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“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
 Henry Ford


Students had first-hand experience of applying an ‘arts’ based creative process to the field of problem solving in the business sector. These mature students study at Kingston University Business School, London on the Creative Leadership module of a Management PgDip/MA. Facilitated by Andréa this full day experiential lecture used the process of collage art as a tool for exploring and reflecting on the challenges of leadership.

Problem solving

Creativity involves the manipulation of your existing knowledge to look for alternatives. However, when faced with a challenge or problem you have a tendency to take the same approach, responding within existing frameworks. You’ve formed habits and your past experiences, which are your point of reference, inform your current responses.The use of images and metaphors in this process provides the opportunity for alternative perspectives and deeper insight.

The purpose of using this approach was for the students to break out of habitual ways of thinking; view their challenge from a different perspective and in doing so trigger new trains of thought, ideas and possibilities.

Each student was asked to identify a current challenge they were facing in the world of work and map it in collage.  After creating their individual collages the students used this visual narrative as the basis for sharing their challenges through storytelling. Inquiry from myself and fellow students feedback elicited further insight and shared learning opportunities. Being a business course we discussed the process from a theoretical perspective and identified those elements of the creative process that are transferable to a leadership context.

MA students discussing their collages

MA students discussing their collages

The science behind the art

  • Research in the field of creativity hi-lights visualisation as an essential creativity skill which includes the ability to manipulate images and ideas.
  • Images allow you to put concepts together and share them in a creative way.
  • The benefits of external visualisation is that images can be arranged and rearranged in physical space so ideas and thoughts can be compared, synthesised and juxtaposed, enabling relationships and connections between them to be made.
  • Ideas, beliefs and feelings are recorded permanently and tangibly where they can be acted upon or used for further reflection and continued learning.
  • By accessing the language of the mind which is predominantly metaphorical and teeming with images, visual metaphors bypass the limitations of words eliciting thoughts, feelings and words that may be hard to articulate or reside below the level of consciousness.
  • Moving away from literal representation by using visual metaphors and alternative images to represent something else, not only requires the creative skill of lateral thinking, but can trigger new trains of thought and possibilities.
  • Not using the yes/no or right/wrong dialogue also ensures the exploration of possibilities beyond the restriction of either/or alternatives.

Students on the benefits of collage for professional development

  • It was really enjoyable, it generated good discussion with peers. It made me think differently about current challenges at work
  • I looked at things from a different perspective and valued others insights and opinions
  • It was lots of fun.  Gave me ideas about my current situation

You can read more about one students positive experience here.

The day ended with the creation of a group collage with the theme of their journey through study. This involved the skills of collaboration, negotiation, active listening, delegating and communication that you would experience in a team building exercise. This enabled the students to see another context in which the process could be applied while experiencing the difference between creating an individual and group collage.

Collaborative Collage: The journey through study

Collaborative Collage: The journey through study

Contact us to find out more and if you’d like to use this creative approach to help develop your leadership team.

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