leadership | January 30, 2013

Leading By Design: A Creative Talk On Management From John Maeda

As leadership speaker John Maeda tells the audience at the World Economic forum, taking a creative approach to leadership can prove to be highly effective. Or, more accurately, he showed them. In his talk, he illustrated—quite literally—his points using sketches and diagrams. His presentation was reviewed in a recent Scientifc American article, and they praised his unique perspective and his non-traditional way of presenting it.

As the president of the Rhode Island School of Design, Maeda promotes the role that artists and designers play in the new, creative economy. He argues that there is a hidden pool of effective leaders in the creative industry and their talents can be of great use when trying to approach a problem from a new angle. He says that leadership operates in a cycle where the point person in an organization leads their team up to the top of a hill. When they reach a consensus on how to react to a situation, they then "go over the cliff" as they execute the decision. Whether the fall has a painful or soft landing is dependent on whether the decision is a success or a failure. Then, the process repeats all over again. He explained this cycle using diagrams and other visual aids to tell the story in a unique manner.

Tom Wujec, a Fellow at Autodesk, also embraces the effectiveness of using visuals to convey an idea. For companies to innovate and move forward, they need to be willing to try new ways of doing things. By taking a creative approach to a typically straightforward topic, Maeda was able to expose the audience to a world of new possibilities. In all of his talks, he advocates the importance of an arts-based approach to life. Creativity isn't only something that is confined to artistic professions—it is an important quality for all organizations to value.