This blog marks the start of a new series on Innovation and Creativity in business and how yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices can help us become even more creative and fluid in our work and in our lives.
In the Expert Dojo at Santa Monica Place, with a setting sun, kale salad and dynamic conversation, entrepreneurs and business leaders from across Los Angeles gathered to discuss innovative and purposeful ways to build businesses and brands. This Conscious Capitalism LA (@consciouscapitalismLA) event featured a presentation by Enso Agency (@helloenso) on the new #AgeofAgency. Through stories, such as Google ad words enabling a Bedouin community to thrive via tourism, or a 13 year old who revolutionized school lunches, presenters shared the increasing power of people to transform the world.
Enso believes successful brands, which in prior days created the consumer experience from the top down, now facilitate people-to-people connection and empower our inner hero. According to Enso, the consumer is no longer the “consumer,” or a transaction, but rather a person who can, and wants to, change the world. It is an exciting time for business. Brands now have the opportunity to facilitate our desire to improve our lives and our communities. Later in this post I share Enso’s six takeaways on how branding has changed in this Age of Agency, and how you can build a conscious brand.
Speaking of brands, I recently hosted an Innovation with Executive Sutra webinar with Lauren Mehler Pradhan, wellness marketer at General Mills. Lauren leads renovation and innovation across established cereal brands, such as Cheerios and Lucky Charms. Her team recently announced the removal of all artificial colors and all flavors from artificial sources from General Mills cereals. I am grateful for this evolution on products which touch millions of households each day, and I asked Lauren how she stays creative in a large company:
“When you’re working with established brands, creativity comes from imagining new possibilities. What does a brand mean in the broadest sense of the word? How do we reimagine the value we provide and rethink our role as a brand, as people look for different experiences?” This echoes the philosophy of Enso and the Age of Agency – the consumer as the agent of change and the brand as the link to other consumers and to shared value. The brand reimagined and in a new role of co-creator.
Much of creativity is the ability to go with the flow and to build new solutions in rapidly changing environments. Lauren and I also discussed how to stay fluid and centered amidst stress. As Lauren shared:
“When you’re driving change in an organization, there’s a lot of stress. Two things have helped:
Noticing my breath
Using a simple phrase: “in” for the incoming breath and “out” for the outgoing breath
This mental exercise, labeling the breath, is a great way to stay focused when a thought flirts with your mind, when you don’t agree with someone, or when you feel out of control. There is very little we can control but we can choose to re-focus on the breath.”
Try those two tips from Lauren, and if you’re hungry for more, check out our Executive Sutra Creativity series on YouTube, with six videos on innovation.
So what can you do when you feel out of control and want to step back into a feeling of flow and possibility? Lauren’s biggest lesson for growing a healthy business and healthy life is to open up to fear. She explained that stress is just fighting against something instead of opening up to whatever is present.
“The biggest thing that helps me when I feel fear, or feel nervousness, is to open myself up to that. I never understood the expression “to make space for something” until I tried to challenge my mind and say, ‘what is the worst that could happen? What am I afraid of?’ Now I make space for that feeling. And when I notice fear and allow that feeling of vulnerability, it dissipates the stress and anxiety. Because otherwise you’re fighting against fear, which creates tension, instead of opening up to it. This practice of opening to fear has created a sense of calm.”
What else has Lauren learned in her yoga practice that she applies to innovation on the job?
“I’m a devoted ashtangi (a rigorous and disciplined style of yoga) and take those lessons to the office every day. The practice is a work in progress and a meditation on the breath. Both in yoga and at work, you’re always a student. You never perfect anything (which keeps you innovating and improving, as well as letting go of the expectation of perfection). Half the battle is showing up.”
When you show up to work or to a meeting, what is your intention? Each day, do you take a few minutes either in meditation or in reflection to find a greater purpose and desired outcome? How are you intentionally creating your day?
Being intentional is a key to success in this new Age of Agency. We all now have power, individually and collectively. Whether it’s with Uber or AirBnB, or lending our voice to causes through Change.org, we’ve never had greater responsibility to, as Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Even if you do not work in marketing or a creative field, you are participating in this new age every time you select a product, service, or community. How can you leverage this opportunity? Create your personal or professional brand – the set of choices you make, ideas you champion, and the character you build as a person or in your company. Incorporate the six key aspects of the Age of Agency according to Enso:
Share Value – Unite what the world needs and what a brand (or you) stands for
Inspire Others (and yourself) – YouTube, blogs, Pinterest: use your creativity to tap into emotion, into possibility, and cut through clutter with a message of greater good
Let People Be the Hero – can your fans or consumers embody the brand…instead of the brand being the voice of truth let people be the experts
Enable Microleaders – consumers aren't consumers or end points they are people who want to create stuff and change the world around them. Enable microleaders in your company as well
Offer a Path to Impact -- give everyone (your team, your family) meaningful actions which link their choices with the collective desired outcome
Show Progress, Build Momentum -- show the results of the movement back to the community and share how everyone is moving it forward
Creativity lies in our fluid, possibility-based mindset. We can amplify our innovation when we connect with others and let go of the false illusion of control. Whether you’re renovating an existing brand, building your own company, or just as powerfully, living a life of service and purpose, we all have the responsibility to make creative choices. The Age of Agency, as Enso so beautifully stated, places us in a unique position to “propel humanity forward.” We all play a role in this revolution.
How will you use your power in this Age of Agency?