by Victoria Webb
Two years ago, I was sitting in my Creative Leadership class at Sheridan wondering how this was relevant to my marketing field. Professor Michael McNamara started a lecture just like any other day discussing the intricate details of politics with a focus on analyzing their creative approach to leadership. However, it was at the end of this lesson that McNamara encouraged students in the class to participate in a collaboration between Creative Humanities researchers and Toronto Fringe Festival to improve the Theatre Entrepreneurs’ Network and Training program (TENT).
At the time, I was unsure if I should apply for the project as I am often afraid of leaving my comfort zone. However, I pushed myself by applying for a research assistant position on the project. With support from McNamara and a few of my classmates, I pushed myself to go beyond my own limits and become more self-confident. After a successful interview, I remember feeling very nervous and excited leading up to the first meeting. Nervous because I had no background experience in the theater industry and never applied the theories or frameworks outside of the class. In addition, I became shy at times on the project when sharing my ideas with new peers. However, I was happy to recognize not only McNamara, but the familiar faces of my previous professors Brandon McFarlane and Jennifer Phoenix that would be collaborating with us on the TENT project. I had a great feeling that this project was going to be a lot of fun. However, I had a feeling that there was going to be high expectations for me when working on this project.
When I first stepped into my new role, I introduced myself to both the Sheridan and TENT teams to get familiar with my peers and to better understand the nature of the project. I realized everyone has a different idea of what is creativity. Both McNamara and myself realized this situation and we worked together to make sure both teams were on the same page. Clarifying what is creative problem solving (CPS) and how to successfully implement effective approaches helped us to better measure if an idea is novel, sensible, and reliable to use. McNamara gave me several opportunities, where I had to step up and take the lead in teaching and demonstrating the divergent and convergent creativity approaches to both teams. The success of our project was derived from developing a deeper insight into the creation and implementation of creative ideas.
Each week, the Sheridan team always promoted a supportive, safe and fun environment for everyone to share and give feedback on creative ideas. At the beginning of the CPS sessions, improv was used to place our minds in a positive state, which helped reduced my social anxiety and led to new friendships. Colorful array of sticky notes, stickers, PlayDough!, Lego and other creative tools were used to flush out novel ideas. I found that everyone on the TENT project was fully invested in helping others put their best work forward. Nothing exemplifies this more than our peer editing processes we created and our end of day debriefs on our brainstorming sessions to communicate our feedback on making improvements moving forward.
As one year passed, I learned a lot about the theater industry. I grew more comfortable in communicating my ideas. Applying in-class concepts to the project became easier to accomplish as I became more versed in integrating the theories and methodologies of creativity, creative thinking, and creative problem-solving frequently. Through self-reflections and blog posts I was able to share my own perspectives of creativity with others that benefited students, staff and the community. The Sheridan Orange Ribbon Award of 2019 presented to me embodies how I overcame my own fears through realizing my own skills and abilities are enough to make a difference to those around me. As I take the initiative to do new things it may seem scary at first, but I realize it can be an opportunity for me to grow in the process.
As I pursue my dream of being a marketer, I realize that I need to be my own creative leader by prioritizing my own goals and coordinating an action to achieve them. By stepping outside my comfort zone, I have developed my own confidence and learned new transferable skills that I can now showcase in my professional career. As of this year, I took the liberty to show new recruits the ropes to make them feel more comfortable and willing to participate in introducing their new exciting ideas to the TENT project. I found networking with peers an enjoyable experience, as I had fun socializing and making new friendships along the way. I have had the good fortune to work alongside some very remarkable people who have guided, provoked and encouraged me to struggle on and sometimes blaze my own trail. From their wisdom, I have experienced that achieving my own dreams is possible if I just take the leap of faith.