Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD
Nurturing Creativity within the Educational System
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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: So welcome, everybody to this week's podcast episode for the Financial Freedom for Physicians Podcast. And I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Loo. And as you know, I talk about four different types of freedom: financial, time, location, and emotional freedom. The podcast started out as physician guests and audience. But now it's grown and expanded to include business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, creatives, speakers, coaches. I've opened it up to the masses, so that hopefully everybody can get some value out of the ideas shared today. So today, we're going to talk all about creativity, the art of ideas, unlocking your creative potential. And to help share that we have Robin Landa. She's actually an author, and she's actually a distinguished professor, which we'll get into later, and let her talk about it. So, Robin, welcome.
Robin Landa: Thank you so much. I'm honored to be here, Dr. Loo, I'm a great admirer of yours.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Oh, well, thank you. I know we connected through PodMatch. And I know your husband is a physician as well. So tell us more about yourself, how you came to be, and we'll go from there.
Robin Landa: I'm a distinguished professor at the Michael Graves College at Kean University, which is a public university in New Jersey. And I write a lot of books, which is an income stream for me, although, unlike a lot of your listeners, I give a lot of it away. Because I fund a lot of scholarships for my students, my students are first generation college students. So I feel like I have to help them in some way.I started out writing about design and branding and advertising in my field. But now, like you, I've moved into a more general audience. And my last two books, one just came out last month, are aimed at a marketing audience. And the new one that's coming out in November is aimed at a general audience.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Interesting, interesting. And we'll talk about your book later. What's really interesting is this idea of creativity, because this is not something that can be taught. It's something that we all have, but we have to channel it and harness it, and we have to discover it. That's always been a fascination of mine. So how do people generate worthwhile ideas?
Robin Landa: I have a framework, a new system; there really hasn't been a new system for generating new ideas since 1964. When we came out in 1926, and then 1964. People talk about design thinking, which isn't really an idea generation system. But I've come up with a system, you can call it a framework or a system, and there are three G's. There's a goal, a gap and a gain. And I think you as a physician and scientist will totally understand the gap.
So for example, and you probably will have a much better time explaining it to your audience than I will, for example, mRNA, that was a gap. Right? Dr. Karikó and Dr. Weissman found a gap in that technology in that deliverance in that medicine. There are gaps in all disciplines in all fields. So if you have a goal, that goal needs to address the gap. And the gap can be any sort of gap. It can be an underserved audience, it can be a question that hasn't been asked. In any field, you have to do some research.
And then the third G is gain. And that's where my framework ends up with worthwhile ideas, because the idea has to benefit either individuals, society, companies, creatures, or our planet. Otherwise there's no point. If the idea doesn't have a benefit, there really is no point. And I really believe in the triple bottom line, in benefiting people, that there's profit, people, and the planet
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That's really interesting. I've always loved acronyms, so I love that, the goal, gap and gain.
One of the things that I've always done is I would have a journal and I write, take a day off and just think of different new ideas, and that's been helpful for my creativity. What are some ways that people can use to build their creative habits?
Robin Landa: Well, one thing is to ask what if questions. Now, I don't know if that's one of the things that you do. But that's really one of the very best things that you can do. And it's really very easy. If you think about science fiction, right? Even about something like Star Trek, what if we could voice command computers? Which has come to be. What if we could transport people, I'm waiting for that, just by snapping your fingers.
So a lot of the what if questions really start to make you think about possibilities that are not in our own experience? And then my next favorite question is, if only. If only we had digital twins of ourselves that could retain all our memories and live beyond us. If only I could fly without an airplane. So what if and if only, really allow us to think about possibilities outside of our own experience. So those are really easy questions to ask. And they're fun questions to pose, even within a conversation.
And then the other things, and this was actually an article I just read recently in the New York Times about helping people with dementia, is about observation, about becoming more observant. Really noticing things, being mindful observers, you start to notice things. And comedians are good at that. Observational humorists are good at that. They notice things like how somebody eats a sandwich cookie, or how somebody picks something up, right? And it's when you start to see things that other people might miss. So observation, and being curious. You're a scientist as well as a physician. So you really understand the importance of curiosity. And I think that's why you're fascinated by curiosity, by creativity, because you are a scientist as well as a physician; that PhD really makes a big difference, right?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: I've always found that the medical side is you're just trained to take a set of symptoms and make a diagnosis and then treat them. That's sort of the whole crux of medicine. But science-wise, you’re all about discovery, and it's all about intellectual creativity and curiosity, which are two different fields. I always think about what's frustrating. And thinking, what if, or if only; what if we didn't need the airlines? Or, what if you didn't need the banks? If only. So these are all great suggestions.
Robin Landa: That's probably what led you to this podcast and this financial freedom too, because you're so creative. I bet you all that, that training in science led you to this as well. I mean, you're really a creative thinker.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. I'm always observing what's going on, how are things changing? Where are things going to be in the next 20 years? You know, are we going to need to go to school? And all of these different types of trends.
You talk about strategic creativity. Tell us more about that. And what is the value of it?
Robin Landa: Well, in the business world, some people are afraid of creativity, because it seems freewheeling. Fine artists, musicians, they're creative and that's kind of out there. But in advertising, and in graphic design, we are strategic creatives, we have to actually get a problem solved. And so it has to be directed towards creativity. And so we have to, as I said, solve a problem. We have to anticipate issues. We have to be empathetic, because if we don't understand the people that we're aiming at, it's not going to resonate. Empathy is very, very important as it is for physicians to be empathetic with their patients. We have to appropriately aim at our target audience. And this is where my other idea about gain comes in, is that ultimately whatever you create has to benefit people, because people, whether it's branding or advertising or anything will ultimately say, Well, what's in it for me? Because the human drive is, whether it's intrinsic or extrinsic, we want something.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, exactly. It's either the carrot or the stick. How does someone actually unlock their creative potential? Say they were in the corporate world, and they sort of just followed all the rules, but then they were really curious, and they wanted to unlock their potential. How can they do that?
Robin Landa: It's always good to ask challenging questions, almost heretical questions or dissenting questions. Let's put it this way. If you say, Let's do what we've always done, you're not going to get very far, right? If you say, what would be the wrong answer, rather than the right answer, you can immediately figure out what you shouldn't be doing. And maybe that'll bring you to what you should be doing. That's one thing. But if you ask yourself challenging questions, you may really bring up issues that you hadn't thought of. And what I find is that a lot of people would rather be safe. Rather than think about what might be edgy or put them out there. Copycat, same old, nobody cares. It really you have to really move out there to get people to notice anything anymore.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I like that. It's like you have to sort of just break the boundaries and start inquiring and just opening your mind and broadening your perspective.
Robin Landa: Can I just dovetail on that? Because you said something really, really important. It's very important, I think, to get multiple perspectives in terms of diversity and inclusion. So it's not good to have a group think it's very important to get different perspectives from all different kinds of people from different cultures, different races, different ethnicities, because then you broaden the world, you broaden the perspectives, and you really enrich any idea and any thinking. So what you just said about perspective is so crucial. That actually may be the most important thing anybody can do.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. You've worked with businesses and traditional corporations, where you're not allowed to innovate. And there's a hierarchy. So what should business people know about the creative side, in terms of marketing, advertising? Tell us more.
Robin Landa: You have to kill the pedestrian ideas. You have to run with the strategically creative idea and not go with the pedestrian idea, because it's not going to get you that far. And I think that corporations have to do multiple perspective taking, they have to avoid groupthink, they have to avoid saying well it worked for that company, I want one of those. And that happens in advertising all the time. So if there's a successful app that happens, sometimes chief marketing officers say, well I want one of those. But that worked for them, it's not necessarily going to work for you, and that already happened and you want something different right? And you want to differentiate yourself and you want to position yourself differently in the consumer's mind, not do the same thing.
So there's a lot of thinking about really what would be different. How can you differentiate yourself? Which is what you hear all the time but a lot of questions have to be asked. A lot of you really have to think about the context, about humanistic thinking, about being observant, to have interesting solutions, about being empathetic to people and cutting through cutting through with beautiful, visual solutions.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I love cutting through. What should CMO’s know about the creative side of branding?
Robin Landa: Any strategically creative brand has to have a great North Star idea that builds your world. So if you've read any great novel by somebody like Murakami, or even if you think about something like the Harry Potter movies, JK Rowling built a world. It's a believable world. And in that world, there's a voice, there's visual elements. There's a story, and it's an origin story. And they all are in sync. So you’re world building. But there's a North Star, there's a lodestar, that guides all of that. And there has to be values underpinning it. There has to be accompanying actions, has to walk the talk, if they have values, and they have a mission. It has to be authentic, they have to really do what they say they’re going to, have to come through on their brand promise. And now Gen Z, they're not going to buy from a brand that doesn't actually do some social good.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. My nieces and nephews, they're Gen Z. And I just see like, they're willing to pay more for a brand because of what it means to them and what it stands for, as opposed to the price. And you know, if the brand is doing good in the world, they're more willing to go with that brand, even though it's more expensive, or more than the traditional brands. So
Robin Landa: Exactly. Gen Z really cares. And they're activists, and they can see through things. And they won't, they won't put up with anything.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. It's been a really fascinating conversation. I see you have a new book, tell the audience and listeners more about it, and how can they find you and reach you and contact you and maybe even work with you?
Robin Landa: Thank you so much. I have a website, RobinLanda.com. That's the best way to get me. And I'm on LinkedIn, and I'm on Instagram, and I'm on all the social media channels. And I have two new books. One just came out this past June, called Strategic Creativity. And that's really aimed at corporations, CMOs CEOs to understand what they should get from marketing and branding and advertising creatives. And my new book is coming out in November from Barrett Kohler. And that's called The New Art of Ideas. And that was the very first question I think you asked me about the new system for idea generation, which is the three G's Goal, Gap and Gain.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Excellent. Well, it's been a great conversation. For the audience and the listeners, Robin's resources will be in the links in the show notes. Check out her book. I'm actually going to go and check it out right after this. It sounds so fascinating. It's been a great conversation and we look forward to hearing about your future successes.
Robin Landa: Thank you so much. I'm a big fan of yours. Thank you.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.