This past October, I had the opportunity to be part of a fantastic discussion panel organized by the Bank of New York Mellon and ALPFA. Next to Christopher Mager, global head of innovation at the Bank of New York Mellon, Neysha Arcelay, founder and CEO of Precixa, and Natalia Castillejo, principal product manager with Duolingo.
While my responses were not necessarily the same during the discussion, these are some (close) transcripts of such interaction during the panel.
Why do you think using a creative approach is so important to running a successful business/project?
Using a creative approach for innovation is critical. Usually, people tend to think that the best time to innovate at a company is when a company’s revenue decreasing. The best time to innovate is by continuously applying A/B testing to current and new strategies to keep strategies that work and dismiss those that do not.
It allows for creative ideas to bloom without dealing with the pressure that a company’s low revenue creates.
How do you spark creativity at work or in your personal life?
Creativity at work and in my personal life is sparked by reading, listening to motivational podcasts, videos, and reading about successful entrepreneurial journeys. Along with what these successful entrepreneurs did to be innovative, to continue on that path, along with the difficulties that they endured, and how they overcame them — doing so drives me and keeps me going forward.
How do you incorporate creativity when you solve complex challenges? Can you share a recent example?
When trying to solve complex problems, I always try to take a simplistic approach — even though those two terms contradict each other. I’ve realized that a straightforward approach works best in complex scenarios more often than not.
What is the best resource for people who want to dive deeper into problem-solving?
I am not sure if my suggestion is the best, yet, there’s an excellent course on Coursera, called “Solving Complex Problems.” The program dives into revolutionary new problem-solving skills that are needed nowadays. The program includes faculty from Macquarie University.
Can you share an experience with failure? Why do you think this project/initiative did not go as planned?
I have many. But, for instance, in 2011, I launched an IT support project. I was 20 at the time. I didn’t know anything about business, viability, market, etc. I closed the project shortly after due to having no clients, no revenue, and no experience in strategy— yet, every failure is a great opportunity to grow.
What would be a creative approach to grow an inclusive workforce?
Approach minority groups. If you have none at your company, contact people you may know who belong to minority groups and start a conversation with them.
Ask them at what type of company they would like to work for, what kind of work culture is ideal for them, what kinds of challenges they face daily at the workplace, etc. — gather your data results and take a look at what insights you can take from them, I assure you that it would help remarkably with any current diversity and inclusive strategy that your company may have.
Thinking about the future, how do you see the work environment changing to stimulate a creative mindset?
Creativity is going to win in the future, from my point of view.
Technology is going to continue to automate tasks and jobs. Having a creative mindset on how you do things and how you innovate, along with gaining the skills to be prepared for the current AI revolution, is critical to keep up with the constant changes that we’ll continue to face now and in the future.
Call to Action (instead of closing remarks) — What is one piece of practical advice you would give to someone who wants to improve the culture of their organization?
Have a friendly and approachable one on one with your team, but give them some questions beforehand, so that they have some time to think about them and give you truly insightful answers.
Also, take a look at your top competitors' culture, chat with some people on their end, and see what they do differently. Not to imitate, but to gather insights to make call-to-action plans to improve your organization’s culture.
What are some of the ways people from your organization are making a difference in the world?
The Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University strongly focuses on developing AI for social good. Several labs in our group try to look at various real-world problems, small to large, and aim to innovate with an AI-first approach in mind.
For instance, Delphi is a research and development lab focusing on forecasting epidemics and pandemics, and their efforts have been awarded multiple times by many leading organizations, including the CDC. Their work may be one of the reasons we might defeat influenza in the future.
What has helped you get to where you are [influential/in the forefront], and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?
Never stop learning. Stay hungry (meaning, be relentless and not satisfied, keep pushing boundaries), stay foolish (be willing to try new approaches, methods to the challenges you face in your career, life, and others.)
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not represent the views of Carnegie Mellon University nor other companies (directly or indirectly) associated with the author(s).