How to Make Room for Creative Thinking

Dan Goods captured the crowd at the latest bizSESSION presented by COCA STL, whose mission is appropriately, “to enrich lives and build community through the arts.” That was certainly achieved in Dan’s, “Making Room for Creative Thinking,” With a title like that, I was ready to soak up the inspiration.

Here’s the scoop on this tremendous down to earth human: Dan Goods’ day job? Visual Strategist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Yeah, NASA. The guy really is from another planet. He’s rocked a TED Talk. Oh, and he was named “Most Interesting Person in LA.” As a former LA resident, I’ll say there are a LOT of people there and they are all wildly interesting, so to be a standout is wonderfully rare. It is, after all, where Jennifer Lawrence and John Stamos live.

Here are my takeaways from his presentation in 3…2…1…

Explore the playful wonderment of possibilities.

A resume mailed in an oversize envelope (there’s a story with that) led to him landing the role of Visual Strategist at NASA’s JPL. This world was the intersection of his brilliant mind, knack for design, and flair for thinking outside the box. He embraces life’s breathtaking moments and creates an atmosphere for them to exist. His “Museum of Awe” is in the works, and I am not making that up.

Have no fear.

Don’t know how to do things? Here’s a secret; just know how to ask the right people. He strategically surrounds himself with a rockstar tribe of unique thinkers and invites collaboration. There is literally a brainstorm room built at NASA called, “Left Field.” I liked Dan’s approachability because he’s one of those super sharp people that talks with the audience, not at the audience. Dan humbly shared that the smartest, wisest people ask the most basic questions, and he included himself in that statement.

How to provide a safe space?

Goods shared the story about the world’s first large, space-based optical telescope, Hubble. However, Hubble was constructed with a minor mirror impairment; the telescope display was blurry.While this visual issue seemed ironically microscopic (less than 1/50 the width of a strand of human hair) this imperfection needed immediate attention. Following the Challenger accident, no imperfection would fly. Solution? Put glasses on it. Corrective spectacles were designed and all was well. And now I picture Hubble as Mr. Potato Head, simply in need of an important optical accessory. Dan also mentioned you cannot be so focused on the engineering element that you forget about the soul of the project. Data visualization merged with the project’s purpose equals the art of humanization. What a powerful mashup.

An extra shoutout to the fine folks at Mueller Prost, proud sponsor of the event, for generously providing our tickets. Without them, I would not have that inspiration and this article.