An Interview with Anne Nelson
Co-Founder, Infinite Creativity! Consultants
Anne is a professional creative person and owner of Drawn 2 Solutions, as well as the business and entrepreneurship instructor at Walla Walla Community College. Anne recently joined forces with her ultra-creative brother, Guy Nelson, to form Infinite Creativity! Consultants. Their services include keynote presentations, facilitation, applied improvisation training and visual recording.
What does creativity have to do with economic development?
Creativity, or creative thinking, is a way to spark new life and bring businesses into communities. I am hearing similar conversations wherever I go; buildings on Main Street remain empty and there seem to be fewer ways to solve the many pressing issues communities face. It’s as if we can no longer use the same old thinking to address these problems. Merging diverse ideas and people with new processes is a creative exercise in solving these problems. Entrepreneurs tend to be naturals at this, so communities that embrace them are those that find new ways to thrive.
What does it mean to be a community that’s creative?
There is a vibrancy and affirmative attitude associated with creativity. In a community, it’s tied to the ability to co-create things with the resources and support available. Entrepreneurs do this all the time. A creative-thinking community will provide ways for people to come together to imagine, explore, envision and have deeper conversations around what really matters to them. This takes some initial skill building because many of us have become so locked into judgment and fear that we’ve lost our ability to connect in this way. I imagine a day when rural communities will pride themselves on their creativity quotient (CQ) and entrepreneurs seek these places out.
How does a community develop its creativity quotient?
Holding open-space style meetings with a visual recorder drawing the concepts or making a picture of a plan is a great way to jump-start creative-thinking. I’ve found that warming up a group with a few simple applied improvisational activities generates more spontaneous thinking and helps people find the courage to speak up about their big ideas. People are way more engaged and excited about their contributions when the process itself is more creative – who actually likes those heavy, boring meetings anyway?
How might visuals help other groups?
I refer to communities not just as places where people live, but as groups of people who come together for a common purpose. I worked with Walla Walla Community College on their strategic plan and created a visual image for them to accompany the written document. To this day, people still gather around the image and marinate over the graphics, exchanging ideas and sharing their feelings and thoughts about the community of work they are part of. It has become a powerful centerpiece to reflect on, especially now that they are working on attracting the next president for the college.
Can you give us an example of the Walla Walla a visual drawing plan?
Sure, here is one that was done for Walla Walla Community College that has generated a lot of positive conversation. Strategic plans like this are what will bring out the creative juices in a community and create economic opportunities.
I see tremendous potential for rural communities if they are willing to open up to new ways of doing things. Include younger and more creative people in your decision-making processes, encourage entrepreneurism, rethink how you use your resources, and ask yourself if something must always be done a certain way. Learn to be more creative-economic developers!