The Dali

Re­fram­ing cor­po­rate cul­ture, spark­ing cre­ativ­ity

RSWLiving - - Explore - BY JA­COB OGLES Ja­cob Ogles is a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist liv­ing in South­west Florida.

The paint­ings of Sal­vador Dali for years helped ex­pand the bounds of art. Now, the works may be in­spir­ing cor­po­rate cre­ativ­ity with a new pro­gram at The Dali Mu­seum in St. Peters­burg, Florida. The In­no­va­tion Labs at The Dali, launched in 2015, pro­vides a set­ting for com­pany re­treats aimed at spark­ing the imag­i­na­tion and in­struct­ing ex­ec­u­tives how to in­spire in­ten­tional cre­ativ­ity. “Many busi­nesses need new ideas and fresh think­ing,” says Nathan Sch­wa­gler, pro­gram di­rec­tor for the In­no­va­tion Labs. “We want to pro­vide a ser­vice where a com­pany can re-ori­ent.” The mu­seum, he says, pro­vides a venue where cre­ativ­ity more nat­u­rally flows, and staff work­ing within the pro­gram also pro­vide help­ful tools and ex­per­tise.

Com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pat­ing in Lab ex­er­cises can sign up for any­thing from 90-minute activities over a multi-day re­treat to a week­long com­pre­hen­sive brain­storm­ing pro­gram or they can set up mul­ti­ple sessions at the mu­seum spread out over a longer pe­riod. Com­pa­nies can also hire con­sul­tants like Sch­wa­gler to do on-site work­shops at busi­nesses, although Sch­wa­gler says staff can pro­vide a full range of ser­vices at the mu­seum.

Pro­grams within the Labs in­clude: “So­lu­tion Labs,” cre­ativ­ity work­shops de­signed to ad­dress spe­cific prob­lems; “Skills Labs,” de­signed to pro­vide learn­able mind­sets for cre­ative think­ing and prob­lem solv­ing; and “Leader Labs,” to fa­cil­i­tate com­pany’s de­vel­op­ment of se­nior lead­er­ship.

The Labs, an ex­pan­sion of a pre­vi­ous pro­gram called The Edge, is a way for ex­ec­u­tives to see their busi­ness in new ways, in sim­i­lar fash­ion to the way Dali pre­sented the world around him in a new light through his art. “Dali was a master at see­ing the world in new ways,” said Hank Hine, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Dali, when the Labs launched. “In­no­va­tion Labs blends Sal­vador Dali’s imag­i­na­tive think­ing with rich and proven methodology.”

Since the launch of the Labs, Sch­wa­gler and staff have worked with com­pa­nies from all around the globe, he says. A ma­jor restau­rant com­pany with 180,000 em­ploy­ees de­vel­oped novel de­liv­ery and distri­bu­tion meth­ods after cre­ative think­ing sessions both at The Dali and at com­pany head­quar­ters. An

Many busi­nesses need new ideas and fresh think­ing. We want to pro­vide a ser­vice where a com­pany can re-ori­ent.” —Nathan Sch­wa­gler, pro­gram di­rec­tor for the In­no­va­tion Labs

iconic footwear line con­ceived of new con­cept de­signs after a mix-me­dia work­shop based on Dali-in­spired cre­ativ­ity tech­niques and glass-blow­ing. A $100 mil­lion tech com­pany suc­cess­fully repo­si­tioned them­selves as an ac­qui­si­tion tar­get after im­prov­ing the com­pany’s strate­gic plan fol­low­ing a Lego Se­ri­ous Play work­shop.

Many of the activities and tools Sch­wa­gler’s team uses come from the toy box rather than the art gallery. Sch­wa­gler em­ploys a proven Lego strat­egy that en­cour­ages busi­ness lead­ers to build their way through new strate­gies He likes to use the most metaphor­i­cal and whim­si­cal blocks in the crate. You can imag­ine sharks as com­peti­tors or win­dows as op­por­tu­ni­ties.

While a fo­cus of the Labs has al­ways been to teach how to be pur­pose­fully cre­ative, it’s also about find­ing the right mo­ment to do so. “For a busi­ness, we need to un­der­stand what the ex­ist­ing work­flow and pro­cesses look like,” he says. “Then you map those out and an­a­lyze where the in­fluxes of nov­elty and cre­ativ­ity make sense and po­ten­tially add value. It’s not cre­ativ­ity for cre­ativ­ity’s sake. It’s about find­ing out where in the func­tions of a busi­ness cre­ativ­ity is re­quired.”

When con­sul­tants go on-site and oc­ca­sion­ally travel to a client’s location, they bring fewer gi­ant pieces of art­work and more tools that can pack in a bag­gage com­part­ment. Sch­wa­gler says the track record of the Labs con­tin­ues to im­prove, but also main­tains a cer­tain hu­mil­ity. The suc­cess of any re­treat ul­ti­mately de­pends on the ex­ec­u­tives that fol­low through with any plan con­ceived in the cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment.

“Busi­ness peo­ple are al­ways go­ing to be the ex­perts in their busi­ness, the way an art mu­seum staff will be ex­perts in their col­lec­tion,” Sch­wa­gler says. “This third space be­tween those par­ties is what we rep­re­sent well. We are fa­cil­i­ta­tors, and can help make con­nec­tions. We don’t have to un­der­stand a busi­ness, cer­tainly not at the level a busi­nessper­son does.” Labs staff just have to help un­lock the tal­ent and potential al­ready in the in­ven­tory of a com­pany’s ex­ist­ing work­force.

Par­tic­i­pants en­joy the mu­seum works, in­clud­ing the Hel­i­cal Stair­case (above), a cen­ter­piece of the build­ing's de­sign. In the mu­seum gar­dens (below), The Wish Tree al­lows vis­i­tors to stream wishes from a fi­cus tree. The Dali-in­spired melt­ing bench and...

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