Get Ahead by Not Delivering on Expectations, and Other Advice for a Creative Life

How is touch related to innovation? Can you actually get ahead by not delivering on expectations? And why does pressure help us perform?

Read on for blog two from my recent interview with Kiki Chansamone, an entrepreneur, illustrator, writer, editor, as well as Chief Marketing Officer of a women’s beauty brand, Christine. See below for his secrets to leading and living creatively, for success in business and beyond.

Jess: What is creativity to you?

Kiki: I think of creativity like a pair of hands.  Just look at them.  We all have them.  We all use them everyday.  Today, some of us will make fists with them, use it to push, or to pull, to pick up or throw down, or even to pat a friend on the back. I could go on forever with what it can do because hands are so ridiculously versatile. Well, creativity to me is knowing your hands can do all of these wonderful things and then figuring out how and when to use them.  It is why one person will cup their hands to carry some water while another will use their hands to build a bucket to carry gallons.  Same hands, same abilities, but different results.  

Most people think creativity is about art, but I think at its root creativity is simply about looking at a need you've stumbled across and finding a solution.  

Jess: So would you say creativity is about change – keeping situations fluid and not letting yourself get stuck?

Kiki: That is definitely a big part of it.  All of us run into a wall sooner or later.  What helps is knowing that you can climb over, dig below, walk around or break through it.  

This goes for business too. Even something we perceive as negative and destructive, like downsizing, is actually a creative way to help a business stay alive and hopefully eventually grow again, just like pruning back a vine. Keep it in mind that every time we fix a situation we are being creative.  Creativity can be subtle or strong.  There are no rules.

Jess: How do you stay creative?

Kiki:  I’m a big fan of making subtle tweaks rather than wholesale changes.  I love looking at the mundane things in life and try to pull the unexpected out of them.  One of my favorite exercises is to brainstorm with friends about their random project ideas they have sitting around and trying to elevate it- to make it sexier, or more contemporary.  It really allows my brain to expand and see ideas from different perspectives.  

I am also revisiting the Christine brand as we speak.  I came on board to help with the product line and one of my main duties is to give it the marketing look and brand identity that befits the best hair reconstruction line available.  It's a tremendous challenge, but I love what we are creating.  Looking forward to showing it soon.

Jess: Congrats! I’m excited to see the changes. Looking at projects from new perspectives is critical, and being able to switch perspective is actually an important part of yoga – we call it pratipaksha bhavanam.

Switching topics slightly, is there any change in the flow of your creativity or is it constant?

Kiki: My brain is always working so that’s a tough question. However, I will say my brain works harder when it’s stressed. Put me under pressure and I’ll come up with some pretty interesting things.

JessI feel it’s not about eliminating stress but rather converting stress into opportunity. When we can see stress the right way – as a chance to grow – stress makes us stronger.

Kiki: That's a great way to look at it.  In my time as a commercial director, I dealt with clients all the time and I loved the adrenaline and pressure forcing me to come up with something in that moment. Most of the time you don't have room to make wholesale changes to something that they've concepted so you work on finding "improvements".   I have to twist things around.

Jess: So you’re saying that while we may think creativity is unconstrained, it’s the act of introducing a constraint, the pressure (real or artificial), that creates an insight. In a yoga practice, it’s the dynamic tension between two opposites that creates stretch, and proper alignment physically lets the pose really come alive energetically. I can see how constraints are helpful in yoga, and in business.

Kiki: As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. It’s fine to be creative in a vacuum but you have to realize not everyone will appreciate that creativity. It needs to be grounded and connected to what we need or appreciate in the real world.

Can you tap into both the wildness of an idea and also make it approachable? Those are the people who succeed as artists while they are alive. Top creatives are not “this is what I want to see I don’t care if the client doesn’t want it.” That approach just doesn’t work. The top innovators are people who can hear what a client (or customer or market) is asking for and modify.

Jess: What an interesting challenge…to make an idea or a situation (as we spoke about earlier) wild, yet approachable and grounded in a societal context or an everyday experience.

Jess: So how do you put pressure on if there is none?

Kiki:  There’s always pressure – if you want to make a difference in your life, there’s only so much time. It depends on how you see your life. Some people are content accepting what falls in front of them. I’m not sure I’m that guy.

Jess: You are definitely inspiring and making a difference. Sometimes we feel creativity is about going with the flow, and I think it is, yet to your point, it’s also about proactively creating change and making a difference. We all have an opportunity to actively create a life of meaning and fulfillment. Thank you Kiki for sharing your insights.

Hear more from my session with Kiki in the next blog. For quick tips to boost your creativity in business and beyond, check out our Executive Sutra YouTube channel.