Now Go Create

Brian Dorval, Founding Partner, Think First Serve, Inc.

John Loder, Head of Strategy, Nesta Health Lab

Frank Milani Co-founder, Powergoat

Evelyn Wilson, Director, TCCE (The Culture Capital Exchange)

Photo credit: Sensay/



Boosting Resilience programme launches Birmingham September 2017

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Residential 1: Understanding Your Assets

Boosting resilience, our intense, boundary-pushing and catalytic two-year Executive Learning programme, funded by Arts Council England, seeks to deliver excellence for the creative sectors. Central to the Boosting Resilience Programme are three intense two day residentials. Last month 27 participants undertook the first two day residential of the programme in Birmingham. This diverse set of participants, from from a variety of arts and cultural organisations across England (need link to participant profiles), came together in an initial meeting of strangers to build a community, developing new networks, while they were encouraged to develop capacity for reflection as part of their everyday work.

Aki Schilz, Director, The Literary Consultancy stated: “The course allowed me to begin to think about ways we might articulate our creative assets, protecting our artistic integrity but introducing a more business-led approach that shows we are able to deliver strong leadership; both on a personal level from me to my team at TLC, and also outward from our reputation within the literature sector”.

Residential one established the foundational knowledge and learning approaches for the rest of the programme; to enable executive and board level staff working in arts and cultural organisations to develop new approaches to building resilience through identifying and capturing the value of creative assets and intellectual property.

Kevin Rivett, Director, Calderdale Music Trust noted: “I feel challenged, Illuminated and inspired to seek new direction both inward and outward”.

Our innovative and forward thinking programme seeks to have diverse and wide sector implications.

Helen Charman, Director, Learning and Research at the Design Museum stated: “First of all, thank you for a fantastic residential last week. What a huge amount of work everyone put in. The cohort is delightful. Reflecting, it occurs to me that perhaps one of the reasons it all jelled so well was because participants applied very much with the health of their organisations at the forefront – so less about individuals than about the collective. I have already used a theory of change model in planning activity”.

In the action packed programme the participants undertook ten distinct activities over the two days. These activities enabled participants to work on themes to develop new ideas for making better use of their creative assets and intellectual property, and to build an understanding of how activities based on their organisation’s creative assets relate to its vision and core purpose. Four external speakers were invited to share their expertise; Patrick Towell (Golant Media) shared insights on creative assets, Andy Wilkins (Perspectiv) on VIEW assessment of your problem solving style, and Noam Shemtov and Nadia-Anne Ricketts on intellectual property.

Caroline Coates, Production Director and Chair, Helen Storey Foundation said: “I was very impressed by the openness and kindness of the other delegates, and the range of their expertise. This for me and the team’s wonderful attention to detail was rather moving. I cannot fault the team or the thought and detail”.

Both participants and organisers were encouraged to Tweet and this accumulated body of tweets is accessible via Storify at:

As we continue to develop the programme do keep a look out for our offering and what we will roll out in the future.

David Cox author of ‘Creative Thinking for Dummies’ speaks at Cass

Shivanee Brigham, a postgraduate on the Masters for Innovation, Creativity and Leadership shares her thoughts on ‘I wouldn’t start from here…’ with David Cox, author of ‘Creative Thinking for Dummies’. The seminar was hosted by the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice.

So we hear a lot about innovation, but what does it mean in the company context? What does it look like and how does it happen? Too often, we think product development, R&D and technological or scientific breakthrough. Like everyone, I often think of tecCassCreativitySeminarDavid Coxh companies like Apple when I hear the term innovation and ponder what innovation looks like in a ‘normal’ corporate business and if a leopard really can change its spots in terms of management practice?

With over 30 years of experience of working with companies like Lego, Saab and publishing group Wiley (behind the ‘for Dummies’ book range) as a consultant, David Cox gave us a different insight into innovation and why companies find it so hard to innovate. The starting point being that since 2000, half of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared – mainly because of digital.

David talked us through Lego’s journey of transformation: from being a traditional toymaker with typical corporate structures and a rigid set of principles on the brand and product; to being challenged by a rapidly-changing world where children were now problem-solving through electronic games and excited by Pixar movies and a new revival of comic heroes.

Lego’s initial response was interesting and perhaps unsurprising to those of us who have worked in corporate environments. Nevertheless, the company did embark on changing itself to survive in a crowded and complex marketplace. That meant really focusing on what was going on around them, listening and realising how digital was changing children’s’ play.

What was really interesting was the story of when businesses face-up to reality and recognise that they need to change to survive and the emotions behind it: resistance, (even reluctance) and fear of the unfamiliar. Innovation means more than new products – it also involvees creative output from all employees, not just a select few. As David put it, “Innovation is not a bolt-on.”

As a Cass student on the Masters for Innovation, Creativity and Leadership (MICL) for me, David gave an interesting perspective on what innovation really means for organisations. The intricacies between creativity and innovation, and how it can be taken forward in businesses that were not born in the digital revolution, because innovation is more than just digital – it is as much about leadership and management practice.

As I near the end of the MICL, I am now faced with choices about what to do next and how I can put my creative skills into professional practice. I don’t yet have the answers but what I have realised from the programme, reinforced by this talk is that you don’t have to be working for Amazon or Google to be part of innovation. It depends on creative thinking and recognising the need for change. What I do know is there are plenty of organisations out there that need people who can think creatively and are ready to tackle the choices and opportunities unleashed by digital, and the MICL has helped me unlock that potential.

Follow #CassCreativity and see our website for more seminars and events.

Dementia Care: Thinking Creatively About Each and Every One of Us

Over 70 million people worldwide will have dementia by 2030.

One current approach to caring for older people with dementia is person-centred care – an approach that recognizes the uniqueness and understanding of the world from the perspective of the older person with dementia. Carers practice a range of person-centred care techniques, from reminiscing together with an older person in order to understand their life, to experiencing the world from each older person’s unique perspective.

Creative problem solving can fulfil important roles in person-centred care. Applied successfully, it can produce new and valuable outcomes, i.e. care activities that both recognize a sense of uniqueness and are new to the care of an older person with dementia.

However, so far, creative problem solving has not been very widely applied to support person-centred care.

To explore the potential of creative problem solving in person-centred care, we previously encouraged carers to experiment with different creativity techniques. For example, residential carers used the What-if technique to challenge existing barriers to understanding the resident from different perspectives, then generate new care ideas in response to these barriers. They used the Brain Writing technique to combine and evolve ideas generated with other techniques. And they used the Other Worlds technique to generate ideas to manage behaviours that are challenging in different, less constrained domains such as social lives and different cultures. The carers singled out this Other Worlds technique because, unlike the others, it purposefully transferred knowledge and ideas from sources outside of their immediate knowledge and understanding.

However, to support creative thinking in person-centred care more effectively, we have also developed a new software application called Care’N’Share to support creative collaborations between carers to improve the person-centred care of older people beyond each carer’s own current knowledge and understanding. The software application was developed to enable carers to share good care practices and, more importantly, to think creatively about practices in order to apply them individually to residents during person-centred care.

To use the application, a carer simply enters an unstructured natural language description of a care situation in which an older person is having trouble eating, often drops food on the floor and is unable to maintain a balanced diet. The application then invokes creative search software to retrieve good care practices from the application’s case base that have different forms of similarity to the entered care situation.Screen

For example, one case that might be retrieved describes a resident not eating the food in front of him, which is presented to carers in 5 parts. The first part describes the original care situation – the person not eating his food. The second describes how different people – care staff, family members and the resident – reacted to the situation, and presented to encourage the users to reflect and learn from the situation. The third describes the different care activities that were implemented to resolve the care situation, for example a physical health check-up and changing the colours of the plates. The fourth part presents automatically generated nudges to the users to think creatively using information about the retrieved case in order to resolve the original situation. These creative nudges are generated by the application from the retrieved case content, for example the carers spoke to their manager, who got advice from an occupational therapist (OT), as the carers knew the problem was not with swallowing or the type of foods because the carers ‘d seen John eat and enjoy the food without problems with prompting. Can you adapt this action plan to your situation? At any point, the users can request the application to generate new creative nudges to trigger creative thinking to resolve the current care situation. The fifth presents a set of links to external training resources relevant to the case, such as SCIE guidance about nutritional care and older people.

Care’N’Share offers a new way to learn about older people with dementia – with creative problem solving in response to situations that are encountered during everyday care. Explore it and its creative guidance at You can also learning about the creativity techniques mentioned in this blog at


The Creative A-Team

Ever wished that you had the creative A-Team on your project? Top architects, artists, designers and other creatives? Well, now, at the click of a button, you can.

Screenshot of the Bright Sparks website
The Bright Sparks app showing one creative persona

Well, sort of. A creative A-Team populated by digital versions of these great people.

Our new BrightSparks app builds on Michalko’s Hall of Fame creativity technique. The technique allows problem solvers to explore how famous people will help solve their challenge by using the unique knowledge and practices of these people. The BrightSparks app supports use of the technique without the need for human facilitation – you can use it alone, in groups, or workshop settings. We have added creative clues, which when applied to the personas, guide users to think creatively about designs.

The technique is simple to use:

  1. Identify a challenge that you or your project team would like to solve;
  2. Use BrightSparks to find insights from the profiled personas and by applying the creative clues;
  3. Write down your ideas on paper or capture them electronically by using the link to the MindMup visual mind mapping tool, available with BrightSparks;
  4. Explore the set of clues until the creative potential of the persona has been exhausted.
  5. Repeat the exercise with new personas to ensure that new and creative ideas are generated.

Now it’s time to collect your own Creative A-Team. Go to We love it when a plan comes together.

James Lockerbie and Neil Maiden


For the last three years running, my company Now Go Create has worked with the Holmes Report to co-author what is now an annual survey on the state of creativity in PR. This is a subject I know well: as a former Creative Director at a WPP agency and nearly 20 years practitioner experience I am all too familiar with clients’ exacting demands on PRs to hit the creative sweet spot. I also know that a chasm can exist between where a company was two years ago and where it needs to be tomorrow – it’s a fluid industry, ever adapting to changing times as so many are.

As a Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership (MICL) student, (I am in the final throes of the course), I was inspired to approach a publisher with the idea of the report, in no small part as a result of studying at City University London and being exposed to robust research which was I felt was lacking in my industry. Our report ‘Global Creativity In PR’ now The Holmes Reportin its third year is published today.

With input from more than 600 people in 35 countries, the data is collected via Survey Monkey with an open invite to readers of the PR industry monitor, The Holmes Report It takes several months to collate; the results help give anyone with an interest in PR a snapshot of how the industry values, rewards and feels about creativity. Given that the PR industry is considered to be part of the ‘creative industries’ then I hope the findings reflect some best practices with something to glean for other disciplines.

Key findings for 2014:

+ 1 in 3 clients are unhappy with the quality of creative work being delivered by their agency.

+ 55% of clients think that agencies lack big ideas.

+ 49% of respondents rated the creative thinking and personnel within their business as “ordinary” or worse.

+ Only 35% of respondents say their business adequately rewards creativity.

+ Dedicated Creative Director roles are up 10% over the past three years.

+ ‘Client feedback or risk aversion’ is cited by PRs as the biggest barrier to creativity (three years ago it was simply ‘lack of time’). Respondents were also crying out for more insight, more creative tools and the ability to take more risks.

+ A quarter of PR businesses still do not have a creative process. Fortunately, well over two-thirds of respondents (72%) do have the mechanics in place (a slight rise on last year, when it was 66%).

+ When asked ‘If you could only do three things to improve your own or your company’s creative capabilities, what would they be?”

• Improve use of insight 33%
• More knowledge of creative tools 32%
• Ability to take more risks 31%
• More budget 28%
• Educate clients 25%
• Clearer client briefs 24%
• More time 20%
• More training 19%
• More expertise 19%
• More diverse workforce 19%

+ Idea-time is being supported by almost 30%, mentoring is employed by 37% and training in creative techniques is 37% – all cited as creative investments.

I hear talk all the time of an industry that is going through change, an industry keen to start claiming a slice of the creative glory traditionally reserved for ad-land. To get to the truth of the matter, and to augment the findings of the survey, Now Go Create also conducted 12 interviews with a number of top-level creative directors and industry leaders to ask about their views on the future of creativity in PR. You can read them here. This wouldn’t be complete without comment from the inimitable Dr Sara Jones, Programme Director for the MICL at City University London, who has supported the study since its inception. Sara’s view is that the PR industry is missing a trick when it comes to her particular area of interest – technology.

“My main area of interest is in the use of digital tools and technologies to support creative and innovation processes, so these are the particular points I’ve picked up on. First, although 88% of respondents say they are using group brainstorming to generate ideas, only 44% feel that it’s effective, which lead me to wonder how many companies are taking advantage of new digital tools for brainstorming that can be used even with distributed teams, and can help mitigate against some of the unwelcome social phenomena, such as production blocking, evaluation apprehension, and social loafing, that can get in the way of a productive brainstorming session. With the growth in use of digital as a means of communicating directly with consumers, there are many ways in which PR could benefit from ongoing research on digital engagement and user experience design, and we would be very happy to work with anyone who would like to know more about this.” Dr Sara Jones, City University London

It won’t come as a surprise that none of the agency Creative Directors we spoke to were shouting out for bigger whiteboards or better snacks for group brainstorming sessions either: the people charged with improving the creative output of their teams and giving clients meaningful ways of engaging with consumers were talking about things like using multiple, lean, two-man creative teams. They were talking about introducing more specialists. They were talking about seizing the creative lead in client briefs. Read the full interviews here.

For PR practitioners with an eye on the coming couple of years, these are exciting times.

The full results of the survey can be found here.

Claire Bridges is a current MICL student and Founder of Creative Training Consultancy, Now Go Create, co-author of the Creativity In PR Study with the Holmes Report and a Cannes Lions Judge on the PR Jury 2014. Claire works with brands and agencies to improve their creative capabilities. Find out more at, and follow Claire @nowgocreate

Creative Citizens: How can creativity generate value for communities?

A few weeks ago I went to the Creative Citizens conference at the Royal College of Art. It was two days of keynotes, workshops and findings sessions dedicated to the question of how much value Creative Citizenship can generate for communities.

It was a great couple of days – and it covered a lot of ground but I’m going to try to sum up some of the key themes we covered here.

Innovation happens when things go wrong.

This came up in a few of the sessions – Paola Antonelli (MOMA) and Geoff Mulgan (NESTA) both talked about how innovation and creativity thrive in times of unrest, austerity and conflict.

Geoff Mulgan referenced the recent European Mayor’s Challenge run in partnership with Bloomberg to encourage creativity in local government. Four of the five winning cities are experiencing unrest, hardship or radical change – Barcelona, Athens, Warsaw, Kirklees and Stockholm.UrbanNomadShelter_300

Paola Antonelli talked passionately about how urban spaces – and the need for diverse groups to share those spaces – create opportunities for creative citizenship. She offered the Urban Nomad homeless shelter as a compelling example of a product that was designed as a short term solution to a social problem. But the bright colours also make sure that the problem stays front of mind – unlike many other homeless shelters this one refuses to be ignored.

Creative Citizenship is Hyper Local

The theme of hyper localness at the conference was focused mainly on Hyperlocal publishing but it remains true for other initiatives as well.

It was interesting hearing from the people behind hyper local publications (digital and print) in Brixton and Kentish Town, as well as some of the community projects that were involved in the Creative Citizens’ research programme.

All the publications features had grown out of a need increase a sense of connectedness – either through geography or interest groups.  There was a unanimous feeling that the mainstream media is increasingly irrelevant and that community publications (often run my hobbyists) fulfil a social need.

These publications report on local news and events but also get involved in campaigning on local issues.

It was interesting to hear how the research teams had worked with these hyper-local publications to see “how creative citizenship can add value to communities”. In one of the most successful instances they provided empty pages for readers to fill in themselves and return to the publishers to give the community more of a voice. In another they set up a ‘News Cafe’ where community members could meet to discuss the issues they wanted to hear more about.

Play is a powerful tool

This came up in a few different different areas – from digital storytelling to humour in social media being a tool for creative citizenship

One of the speakers was Ruth Catlow of Furtherfield. They combine open source game design and co-design principles to tackle social issues.  Check out for an example from Southend where people were given the tools and structure to design a computer game representing what they wanted to see for their local community.

I also loved the Story Machine, which was the output from one of the community co-design projects the researchers undertook. Part puppet theatre, part cinema, part film studio the Story Machine allowed a local community centre (The Mill in Walthamstow) to better share the stories of the people who use it with a wider audience. It’s colourful, accessible and a little bit bonkers – and combines readily available technology in new ways.

Everyday creativity

I think this is probably the theme that ran through everything. The most successful of the research interventions were those that were simple to understand, used accessible technology, and kept the needs of the community at the heart of what they were doing.

Creative citizenship isn’t about big statements or radical change.  It’s about giving people practical skills and tools to help them use creativity to effect change – often at a hyper local level.

What did the researchers learn?

At the end of the conference some of the researchers summed up some of their early learnings:

1. Importance of framework // eg time frame, boundaries, ongoing convergence

2. Inclusivity // allowing for different types of creative expression,

3. Time // managing time and people can take over from the creativity

4. Sustainability // engage in a meaningful way but leave the community able to continue alone.