The Creativity ROI for Manufacturing and Ecommerce

If you want to learn how to build your creativity muscle, join us for this MFG eCommerce Success show to hear how Natalie Nixon, Ph.D., is helping business leaders and their teams develop creativity skills to drive real-world innovation. Dr. Nixon shares her knowledge to help leaders and their teams break out of stale practices, reinvent themselves, innovate more consistently and audaciously, and drive exceptional results.

Are you harnessing creativity to improve your manufacturing and e-commerce results?

If you want to learn how to build your creativity muscle, join us for this MFG eCommerce Success show to hear how Natalie Nixon, Ph.D., is helping business leaders and their teams develop creativity skills to drive real-world innovation. Dr. Nixon shares her knowledge to help leaders and their teams break out of stale practices, reinvent themselves, innovate more consistently and audaciously, and drive exceptional results.

Damon and Curt are profoundly pleased to have Dr. Natalie on their show. Curt uses flattering titles for her. He asks her to tell the viewers about her family background and childhood hero. Dr. Natalie, a Philadelphia-based Global Keynote Speaker, shares snippets of her childhood and family background, saying that her father was a jazz music enthusiast and her mother was a college opera singer. She views her parents as her childhood heroes because they always let her decide what to read. Moreover, that is the reason she could obtain her degrees with flying colors.

Download our free business valuation guide here to understand more about business valuations and view our business valuation FAQs to answer the most common valuation questions.

Dr. Natalie confesses her love for her profession. She believes that she gets paid for learning. On top of all, she believes that “great teachers are great learners.” In 2017, she stopped working as a professor and launched Figure 8 Thinking, LLC. At Figure 8 Thinking, through the lenses of creativity, and foresight, she advises leaders on transformation. She intentionally did not become a keynote speaker. She wanted to do things that brought her joy. As a beginner, she had some doubts. Soon, thanks to her previous experience as a professor, her figurate thinking gained pace and she stood successful. Now, she infuses these visionary thoughts into her discussions and believes in continuous learning.

Curt invites Dr. Natalie’s comments on creativity in the light of her award-winning book, The Creativity Leap.

She says, “as humans, we’re hardwired to be creative.” The only difference is we are not aware of our creative side. She defines that we use creativity “to toggle between wonder and rigor to solve problems.” Dr. Natalie thinks that she is hired by companies because they want to build “cultures of innovation.” She observed that although everyone talks about innovation, no one understands it. She defines innovation, “as a factor, converted into scalable value.” It exists in our minds. Once we converge that factor into reality, in her view, it is “creativity.” At the start, she did not use creativity as a catchphrase because it has been attached to “playing a musical instrument or dance or theater.” So, her definition fits the best for a plethora of professionals like engineers, accountants, teachers, and so forth. When she worked in manufacturing, she observed creativity in abundance, especially when she was working abroad in Sri Lanka, in Portugal. In T-shirt manufacturing, she found creative tinge in the highest qualities, the lowest cost, and the shortest lead time.

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Damon comments that some people may not display it but they certainly are creative. Dr. Natalie adds that when there is no script, people tend to be creative at their best. She now explains ‘wonder’ to a great extent. She says that the ‘wonder’ is the thoroughly imaginative side and deep curiosity of any individual. One should be bold enough to “ask really big blue sky questions.” Whereas, ‘rigor’ is “the discipline, the focus, the time on task, and the skill mastery.” To attain creativity, one has to work hard. She highly recommends “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp. Rigor lets one know the rules, and the structure, so one can extend against that and rebound against it. In her view, this is the only way leaders can build a capacity for sustainable innovation. This is the step towards “the creative capacity.”

She speaks about the factors giving impetus to her academic pursuits. As a professor, she was encouraged by her mentors to do a Ph.D. for “gives you a lot more options.” She did a doctorate in Design Management. Developing a theoretical construct was a hard nut to crack because she was working full time. For her PhD-related data collection and research, she keenly observed Ritz Carlton Hotel, to understand the ways that they design experiences that delight guests.

Curt asks Dr. Natalie about the relevance of jazz to manufacturing. She says we hope for different metaphors. She metaphorically describes our hope for teamwork as a fine-tuned orchestra. Their leaders are jazz musicians. Similarly, there are hallway moments in jazz and so are in manufacturing. Like solo and supporting artists, there are many individuals in manufacturing. She goes on to draw parallels between jazz and business saying that mistakes are made in both. One must accept those mistakes.

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Impressed by such an articulate answer, Curt asks Dr. Natalie whether she is always ready to foster improvisations. She says that she has a small team. When she accelerates her thinking process, she calls it “rigor sprints.” Another way of thinking is “wander sprints.” She describes how her rigor sprint sessions are marked with complete isolation and are distraction-free. She chooses an odd number of minutes, like 7, 11, and so forth, to contemplate. She also loves to lead people through “question storming.” Say, to solve a problem and find a solution, there is a five-member team, whose each member has to generate question after question on a blank paper in a short span of 90 seconds. Dr. Natalie picks two to three questions and it is called the “taxonomy of questions.” There might be ‘big questions’, ‘converging questions’ and ‘hybrid questions’, “because not all questions are created equally.” By pondering about questions, we “can work improvingly to really hack ourselves to kind of hack the system.”

Again, Curt holds the mic and questions Dr. Natalie that how people can make use of creativity. She answers that our lives are fully dependent on learning. People die a slow death “at jobs worth it is not fulfilling.” We must bring in creativity to uplift our living conditions. We must go through the rigor phase of creativity and keep ourselves ready for upcoming opportunities. She gives reference to a Philadelphian folklore groundhog that surfaces for the environmental scan. Like a groundhog, we should scan for opportunities. She wants us to “integrate the wonder and the rigor into work.”

Deeply inspired, Curt invites Dr. Natalie’s comments on the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is driven by technology. According to her, the Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to how omnipresent technology is, “as referring to the fact that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), robotics automation, are.” She also says that technology is always present. She gives examples of “chips in hands” that are being used as keys, ATMs, and other so many purposes. She concludes the discussion with these remarks.

Damon and Curt are deeply impressed by Dr. Natalie’s knowledge and its display. At the end of the discussion, they both thank her for her time and thought-provoking ideas on creativity.

Download our free business valuation guide here to understand more about business valuations and view our business valuation FAQs to answer the most common valuation questions.

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creativity, natalie, questions, jazz, damon, rigor, called, people, manufacturing, fourth industrial revolution, creative, thinking, organization, book, innovation, learning, daymond, theoretical construct, figure, manufacturers


Damon Pistulka, Dr. Natalie Nixon, Curt Anderson


Damon Pistulka  00:04

All right, everyone, welcome once again, it is Friday and it is manufacturing ecommerce success. It’s time for us to come once again, sharing great people great knowledge with you. So I’m going to turn it over. Well, I’m your co one of your co hosts Damon Pistulka. First of all, and right over there, brother from another mother, Kurt Anderson is going to take it from here and let’s get going, man.


Curt Anderson  00:30

Damon, hey, how about this handsome guy over here? So Damon, thank you. Happy Friday. Boy, we’re at the midway point through July already. What? I’m not Damon. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not starstruck today. I’m not even no poker face. whatsoever. Yeah, we have a gift. We have a blessing. Today we have Dr. Natalie Nixon. Dr. Natalie Nixon. How are you today?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  00:52

Hi, Kurt. I’m doing really well. Hi, Damon. It’s wonderful to be with you today.


Curt Anderson  00:58

So I’m man, I’m like. I’m perspiring, a little bit here. So guys, you know, drop us a note. Let us know that you’re here. Please connect with Daymond connect with myself but most importantly, you want to check out Dr. Natalie Nixon. So Dr. Natalie Nixon, I have a couple I’m gonna let’s dig in a little bit of your background. It is just so impressive. And I’m going to try to do this but let’s see Vassar. Vassar College.

Do I have that right? Come Lottie at Vassar College, I think Thomas Jefferson University master’s degree. Now let me see if I remember this correctly. Global textile marketing. Do I have the mic? That’s right. No. Well, then you continue on and you go to a PhD at University of Westminster. Do I have that? Correct. And so they may just like our third PhD in a past four weeks, third PhD.

So we have Dr. Natalie Nixon top 50 keynote speaker, you’re a contributor to Forbes, Fast Company. You have a ward winning book reads creativity lead that we’re going to talk about. And of course, you’re president, Owner, founder of your firm, the figure eight thinking so boy, this is that was a mouthful. So here’s my first question for you today. I’ve been catching some of your I’ve been doing a little friendly cyber stalking, and I’ve got your you have an amazing TED Talk. And also your boy guys, just Google Dr. Natalie Nixon, all sorts of videos. I think Do you like jazz by any chance? Is jazz like a thing for you?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  02:22

I just kind of do I kind of do a little bit.


Curt Anderson  02:25

So my question to you is as a little girl growing up in Philadelphia, who I think I know the answer, but who was your hero growing up as a little girl in Philadelphia?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  02:36

Well, based on your lead, and you may be expecting me to say my dad who absolutely remains one of my heroes, my dad passed away in 2012. My parents really are my heroes, because I actually want to jump ahead to when I was in college, I’ve often told this anecdote. I was having a first world problem. I was a sophomore in college fresh, first semester saw sophomore year. And we were required to declare our majors.

And I had no idea I wanted to really not disappoint my parents who sacrificed a lot for education. I was going to an amazing college, Vassar College, and I didn’t know what to study. And I was actually not really interested in the majors that seemed kind of impressive, like economics and political science and sociology. And so I’m on the phone with my parents.

This is back in the days when there were two phones in the house hardwired, almost in the kitchen, and one was in their bedroom. And they’re both listening in on the conversation. And I was just bemoaning, I didn’t know what to major in what to select. So what do you like, what do you enjoy? I avoided the question. I started going into what I was bad at that was boring. And they said, What are you enjoying? What do you like? And I very apologetically started to swap out was really loving all these courses in cultural anthropology. And these Africana Studies, classes were amazing.

It’s like a study philosophy and economics through those lenses. And almost at the same time, my parents said, that’s what you should study. And I was like, what? Because I thought I didn’t hear that correctly. They said, No, that’s what you should say. So I said, so you’d be alright. If I studied maybe even a double major in those areas. And they said, Yeah, my father said, if you study what you love, Natalie, you will have to turn down opportunities. Now, the reason I’m telling this anecdote, in the context of your question about who your heroes is that these are not people who come from a lot of wealth, I didn’t have a trust fund.

It wasn’t like, they wanted to really make sure I could pay down those student loans right away because, you know, there was money floating around. And often I think we think that things like following your heart, listening to your gut, felt pursuing your passion is extraneous. It’s a lot Actually, but what I’ve learned based on my parents advice is that it’s actually essential. And it’s actually a much more efficient way to live.

When we follow our hearts because my dad was right, no one has to tell you to stay up longer wake up earlier, work harder when you’re loving what you do. So my parents are my heroes. And as you said, I grew up in a household full of music. My dad was a big jazz head, my mother actually trained to be an opera singer in high school. And so I grew up with a lot of European classical music as well, as well as r&b. I’m from Philly, of course, so it’s rich with that music tradition. So that’s just a snippet of my family household growing up.


Curt Anderson  05:50

Well, I have to love that. And ironically, I have that quote right here, you know, from your, from your dad, and I was going to repeat that. So thank you for sharing that. And I caught another one of your interviews, I think was this recent, and you’re talking about jazz, and there was a jazz singer, and you talked about the song for my father. And so Dave and I are huge. We’re girl dads. And just as I was just kind of prepping for our conversation today, boy just warmed my heart. What’s your father’s name?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  06:18

Frederick Douglas weathers


Curt Anderson  06:20

Fred Well, God bus Frederick, and what a wonderful Dynamo powerhouse that he produced here with his young daughter here. So thank you, doctrinally for sharing that about that. And just what an inspiration that is. So let’s say then I’m going to talk about your top 50 keynote speaker. Okay.

So again, so we’re getting an understanding of like, who Dr. Natalie is your background growing up in Philly Mom and Dad, just a house full of music. My goodness, mom’s an opera singer, Dad’s as a jazz head. And just you must have just had a wonderful upbringing, you know, just surrounded by music, but it inspired you to lead a life of becoming a keynote speaker. How did like where did that come from? How did you like, share that for us, please.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  07:00

And also just to kind of my mother did not end up becoming an opera singer. But music is a three line where life actually my mom, when she turned 50 She up and learned to play the cello. She and my mother is now 82 years old.


Curt Anderson  07:14

She said, Oh, that’s awesome. What’s mom’s name? Carol. Carol. Hey, shout out and have Carol catches us. We want to give a big shout out.


Damon Pistulka  07:25

Yeah, yeah.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  07:26

So it’s really interesting. I absolutely love the work that I do. I really believe that I get paid to learn. And even in the chapter of my career when I was a professor, clearly, that was a lot of what I was literally doing, I think, I think great teachers are great learners. And that was one of the things I loved about being an academic. And what I do now at Figure Eight thinking, is really to advise leaders on transformation.

And I do that through the lenses of creativity, and foresight. And I didn’t actually set my sights on becoming a keynote speaker, as in so many things that I do, I really follow the breadcrumbs, I really pay attention to what is sticking what is bringing me joy, what I seem to be really good at and What’s touching people. And I left academia in 2017. And I’m in year five of building figurate thinking, and the first couple of years, I really said yes to anything, because I was actually terrified that maybe this was all a fluke. Maybe people wouldn’t continue to hire me.

But fortunately, that has not been the case, I continue to get amazing opportunities and projects. But speaking really early on. Within this, this relatively recent five year window, I realized is a gift that I have, I am really good at it. And I love it. And it is for me. It helps me to continue to learn for a living because in order for me to infuse my talks with relevant, helpful tactical ideas, I need to always be learning. And what’s interesting is, in some ways, my background as a professor definitely helped. But there’s a difference between professing teaching and speaking. But there are elements certainly that overlap.


Curt Anderson  09:32

Absolutely. So hey, I want to give a couple of shout outs we’ve got Vale here today Vale Happy Friday, we’ve got our dear buddy John Buck Leno. He’s just over the border in Jersey. We’ve got Adam Baker. He’s a fellow of Pennsylvania and we’ve got Kristina Harrington. But Christina, Dr. Denton, le Nixon, you too absolutely want to connect both powerhouses here. Dan Biggers here. We’ve got Curtis Thompson. So guys, give a shout out. Please connect with Dr. Natalie Nixon here on LinkedIn, LinkedIn, and you’ll thank me later Right Damon, Dr. Natalie Nix and as I just I feel compelled I have to call you Dr. Natalie, you don’t


Dr. Natalie Nixon  10:06

have to you can say Natalie, you’ve earned


Curt Anderson  10:08

So anyway, I’ve just Damon, I want to share a couple of things. Guys, when you go on Nixon’s LinkedIn profile, we’ll call her Natalie. So when you go on Natalie’s LinkedIn profile, I just want to share it, she has dozens of testimonials in this one really stuck. So our crowd are manufacturers. And that’s what we kind of, we’re not opera singers by any stretch. But that’s who demonize saying to our vote that manufacturing crowd, you gave a speech to the association of manufacturing excellence champions, I say that correctly. Daymond were not invited to that one.

But no finale was and she was a host. And I just want to and then if you go you check out some of the things that are commented about her speeches, if you if you have the blessing and gift of being in the audience for Natalie, powerful speaker wealth of knowledge, passion to communicate, all executives were wanting more other people were saying like immensely talented and love of people. So Dr. Natalie nicks and let’s light into your book. So you have an award winning book called The creativity leap, man, and I can’t I like I was listening to you this week.

And I can’t tell you how many times I say, I’m not creative, and like you kind of scolded like, people should never say that. I’m like, Oh, my goodness, she’s like, she’s scolding me. And I love that you said that I completely embrace it. Please. Enlighten us today, your creativity, strategist. So many manufacturers out there that Daymond I talked to maybe folks in the room here, you know, we’re guilty of saying, Boy, I’m not creative. We’re a commodity. We’re a custom job shop. Should enlighten us. Please talk about this creativity leap.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  11:35

Okay, so you absolutely are creative. As humans, we’re hardwired to be creative. The distinction is whether or not you’re being really intentional about setting aside the time, making sure the space in your environment is such that it really helps you to spark the way I think about creativity, both the wonder and sit down to do the rigor that creativity requires. Because as you know, Kurt, the way I define creativity is and it’s our ability to toggle between wonder and rigor to solve problems.

And I spent several years land doing research, prototyping a lot of ideas and frameworks before landing on that definition. But the reason I started going down this journey, this path to really, in my view, democratize creativity, simplify the way we think about it so that it becomes more accessible is because in those first few years of building figure a thinking, a lot of the impetus of how or why companies were hiring me is that they wanted to build cultures of innovation. And innovation is still this big buzzword.

But I was observing that a lot of the time we were talking over and around each other, we didn’t have a common understanding what we meant by innovation, by the way, I define innovation, as an invention, converted into scalable value. So as long as it’s just an invention, it’s not yet an innovation, right in that scalp. That value can be financial value, social value, cultural value, but how you go from an invention, a concept, to innovation, that conversion factor, in my view is actually creativity.

Now challenge I was in a lot of, of fortune 500 sorts of corporations. If I were to lead with creativity, because my thought my thinking, the more I was doing this consulting work was that, gosh, we really shouldn’t be started with creativity if you want to innovate. But I knew I couldn’t lead with the word creativity, because people look at me like I three hands because we think that creativity is only something that artists do you if you’re good at playing a musical instrument or dance or theater.

So by landing on this definition of it’s our ability to toggle between wonder and rigor to solve problems, then you really quickly realize that the best engineers, accountants, lawyers, teachers, farmers, artists, are super creative when they’re doing this toggling between wonder and rigor to solve problems. And I’d like to just add, I’m not sure if you realize this, but part of my background initially, anthropology is fashion. And I was an entrepreneurial hat designer, but I also worked in global fashion sourcing.

So I actually worked in manufacturing, and I saw a ton of creativity, especially when I was living working abroad in Sri Lanka, in Portugal, right in the midst of the factories, the yarn Mills, the dye houses, and that’s where I saw immense creativity in troubleshooting the problem solving that line engineers textile engineers would engage in to ensure that a T shirt will be made at the highest qualities, lowest cost and shortest lead time which are the basic you know, parameters for especially with apparel sourcing, so, I know from my own experience, I’ve observed and seen how creative engineers, for example, in the field of manufacturing have to be, and are.


Curt Anderson  15:13

Yeah, that is so good. And we got a couple of shout outs. We got Dan bigger in the house, and Kristina Harrington Dima, if you want to pull that comment. Great comment there. Oh, are you being intentional with your creativity to create that spark? So good, Natalie.


Damon Pistulka  15:27

Yeah. What’s really self that no, you talk about? I went to school for engineering, right. And I always talk about I’m not creative. But when you step back and thinking about it, and the way that you talk about it, I’ve been very creative at times. Yeah. And, and I love the idea of toggling between wonder and rigor to solve problems. Because that is, day in and day out. These people in manufacturing are doing this, like you said, the people on the floor, the people solving people problems, the people solving supply chain problems, they’re creative, they creatively have to have to problem solve based on what they’re the situation they’re given.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  16:08

Yeah. And there’s no script, right? Whenever there’s no script, you have to be super creative. And just to dig in a little further about what those two dimensions really are about, you know, wonder is about our capacity to dream, to be super audacious to ask really big blue sky questions. It’s about deep curiosity. It’s also about all and it’s about pausing. I mean, let’s take, I can’t do what construction engineers do, who built for example, bridges, like, first of all, to think, to even imagine that you could figure out a way to span a body of water, for example, to bridge to mass to land masses? That’s amazing, right?

Like, I’m I have, I have a different type of beautiful brain. Like, that’s not the question that occurs to me. I’m like, Okay, someone else would figure out, right, but there are some people who really wonder about that, right? And ask really interesting questions about that.

But then they also need the rigor, right, which is the discipline, the focus, the time on task, the skill mastery. And I remind people that rigor is not particularly sexy, it’s often very solitary. And it is an absolutely essential dimension of creativity. A lot of the time, when we think about creativity, we stop at Wonder, we think, oh, yeah, so creativity is doing whatever you feel like, but if any of you have ever had any sort of artistic pursuit, if we go back to the arts for a moment, you are so aware of how much rigor it takes in order to really amplify the creativity in your artistic endeavor.

So for me, my artistic endeavor has been dance, you don’t get to do parallettes and leap across the stage immediately. That takes years before you even get invited to audition to be on stage. Right. So all of them, the rigor that’s required to tone your body to be able to reverse engineer and deconstruct your body to stretch to understand a technique and various disciplines of dance, and technique.

You need the great American choreographer and dancer, Twyla Tharp, has a great book called The creative habit, I highly recommend it. And in that book, one thing she says is, before you can think out of the box, you got to start with the box, which is right, you need to know what are the rules, what’s the structure, and then you can extend against that and rebound against it. So it’s so important to not forsake rigor when you’re thinking about creativity. And then in my view, that’s the only way individuals leaders organizations are going to build a capacity for sustainable innovation. They have to first start with the creative capacity.


Curt Anderson  19:10

Oh, this is so good and deep, David a couple more. We have gal here today. Gail is our co host. She’s taking my place next week. Gail, thank you for being here. Gail, you absolutely have to connect with Natalie. We’ve got our dear friend, Nicole. Nicole, thank you for joining us today. Nicole, you need to connect with Natalie here. Dan. Bigger has a couple of comments. So you know, Natalie, you mentioned a couple things when you’re in what we encourage you if you’re just chiming in, we have a top 50 keynote speaker here at Dr. Natalie Nixon.

You absolutely want to check out her website figure eight thinking and you’re just going to small sliver of the site this Dynamo here what a powerhouse. You mentioned, you know your background fashion design, anthropology, thinking, academia, dance, and of course some jazz. Now let’s take a deep dive. You know what, before I go there, I want to mention your PhD. What was your dissertation in it? Oh,


Dr. Natalie Nixon  20:00

Oh, wow, you really did your research.


Curt Anderson  20:02

I had a little, little cyber stalking there. But I appreciate that.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  20:06

Thank you. So my PhD is in the field called Design Management. And I did at the University of Westminster in London. And I was at a stage in my career where I had a master’s degree I was professor, my mentors, were saying you should do a PhD gives you a lot more options. You’re a professor, like me to prove how smart I am a little bitty area. I looked at programs in the States, none really spoke to me. And I was on my way over to London for a completely different reason. And a week before I left, a friend emailed me about this field called Design Management. And he said, this is totally you. It’s like design and business creativity and strategy.

I was like, never heard of that. I googled it turned out it was huge in Europe in the UK. And long story short, I ended up applying to getting accepted into the University of Westminster’s program. So design management started as this field to really look at helping designers as they elevate an organization how the business of management, but what it expanded into, is to also incorporate things like service design, and the role of systems design, when you’re thinking about organization.

So there’s a bit of org, org design, some change management, and I ended up working with the Ritz Carlton Hotel, to understand the ways that they design experiences that delight guests, and to my delight, and this has not happened in a very nice, neat, lockstep linear way, was a reason why not everyone has a PhD because it’s really hard. And I did it while working full time. But I had a Skype call with my principal advisor, Dr. Allison repo, who’s amazing.

And I was in the doldrums because I was at the stage of the PhD process where I needed to understand my theoretical construct. I rarely understood what that meant. I certainly didn’t know what my theoretical construct was going to be. And so we’re about to end the call, and I’m close to tears. And, and I said, Well, you know, there is just this one thing, I started collecting data, start doing interviews, I said, there’s just this theme where people keep talking about when things are going well, and things are humming.

It’s like jazz, or they’ll say things like it flows. And she said, Hang on, she said for British accent. You’re talking about improvisational organizations. I was like what she said, yeah, it’s a thing. Go on, read up about it. I’ll talk to you next week. So I learned that there’s an entire group of academics who research improvisational organizations through the lens of theater. And there’s a whole theater improv and there’s a whole nother that look at it through the lens of jazz music.

And that was so special to me, because, number one, I finally figured out a theoretical construct. And number two, as an African American jazz music is African Americans contribution to helping America you know, be known throughout the world. It’s our classical music form. And what jasmine in my family in my home, so it felt very personal. So I ended up using a heuristic from jazz music that Frank Barrett developed. Frank Barrett is a jazz musician. He’s a professor on San Diego. He’s written great books about jazz and organizations.

And I mapped that heuristic against the my data and the ways I was seeing the ways that the Ritz Carlton, a luxury hotel organization, the ways that they design experiences that delight their guests, and it turns out that the Ritz Carlton is not a stuffy, rigid organization. It is incredibly improvisational, and it has to be, especially when you’re working and in a sector like hospitality, which is all about designing of experiences and services. In the moment you must be able to adapt you must be able to embrace mistakes you must be able to figure out the next of the build so it was it ended up being a really amazing experience to do that research.


Curt Anderson  24:24

Oh, I bet moment here we’re gonna take a moment of silence right here guys, I just everybody to just savor this if you’re catching this on replay, do me a favor. Take that like, I’m gonna I’m an older guy, take the rewind button and just go back just a little bit and just recap that but now I’m gonna do when you got to pull up Christina’s comment here, so just Yeah, man. I’m like getting chills this listen to this, Natalie. So this is just so good. Where do you find all these smart? getting smarter listening to Dr. Nalli here? This is so good, man. I have so much I’m gonna unpack right there. First off Ritz Carlton my Is this relevant for manufacturers?

Damon for a shameless plug, I have a blog post that I use that I mentioned all the time, how for manufacturer how to and from your website, your web presence, social media, treat your manufacturing operation like you’re a five star resort. I’ve met Ivan chapter, my book. It’s that exactly. So Dr. Natalie, I love that you drop that comment. I want to slide into jazz for a little bit. And it’s funny, I had a comment, a question for you from listening to you this week. Improv like jazz be in the moment and what jazz, there’s no present. And there’s no future like you’re in the now.

And I watch I caught the movie lala land with my daughter the other day. And if anybody’s seen lala land, there’s a lot of jazz in there. And I was thinking about you on how you know, there’s different riffs and the trumpet player is going to do this and a drummer is going to do this. But you know, what you talk about is like how everybody comes together. And literally, pun intended makes magic. It makes music together. Talk about that creativity as a team a little bit and like why you feel jazz is so relevant. But how main if this is so relevant for manufacturers?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  26:03

Yes. Well, I think a lot of us hope for a different metaphor. I think the metaphor a lot of us hope for and the way we lead in the way our teams work is that it’s like a finely tuned orchestra. Yeah, and the challenge with that that’s a great model. The challenge is that we are in environments where there’s constant change, a lot of you probably heard this term, Luca, Luca environments where the environment is volatile, it’s uncertain, it’s complex, and it’s ambiguous.

And in my view, because that is the reality, it makes a lot more sense maybe to shift to a different metaphor, a metaphor of having our teams and our leadership style, adapt from what we can learn from the way jazz musicians work, which is a lot of what Frank Barrett has written about and talks about. So I won’t want to do all seven principles. But some of the examples are that jazz musicians embrace mistakes in jazz, there’s no such thing as a mistake. It’s all about the build, like you don’t in August, in an orchestra, that was a mistake. It’s like, you know, the show has to stop. But in jazz, it’s about the bill.

It’s like what else you got, like, you got to keep going like you don’t stop, if you played in the wrong key by accident, or if you ended up going to your part too soon as being a duet instead of a solo, that sort of thing. In jazz, there’s a lot of hallway moments, a lot of the magic and, and vibing between the players happens when they’re on the road and the tour bus when they’re in bed when they’re backstage when they’re in the hallway waiting to go on. What are the equivalents in your own organization? How can you create this whole room, especially in these hybrid work environments, it used to be made water cooler. But there’s still opportunities to do that. In jazz.

Also, there’s a lot of soloing and supporting. So I always use the example of the great Art Blakey who was just a fantastic drummer. He was the leader of his Cortez of his quintets, as the drum he typically was in the back, they kind of would center himself, but he was always to the back, had no problem letting other musicians seed to the front, which meant he ceded control, even Miles Davis, as I often say, I wouldn’t want to be around Miles Davis on a personal level, but he was brilliant.

He was just such a brilliant artist. And he constantly evolved. And he brought, he brought along the young John Coltrane, who was from Philadelphia, as a really young musician, he loved bringing along younger jazz musicians. So what does that look like in an organization?

Well, let’s take one of the biggest artifacts of organizations the meeting doesn’t have to be the same person who always leaves the meeting, um, how might the leader receded back? How might you let a junior level person lead or a person who’s newer to the organization lead so there’s all sorts of cool ways that that can also be applied to the work you’re doing in manufacturing in terms of embracing mistakes solo support, hallway moments? You know, there’s all sorts of great tips there.


Curt Anderson  29:27

All right, that’s this is moment of silence number two. Damon son Sam over here on the East Coast, so let’s just let the guys listen. I was just said here for like, dude, I’m like, like, I’m like, You’re giving me chills? Nobody incredible keynote speaker in the world. Not like Philadelphia, not United States in the world.

We have We are blessed. Thank you. You know that we have Dr. Natalie Nixon. Damon, please pull up a couple of comments here. Actually asked a great question. And maybe I don’t know, maybe it was covered in this. Fascinating Do you intentionally foster that sort of improvisation in your organization. Dr. Nalli What do you think?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  30:04

Um, so I have a small team, I figured thinking but the way that I do it in the way that I work is I do what I call rigor sprints. And I also do what I call wander sprints. So rigor Sprint’s are when I isolate my office with no notifications, no music, no having a glass of water in front of me. So no distractions. And I give myself typically an odd amount of number of minutes, like 19 minutes or 33 minutes or seven minutes to do a deep dive.

For example, when I’m writing something, and that’s an example of improvisation, I don’t interrupt my thoughts. I don’t judge the negative Nancy who sits on one shoulder and the angelic person says and the other but I just let it come out right. In, in my advisory work, one of the things I like to an exercise that I often lead people through is something called question storming. So you’ve heard of brainstorming.

If you read my work you know that I’m a big proponent of curiosity, and asking big questions, I love the work of Lauren Berger, who wrote a more beautiful question. And questions for me is when you have a subject that you’re interested in, like, I don’t know, maybe it’s throughput time, if your manufacturing or supply chain challenge or a vendor management issue, whatever it might be. And instead of trying to figure out answers, you have each person say it’s a team of four people each have a blank piece of paper and a pen and you set the timer is not to 30 minutes, not to 15 minutes it like 90 seconds.

And each person based on the prompt has to generate question after question after question. And there’s a lot more that you can tell about each other by the quality of the questions that we ask even the answers. And then based on those questions, you pick two or three of those questions to focus on those. And now, having said that, there is what I call a taxonomy of questions. Not all questions are created equally. There are divergent questions, like Why, what if? I wonder, what might be the impact of right? Those are the really big, big questions.

Then there are converging questions like what, when, who? So I will start with the diverging questions that let each other dream really be first don’t go straight to the conference, because like, what is this do? Who did it? You know, not that hold off on that? And then there’s hybrid questions I call how questions hybrid, the how the process, it can be straightforward, but then it’s not so straightforward. So that’s why I call how hybrid so that’s an example of how you can work improvisation-ally to really hack yourselves to kind of hack the system and the way the same way you’ve been thinking instead of thinking about solutions, think about questions.


Curt Anderson  33:20

Jon Burge Leno’s these keeping count this is number three. So this is my understanding number three, I Okay. All right, David, you gotta pull up some of these. These comments are all good this is yeah, this is so good. I’m like I’m I can’t express how humbled I am and even Yes, with you. Now I know. I can only use wandering and regret as verbs. And guys, first off, we’re at the I completely lost track of time. So Rizvi, thank you for joining us question storming dude, was that just brilliant would have been right. So I haven’t been keeping track of time. If you’ve just joined us. We’re here with Dr. Natalie Nixon. Please check out she has an amazing TED talk.

She has an award winning book called Creativity leap you want to check out her website please connect with her here on LinkedIn and you will thank them and I later so wandering Viguerie you have a comment that I here’s a quote here’s Damon here’s a Dr. Natalie quote for you. All right. Is everybody sitting down for this one? Is that is everybody out there sitting down? I don’t know if you need to pull up any other comments even before I dropped this bomb? So create, like your life depends on it. Yes. Let me just say that again. Create like your life depends on it you like I’m so inspired by that comment. Can you please share with folks like what do we do with that?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  34:43

Well, I put out the challenge to create like your life depends on it because it actually does. Because a lot of us are dying a slow death at jobs worth it is not fulfilling. And I’m not saying that every job has to jazz you up and be amazing. But we do need to figure out the opportunities to insert the creativity in the way that I’m thinking about it to insert the opportunities for wonder, and for rigor and to also understand, you know, one of things my mother would always tell us is that all learning is interconnected.

So the years in throughout college, when I earn money, catering had been just as valuable to me as when I got paid to live and work abroad, is just as valuable as the times when I was when I was teaching when I was dancing.

So, so you’re you have to create, like, your life depends on it. Because, as I said, at the start of our conversation, we’re hardwired to be creative. And one of the reasons why so much so many of us are not flourishing, and whatever it is, the work that we’re doing is that there are not opportunities for the Wonder. And in manufacturing, there’s opportunity for wonder, and we’re not and also we’re conflating our rigidity for rigor, right? We think we’re being rigorous.

We’re actually being rigid. And there’s a big difference, right? So rigidity, says, Well, we said we were going to do XYZ, and we’re gonna keep doing although all alarm bells are going off, red flags are freezing, right? That’s rigidity, rigor, sees the alarm bells and the red flags, pauses take stock in really adapts to the context. I’m from Philly, I live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And we have this folkloric moment, every winter of the groundhog being up to let us know, you know how many more weeks of winter we have, but that little groundhog, we actually have quite a few in our backyard, but they’re not that little, the groundhog, peeps up.

And it looks at the environment, that’s an environmental scan. And when we are rigorous, we allow ourselves to take stock of the environment, and then we proceed accordingly. So creating like your life depends on it doesn’t just mean and I mean this facetiously I also paint I’m not a great painter. I paint. Actually, I’ve been paid for some of my paints, I paint. And so I’m not picking up a paintbrush, which is great to do. But I’m talking about really integrating the wonder and the rigor into work in the ways that I’ve been describing.


Curt Anderson  37:37

Oh, this is so good. So I want to be mindful of your time as we start winding down. You talk about humble leadership with your creativity. Can you just enlighten you know you’ve done such an amazing job with your career? inspiring millions, literally 1000s millions of folks and audiences all over the place? How any tips or advice for folks any, especially at the manufacturing floor, if they’re focusing on diversity, they’re trying to, you know, work workforce shortages. Now, any tips or advice on like, how do we really play that role as humble leaders out there?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  38:09

I think in a very meta way, you just did it, Kurt. It really starts by asking questions, it starts by asking for help. I created a course called The Wonder rigor lab. It’s an online DIY course. And there’s four milestones in the course. And the four milestones correspond to the word leap LTAP. The first milestone is to leverage everything you’ve experienced, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly.

The second milestone is to be able to envision an incredibly audacious future and I take you through all sorts of ways to do that. Third milestone is for Ask, and it’s about learning to ask questions. And it’s also about learning to ask for help. I recommend a great book called The Art of Asking, it’s by just forgot her name. I always do this, but um, she’s actually a punk rock musician. Oh, she really? Yeah.


Curt Anderson  39:06

Google that drop that in the chat box. So the art of asking so.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  39:12

And she actually what she was, she was the color Husker. She would be on the middle of Cambridge square and in Cambridge, in Boston, and she’d be dressed as a bride on her face paint and white and she have I have a flower extended and she just can’t be this frozen statue and she’d be collecting pennies quarters dollar bills. She then her punk rock band, which I can remember that name.

It’s called the Dresden Dolls. When they will come out. They were one of the first successful did one of the first successful million dollar Kickstarter fundraisers. She used Twitter constantly when they were on tour around the world to couch surf and on our way to Australia and asked the fans through Twitter. What happens As we get we can stay at it her point was, she was learning to ask for help. And then a series of others that I won’t get I won’t go down. It’s a great book. Amanda Palmer, her name is Amanda, the art of ask


Curt Anderson  40:15

you, Christina.


Dr. Natalie Nixon  40:17

And, you know, that is what builds humility, it’s learning to ask for help, and it’s not being afraid to look silly. Not being afraid to not, you know, surprise, you’re not the smartest person in the room. It’s really okay. And to understand that, you know, I like to say questions or inputs into a system.

And the more diverse the questions, the more innovative the output, but the only way we have a diversity of questions that we have a wide range of people around us, you mentioned dei and diversity, of ethnicity, of gender, of background experience and skill set. So manufacturing is definitely a sector that’s under a lot of pressure, a lot of constraints, new technology, you from every direction, and figuring out how to integrate it.

But it’s about understanding how to shift your paradigm and the paradigm shift doesn’t have to be 90 degrees, or 180 degrees, a paradigm shift can be five degrees, it’s just all of a sudden, instead of looking at it this way you look at it, oh, this way, this is interesting, and what might happen if I partner with this person, what might happen if we call up a former competitor, and forge an interesting Alliance and create some kind of coopetition. Right, but it starts with that humilities has to start with asking questions of yourself, and then being able to ask for help, man. Okay,


Curt Anderson  41:47

I think, John, I think that four or five, I’m not sure what we’re up to. But all right, so my last question for the day, Natalie, man, this is okay. And here’s the irony. I almost I feel a little bit embarrassed. Right? And so Dave and I, we do this because, you know, we just we love embarrassing ourselves, or just, you know, right, Daymond we just put ourselves out there. We’re never the summer he’s gotten the zoom, when we’re here on this stage. So Natalie, here’s Sure. Just last week, we do a lot of work with what’s called the manufacturing extension partnerships.

We had a wonderful Dynamo mazing woman last week, her name is Janelle Lee. We’re talking like technology, manufacturing, and how like all the cool kids are going into manufacturing these days. It just to put that out there. And I was saying, You know what, I’m a big history buff. And that’s why I just I feel like I really resonate and connect with you. Well, and I would say I just said last Friday, I mean, I feel like we’re in the midst of a new revolution, some type of industrial revolution, where technology’s meaning manufacturing, you’ve coined a phrase in maybe I just missed this. We’re in the fourth industrial revolution. Is that correct?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  42:49

Yeah, I did not coined that phrase, by phrase,


Curt Anderson  42:54

son that because I’ve heard you several times, say that. And I just, I’m just kept the I love, I couldn’t love that more. And now I’m going to borrow it, maybe steal it and repeat it. But please enlighten us on this fourth industrial revolution yet,


Dr. Natalie Nixon  43:06

please borrow it and use it as much as you need. The fourth industrial revolution refers to how ubiquitous technology is, as referring to the fact that AI, AR VR, robotics automation, are integrated into our daily lives. So in my office, right now, I have an Al e x a, I won’t say how let’s record by both augmented reality and AI.

If we don’t know the definition of a word, we Google it, that’s AI a lot of surgeries in hospitals today are being done not with physicians in the room, but a room or two over done by robotics. Right? The train has left the station. So the fourth industrial revolution, is designating this time when the economy is being disrupted because of the integrating the ubiquitous integration of technology in so many areas, to the poorer I used to share this story.

I have a LinkedIn article about this friend, who’s Estonian. We met some years ago in Estonia, we caught up with each other again and shins in China for this startup mentoring program we were both involved in we were at breakfast. And Mark just casually referenced the chip in his hand. And I said, What did you say? He said, Oh, yeah, you have the chip in my hand. I said, you have a chip in your head. And he had the time he was head of innovation for SCB Bank, which is just across the waters in Sweden. And he said yeah, I said, I said Can I feel it? And he said sure.

And he held up his hand it was like it felt like a tiny little bone spur the base. have his thumb. And he said, we decided that we needed to walk the talk working innovation. And we started hosting beer and chips parties at the end of the day, so they get tattoo artists who would come in, there’s beer, if you want to get a chip, insert it. And I said, What do you use the chip for? Because I use it to access the building, I can use it to lock my bicycle. Probably shortly we’ll be able to use it to get the subway the train. And it was fascinating. I felt so American because you know, Estonia is a former Soviet bloc.

And I think our political economies have a lot to do with our cultural mindset. As Americans, we’re very individualistic driven, and we want to we don’t want so much control over our bodies of our movement. And I thought, Gosh, I don’t think I could ever do that. I mean, but at the same time, people are putting chips in their pets. You know, people are tracking their kids movement with their phones, right? So the fourth industrial revolution signifies this, this moment when, excuse me, when the economy is getting disrupted because of the beauty of technology.


Damon Pistulka  46:19

Yeah. Wow.


Curt Anderson  46:20

Okay. I think that’s number five. So Damon, could you pull up Kristina Harrington has a nice comment. And Natalie, you would love Christina. She’s a CEO, President of an E commerce firm, exclusive for manufacturers. She is just absolutely delighted that time again, yeah, there’s that book and great, great book there. So let’s wind down in this if you just if you’re just catching us or didn’t catch the beginning, I just I want to close out with a quote that Natalie that you open up with, and actually I had it right here on my cue card.

It’s from our dear friend, Father, Frederick Douglass, right, that good old dad, study what you love, and you will turn down opportunities and you can just boy, what a gift. This has been to Damon myself. Absolutely here today. Thank you for sharing your brilliance, your experience, your passion, your expertise. I’m going to give a shout out to mom and dad to Carol and to Frederick Douglass for sharing that I’m just absolutely speechless.

And so I know how busy you are and will wind down on this guy’s please connect with Natalie again, award winning book creativity leap, check out her website, figure eight thinking and my daughter is a figure skater so I kind of love the figure. I was at the skating rink the other day listen to a podcast of yours so that was that we had so connect with Natalie on LinkedIn here. Natalie, were any speaking engagements, any events, anything that you want to promote plug or you want to share with folks out there today?


Dr. Natalie Nixon  47:52

Well, a lot of my upcoming speaking engagements are with private privately held companies. But I would like your audience to note that if they’re interested in any of the downloadable goodies that I offer everything from the Wonder rigor tip sheet, a free sample chapter of my book, they can simply go to figure eight, thinking the number eight And there’s a tab called resources. Under resources it says downloads so if you go to the downloads tab, on the figure eight website, you can download all sorts of cool stuff and you’ll also get a chance to subscribe to the Ever wonder monthly newsletter and do stay in touch


Curt Anderson  48:37

absence so again, guys connect with Dr. Natalie here on LinkedIn, check out her website, do yourself a favor, buy her book, check out her TED talk. She i You’ve been on. You’ve been on interviews with Gary Vee, Seth Godin, you name it. Just wonderful delight conversations with all sorts of folks sharing your expertise and just making us all a little bit more creative. So thank you for that. So guys, we want to wish you an amazing wonderful glorious weekend.

Thank you for joining us everybody. I dropped comments here boy we appreciate you more than we then you know that can Natalie hang out with us for one second and Damon take it away dude.


Damon Pistulka  49:17

I really can’t even speak I mean, this is the record for me I sit and take a lot of notes during this But Dr. Natalie so many great ideas. Just love the way you look at creativity, innovation and the whole thing is pointed out so much for us today. And Thanks so much everyone for being here. We’re going to be back again next week and next week. We’ve got a guest host Gail Robertson is going to be with us and we’re going to the NLS Lane Grier


Curt Anderson  49:45

and real quick Damon you would spare fact, Natalie, you will love our guests on. You know, he’s a Brooklyn guy so he’s not a Philly guy but we have Carl Brown. Cow Brown is on the History Channel series food that built America. He has a passion podcasts small business. It’s a small business podcast. He’s the director of Washington DC Small Business Development Center.

So Carl Brown is going to be with us this Monday, another powerhouse just to kind of boy, we got to keep that bar high for everybody. So join us on Monday we have a great guest. rustling and gal are gonna be here next Friday. And Natalie Dorie Clark is a fellow top 50 keynote speaker. She’s speaking two weeks from today. So great. Stories. Great. So we’re just keeping it going. So again, Dr. Natalie, thank you. God bless you. And thank you, Damon, thank you.


Damon Pistulka  50:37

Thanks so much, everyone, for US manufacturing ecommerce success. love to have you all here with us every week and look forward to seeing you again next week. We’ll be back. Bye

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