Advice for Leadership Development Consultants From...Matisse?

By Marshall Bergmann - December 14, 2017

Over the past several years, the Regis leadership development consulting firm has spent a lot of time helping leaders of global organizations become more innovative. One of our favorite tools in the creative problem-solving process is the use of “Post It” notes.

Post-it Notes are powerful because they let people release ideas into the world without the fear of judgment or attribution. It is akin to shouting out ideas in a crowded dark room. For some reason it feels safer, easier, less threatening. Putting my learning and development consultant hat on, they also keep leadership program ideas from being stuck in a list of bullet points on PowerPoint slide and frees them to be moved around, grouped, evolved and transformed.

At a recent visit to the Tate Modern in London I learned that Matisse, one of the most innovative artists of the 20 century, used his own version of “Post It” notes to unleash his creativity. Early in his career he used “Cut Outs” made of colored paper and pinned them to the canvas in order to prototype his ideas. He found it easier to develop his ideas when he had the ability to easily move the elements around the canvas.

The picture above is an early prototype of Deux Danseurs. You can see the individual pieces and pins holding them to the canvas. He would move these pieces around to quickly test out new “versions” of his painting.

Later in his life this “cut-out” style created a burst of expression and began a new phase in his career where he used cut out pieces to construct the entire artwork. What I found most interesting about this phase in his career was not the end product, but how the cut-outs influenced his creative process.

Had you paid a visit to his studio at this time you would have seen the walls and floor covered with various colored shapes that eventually became elements of some of his greatest works? The image below shows some of those cut-outs taken from his studio.

Originally Matisse conceived of these shapes as part of one whole composition, he just didn't know how they would finally be arranged. The paper shapes were pinned to the wall, allowing him to move pieces around, rotate or invert shapes and try new combinations – much like the Post-It notes full of ideas we use as we’re creating professional development training programs.

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