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Modern Edge's Angell offers lessons in creative thinking

By: Bill Bregar

April 12, 2013

TAMPA, FLA. — Creativity at a business has to be a process that involves people from different departments, tied together by an innovation culture, Charles Austen Angell, chairman-elect of the Industrial Designers Society of America, told an Executive Forum audience.

"There is nothing more important than a creative process," he said.

Take people away from their normal work and put them together to brainstorm. "It's about how your roles are interacting when they're mixing around," Angell said.

Angell, founder and president of Modern Edge Inc. in Portland, Ore., said "meaningful play" can foster creative thinking.

He pointed out that members of a basketball team are used to playing together, all season long. That's not the case with a manufacturer. You can tell a production person to throw out ideas, not to be afraid of saying something stupid, but Angell said it's not easy for them.

That person might have incredible insight that can provide focus, he said.

Angell showed slides of a project he worked on in Kenya, developing an osmosis system for water. The team drove on dirt roads and river beds, to tiny villages with five or six huts. Once lush, the area now suffers from drought.

In this remote location, one man complained to them that kids these days don't want to work. Angell's message: Even halfway around the world, people are not that different.

"Creativity is completely a process, just like surgery is a process," Angell said. "Just because it's a process doesn't mean anybody could do it."

Plastics News' Executive Forum was held March 3-6 in Tampa.