Three Keys to Staying Innovative: Playing Games, Collaboration, and Learning

Can making life into a game create more joy? How can collaboration assist the creative process?

Read on for the fourth and final blog from my recent interview with Kiki Chansamone, an entrepreneur, illustrator, writer, editor, and Chief Marketing Officer of a women’s beauty brand, Christine. See below for his secrets to staying innovative.

Jess: Who inspires you creatively?

Kiki: As a kid it was the comic book writer and illustrator John Byrne. He worked on so many of the books I grew up reading.  I’m also inspired by anyone who is living creatively, not just by title but by mindset.

Jess: When we connect with community and collaborate we have the support we need to be fully creative in the deepest and most authentic way possible.

Kiki: That’s very true.  But I’ll tell you- I appreciate creativity the most when things seem bleakest.  That’s when you have to be willing to train your mind to make life into a game.

Jess: Tell me more about what you mean by the game.

Kiki: The game is to make life livable….the game is to find some joy where there doesn’t seem to be any- that’s the whole point of the game. The way it works is if there’s a part of your life that you have to deal with that you don’t want to, you make it into a game. Got yard work? Have the kids pick up the yard…if you pick up 1000 leaves you get a point.

Jess: This reminds me of a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance. The author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, recommends setting small goals, constantly matching your skills to the challenge at hand, and making things into a game. It also reminds me of the yoga concept Pratipaksha Bhavana, or flipping your perspective to pivot to something positive instead of getting stuck in the negative. “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”—Yoga Sutra 2.33 by Carrera

Kiki: Or if you’re in a relationship and things are rocky – how do I play this game? I can take my ball and go home or I can start changing up my strategy and we start to make it work. How do much do you want to give and how much do you want to take?

Jess: The whole game thing is a very creative approach to succeeding in life. Part of the creative process is creating more joy, and this seems like one way to do it.

Kiki: We all have the dynamic tension between stable work that pays the bills and gives us some satisfaction and something else which stimulates us…in reality we need both. We need the anchor and the edge. They create tension, and that tension leads to expansion and growth.

Jess:  So Kiki, do you have a time where you are more creative?

Kiki: The times when I learn, when I get smarter. I love learning. You don’t want to be the smartest person in the room but I’m going to try to be.

It’s important to listen and learn from those with different perspectives

I don’t have a problem with being proven wrong. In fact I’d rather be proven wrong and spend the time learning than find out afterwards that I was wrong and miss the chance to learn.

Jess: So you’ve been talking about your own view on creativity and have worked with other highly creative people. What are the similarities and differences?

Kiki: Going back to my hand analogy (see Part 2 of Kiki’s interview in the blog Get Ahead by Not Delivering on Expectations, and Other Advice for a Creative Life) there are people in the creative field who will reach out to you with an open hand because they trust you will pull them up, while others will slap your hand away.

I love to collaborate. Or modify an idea to make it better.  I’ve worked with many confident creatives who understand that they have a great idea but are open to accepting additional perspectives that could make things 10% better.  But not every creative is able to step back even slightly from their vision - so you need to identify those people and understand that you will only be wasting your breath making suggestions. Much of the creative process in the service industry is figuring out who you are dealing with and determining how you’ll deal with them.

Let’s be frank, most clients are just trying to sell a product, and I’m fine with being a renovator not just an innovator. But it is at times like this that I play a certain game in my mind. I remind myself that every job is important because it’s a client’s lifeblood, their livelihood on the line.  They are depending on me to help them create a nice commercial that will help them sell their product and be able to afford a life for themselves.  You have to care as much for their “bread and butter” project because it really could mean bread and butter on their dinner table.

Jess: Yes, sometimes the basics are very important. As a yoga teacher and student, we often tire of the basic or “bread and butter” poses, and seek something more advanced to teach or to practice. It’s in the mastery of the basics that we can experience fulfillment and create a foundation for future growth. A teacher friend of mine, David Lynch, compares it to cooking – when you learn to be a great chef you learn how to do very basic things like chopping onions or frying an egg. Even in business, the basics of connecting with our team go a long way, as does our daily routine.

I also love your language of “confident creative” as someone who has great ideas and is also open to feedback and improving upon them.

You are definitely a confident creative, Kiki, and I appreciate all the insight you’ve shared! I look forward to incorporating your wisdom on innovation in our upcoming book, The Creative Executive: How to Get Innovative and Go with the Flow, available on October 26th on Amazon.

Find even more tools and advice for creativity in our Executive Sutra blogs and on our YouTube Channel Create Series.