Sharon Chang is a media executive, social entrepreneur, and impact investor. She is the Founder of Yoxi, a media platform to discover and develop social innovation rockstars. Learn more about her experience in the THNK Creative Leadership Program below.
I've always been fascinated with language. In a way, the development of language represents the most elegant form of design thinking: it's a non-linear process of iteration based on real-time feedback and learning. And the most beautiful part of it is that one does not always know when and where the actual design begins or ends. The rules we put around languages are often the result of post-rationalization, instead of the intended outcome of a preconceived master plan.
Thus playing with language almost never fails to ignite creativity. THNK has its reasons for removing the "I". But I am not here to evaluate whether that was a good design/branding decision or not. What interests me is the fact that by changing the word, there is room for ambiguity and reinterpretation - two critical elements for the creative process. In essence, the school embodies such qualities and implicitly practices the art of finding what's lost, and losing what's found.
No, I am not trying to be clever, and I certainly don't want to confuse anyone. Perhaps I am oversimplifying the argument, but I do believe that if we could blend the rigor of structured thinking with the courage to radically rethink everything, we will be redefining the boundaries of creativity.
Such was my hope for THNK, and I wasn't disappointed. My journey began with a mystery initiation weekend with 35 strangers from all over the world. We were asked to stretch our physical and emotional limits to uncover our creative potential. This process tested everyone's tolerance for ambiguity and discomfort. Not surprisingly, by shedding a few layers of autopilot self-protection mechanism, I found myself appreciating the value of vulnerability. With that came an intuitive desire to trust - trust my co-participants, trust a process that wasn't necessarily designed to yield success, trust that losing (orientation, control, power) might just be the first step of finding better truth.
Creative leadership is very much a process of self-discovery. The leadership position we all seek to attain is not a destination but more of a transient occupation. Learning how to do things is easy; learning how to think differently is hard. From my observation, the THNK curriculum aims to focus more on providing navigational instruments rather than precise instructions. In other words, finding ways to harness the collective brainpower of the entire THNK tribe is far more important than mastering a prescribed practice of design thinking. It's not groupthink, however. Quite the contrary, it calls for heightened awareness of one's individuality, delicately balanced by the tension of diversity.
Friends and colleagues continue to ask if I feel that I've learned enough from the THNK experience as I already knew a thing or two about catalyzing creativity. The answer is an absolute yes with the caveat that I never intended to learn more of the "how". I am searching for new opportunities to recontextualize my position in the world. I want to create moments of discomfort to push myself to get lost again. Sometimes learning how to get lost is by far the most difficult task in life, especially for those who perceive themselves as leaders. Yet it's incredibly dull and dangerous to think that we already know the way, because that would only lead to the end of what matters most: the euphoria of seeing no limit in exploration and discovery.
So hats off to my friends at THNK for intensifying the thrilling journey of self-discovery. I've become very fond of this group of brilliant and passionate people I respect and care about deeply with whom I navigate the circular path of THNK, LST, FND. Yes, I know this excessive wordplay is quite silly, but by now I trust that they won't judge me.