CM 079: Jennifer Mueller on Leading Creative Change

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Blog Post - JenniferThink we want creative ideas? Think again.

While most of us are swimming in creative ideas, the research shows that we tend to go with what we already know. This love-hate relationship with creativity discourages innovation and causes people and organizations to stagnate.

Jennifer Mueller, author of the book Creative Change: Why We Resist It . . . How We Can Embrace It, has spent years studying how leaders and organizations handle creative change. She understands why we resist creativity and how to recognize this tendency. She also gives us strategies for promoting creativity in our organizations and for pitching our creative ideas.

Jennifer is an Associate Professor at the University of San Diego, and she has served on the business school faculty of Wharton, Yale, and NYU. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.

In this interview, we discuss:

  • How our discomfort with uncertainty can cause us to kill creative ideas
  • How generating creative ideas is easier than moving ahead with them
  • The novelty of creative ideas is what makes them so difficult to accept
  • How leaders really want ways to determine which creative ideas have value, not more creative ideas
  • Why it is hard for leaders to admit they do not know whether a creative idea has value
  • We prize correct solutions over a creative ones because of the uncertainty involved
  • How creativity is uncertainty unleashed in a particular moment
  • Why a how-best mindset limits our ability to stay open to creative ideas
  • What a bias against creativity looks like and how we can reduce it
  • Whether we are rejecting a creative idea or how it makes us feel and why this matters
  • Why a successful medical inventor avoids using the term incubator for his startups
  • Why we should treat innovation like a process rather than an outcome
  • How coaching and encouraging trumps teaching when it comes to creative ideas
  • How and why we need to evaluate creative ideas differently from other kinds of ideas
  • How strength in decision-making works against being open to creative ideas
  • Why the ways we communicate creative ideas makes all the difference
  • The important role pattern matching plays in connecting experts to our creative ideas
  • How convincing others of our creative ideas may mean helping them feel failure
  • How pointing out that no one else is doing it as a way of supporting our creative ideas actually reinforces the status quo
  • Why we need to broaden how we think of creativity in schools
  • Why millennials are more anxious about creativity and less motivated to elaborate on creative ideas than previous generations
  • How little we actually know about who has the potential for successful leadership and how this limits creativity in organizations
  • Key skills leaders need to learn and demonstrate to support creative change
  • How any new idea needs to be socialized before it can live in an organization
  • What change circles are and the important role they play in supporting innovators
  • How strengthening our capacity for creative change allows us to solve global problems

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


Thomas J. Fogarty

Spencer Silver

Ignorance by Stuart Firestein

Star Wars

High Noon

2001 Space Odyssey

Rob McClary

Do Schools Kill Creativity? Ken Robinson TEDTalk

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Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!



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