Keeping up with the ‘speed of change’

Change is the only constant, and if you work with the non-profit sector you know all about change.  After 20 years of workshops, seminars, webinars and social networking it is obvious that change is happening at an ever increasing speed and if we want to survive, and make a difference, we will have to learn the language that will take us into the future.  Where better to learn a new vocabulary than at an event called an ‘IMAGINATION CONVERSATION’.

These conversations are a practice of the Performing Arts Dept at New York’s Lincoln Centre where they have been imagining a more creative community for over 35 years.  The one at the Winspear this week was Canada’s first Imagination Conversation.  The intent of the organizers is to have 150 conversations before 2017 when Canada turns 150 years old.  So for three days we were entertained, fed and watered in both mind and body.

We were right in our sense that something is coming, changes that we need to be able to address…in all facets of society – Economics, Socio-demographics, Regulatory and Technological.  Here in our wonderful remote community we don’t feel the emergence of cell therapy or fusion energy.  Those combined with access to technology, as never before, coupled with the retirement of over 78 million people within the next 10 years leaves our world with changes not unlike those of the middle ages or the invention of the printing press.  These changes will challenge all structures – our institutional systems are becoming archaic.  And as leaders we cannot address these changes by simply moving faster and learning more.  Information is everywhere…no longer do we see our clients (the people that we serve in our nonprofits) as needing information…they have access to as much information as professionals now.  This is a profound change in the service provider’s relationship to clients.  Alberta is already applying analytics to much of its professional sector – displacing the need for professionals – in everything from studying energy to crime to consumers.  (Dr. Pierre Kinkaide, Alberta Council of Technologies, )

Coupled with the 78 million retirees and their ‘knowledge’ leaving the workplace is the incoming ‘idea generation’ and their concepts and use of the digital world.  This imaginative generation takes problem solving out of the language and replaces it by facing challenges through ICI – the imagination-creativity-innovation continuum.  (Robert Kelly,, Scott Noppe-Brandon, )  Changes in educational environments are leading to ‘sustained creative potential’ programs.  Some institutions in the States are already admitting students through an ‘academic blind’ process – where creative portfolios, not the traditional academic ratings, are key.

In a Grade 11 English class at McNally High School this year, students chose their own novels, worked at their own pace, and the teacher didn’t lecture at the front of the room.  These students, though they had limited success with English previously, made great progress — everyone finished all assignments, from poetry to the persuasive essay — before the end of term. They worked on what they did best first. They got better grades.  That’s what happens when creativity, flexibility and student engagement are built into the classroom — and when teachers aren’t constantly teaching to a test and the class isn’t obsessed with marks, says principal Dale Skoreyko.”  ( )

Educating a creative workforce is a global issue. CEOs around the world were asked the following question: “What are the top qualities you seek when hiring someone?” The answer was “the ability to deal with complexity.” When they were asked what qualities they find lacking in today’s workplace, they said “creativity.”

A sustainable future depends upon imaginative, creative, innovative solutions to profound and complex challenges. The very future of our communities and institutions depends on our ability to nurture and harness imagination to creatively solve problems.  Alberta is already moving towards changing education to reflect the ‘Creative Challenge Index’.  (Dan Hunter, Hunter-Higgs LLC, )

If this seems like a lot of information to absorb…it was.  Guest speaker ‘rapid fire’ sessions ranged from political scientists, economists, a neurosurgeon, lawyers, and educators all with one theme in their talks…creativity.  How to harness creative energy, how to help educators plan for creativity, how to value creative assets in your organization and how to apply these concepts to our own organizations once we got home – all topics laid out in just 48 hours.

All traditional ways of working in committees, ways of leading and solving problems will be challenged by the socio-economic, demographic and cultural changes of the fast paced technological future.

And of course, what would a conference on the future be without the future being included!!  Over 100 children got on stage and did this exact song…wasnt a dry eye in the building.  The Yellowhead Regional Creative Campus will be bringing these fantastic ‘ARTISTS IN NATURE’ to our region, to work with our youth, next spring on time for Earth Day!!

“A time of inbetweenity.”  Psychologist Ellen Langer, known for her work in ‘mindfulness’, tells us that we should be ready to embrace uncertainty.  We learn from noticing differences, we learn through uncertainty.  We cannot continue to look at the world through a ‘deficit based perspective’ (problems to be solved).  She goes on to say that this kind of thinking leads to ‘rearranging the furniture’ – keeping the status quo…a linear approach that focuses on inabilities rather than abilities.  Yet we value abilities as they are the inspiration for leadership.  Embrace the uncertainty and focus on abilities, non linear thinking allows for individuality – acknowledging strength based assets.  (Dr Peter Gamwell, Ottawa, Peter’s philosophy is simple: the health and prosperity of any organization is directly proportional to the value, autonomy and creative freedom given to the people who make up that organization.)

Rex Jung, a neuroscientist from the University of New Mexico, spoke of the processes the brain goes through when thinking creatively.  The way the brain uses creativity is related to intelligence – but not necessarily in the way we think it is.

‘Selling creativity to a bean counting culture’ by Matt Homann talks about the need to measure things that make life worthwhile – in the future the GDP will not have the same status it has today.  Measuring the economy will be done on new curves.  ( )  Matt had an intense view on the economic concept of creativity…arts are communication – have been around for thousands of years, cave art, stained glass windows of cathedrals were storytelling for those who couldn’t read…business has lost that connection.   These communicators, artists and teachers, are often the lowest paid persons…sell your product – give them value, no one wants to buy karma.

Focus on the user of the product, provide an experience that is beyond what is already available.  (Our ‘Come for the Smiles’ program at Habitat last year, where town employees and other corporate offices were invited to come and play in the arts, allowed for creative communications.)  Matt has taken executives into tango classes where he provides each dancer with a secret card…the card might say things like ‘teacher’ or ‘student’ or ‘superintendent’.  No one is told what the other person’s card reads…imagine trying to dance not knowing if you are the teacher or the student…  Rather than putting executives through ‘Toastmasters’ to teach them public speaking…incorporate storytelling, and theatre and song and writing into what these public speakers will need to communicate.  He also talked about the knowledge transfer that is occurring as the boomers leave the workforce…that knowledge is an organizations assets.

Don’t let reality be the end of an idea…if x or y won’t work…what about a or b.

Dr David Kahane from Alberta Climate Dialogue wanted us to know that diversity should not only be represented by the different people in a room but should be found in each person as well.  Alberta is not a province of diversity.  Ideas sometimes must die so great ideas can live.  ‘His broader research deals with theories and practices of democratic dialogue and deliberation, with focus on features of process design that make public dialogues more inclusive and transformative.’  (

The theme of Imagination Conversation is part of the project undertaken by i150 (  To mark Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017 Governor General David Johnston has asked ‘where are we now as a nation, where are we going and how are we going to get there?’  ImagiNation 150 is a Calgary based organization focused on those questions and working towards that commemorative date.  In keeping with this concept (150 and conversation and where our community is today) I wondered if perhaps our community would like to engage in a challenge where we attempt, as individuals, to meet 150 new people in our community within the year.  That would meet many of the concerns addressed at this conference here in our community…conversation, diversity, creativity and relationship building.  And by using technology a social network could be setup where we share who we are meeting.

Wordle: Jasper Habitat for the Arts

It is interesting to note that many attendees at the conference were there to talk about art and creativity, and were pleasantly surprised to find that, in actuality, the focus was on how creativity is incorporated into everything we do – and how important creative thinking will be to lead us into the next generation of change.  Most of us were hoping for the magic formula to take home and implement in our communities.  Showing yet again, how thinking is changing.  There IS no formula.

The nonprofit sector is being transformed by a broad range of trends – generational shifts, economic and political uncertainty, technology and networking, increased diversity, shifting nonprofit boundaries and virtual work.   Transformation is not optional, if we don’t move at the speed of change, we will be left behind.  (La Piana Consulting)


QUOTES I found:

Ideas don’t make change, experiences do.

You can’t jump chasms without taking a leap.

Follow the crowd, stop with the crowd.

Committee’s are cul-de-sac’s.  (Interestingly the new cultural spaces in Jasper are taking the Partnership Matrix beyond collaborations to actual Strategic Alliances…collaboration is just the beginning to building partnerships!!  The Creative Campus also takes collaboration beyond phase one – creating an alliance between five municipalities!)

Nonprofits want to ‘deserve’ money…ask for it.  Give value, not karma.

Only those who are asleep make no mistakes…


Perhaps the most exciting thing collected at this event was the concept of ArtScience. ArtScience looks at the need to have our cultural, corporate and educational systems use both art and science in ways where the conventional line can no longer be seen; artists, industry and social sectors working together to meet the needs, and lead innovation, for the future.  And David Edwards book ‘Creativity in the post-Google Generation’ has many examples of how this happens every day without notice (

We do not need to work harder or faster to meet these changes, in fact ‘busy’ doesn’t allow for conversation (or healthy relationships)…we need to be mindful of where we are in the process of addressing challenges and influencing change.

Should you have any questions or suggestions on how our communities can move forward into the Idea Generation…we can start conversations now!!

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