Unleash Creative Transformation in HR

An Interview with Aithan Shapira

What’s stopping your employees from unleashing their full creative power at work? California HR Conference Keynote speaker Aithan Shapira, MFA, PhD has a few ideas.

We often hear words like “agile,” “innovation,” and “transform” used as shorthand or inspiration for improving workplace productivity and culture, but Aithan has arrived to share precisely how creativity can unlock the benefits of these buzzwords, and how HR can lead the way.

At CAHR20, we source expertise from many different backgrounds to bring you fresh, actionable insights to make work better for everyone. A polymath like Aithan Shapira (an MIT lecturer, renowned artist *and* business-launcher) is the perfect person to demonstrate how successfully fostering creativity can impact your company’s bottom line.

To learn more about what Aithan’s bringing to his Keynote session at the Virtual 2020 California HR Conference, we asked him a few questions about tapping into our creative power these days.

Why See Aithan at CAHR20?

If there’s anyone we’ve met with an equally strong command of both the left and right brain, it’s Aithan.

Aithan Shapira, MFA, PhD, is an established artist, Lecturer at MIT Sloan, and founder of Tilt, a culture design and transformation firm focused on change-ability.

As facilitator and coach, he draws on 20+ years of transforming creative process into cultural practice that he is applying with global leaders in organizations such as NASA, Google, and Roche.

Aithan serves on McKinsey’s think tank for Advancing Adult Learning and Development and has pioneered progressive curricula at the edge of leadership and skills retraining for the future of work at MIT Sloan, Harvard iLab, Stanford d.school, and the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship.

Aithan developed his research on the creative process at the Royal College of Art & Design, lived in an Australian Aboriginal community for three years to study art’s impact on cultures of survival, and continues to be a visiting critic at arts institutions internationally. He exhibits his artwork in museums and galleries in New York, London, and Miami. 

Aithan’s skilled passion for art, research, and immersion will become tangible for CAHR20 attendees at his unforgettable Keynote presentation – we’re excited for you to experience it!

Until then, here’s Aithan’s insight on all things creativity for HR professionals.

CAHR20: Why is embracing creativity so critical during times of uncertainty?

Aithan Shapira: I never understood goalies. When an object is hurtling toward me at 60mph my human instinct is to duck, not to throw my body in front of it. High-performing goalies are continually training at transmuting that fear into purpose-driven action at this moment of opportunity.

Similarly, uncertainty creates profound anxiety for many of us. It is creativity that allows us to harness the opportunity of the unknown. For a creative leader, much like an artist, a blank slate is a high-potential moment – fertile for innovation, change, growth, and equally fertile for contracting and recoiling into the familiar and safe.

Creativity is knowing how to be when you don’t know what to do.

Aithan Shapira, CAHR20 Keynote Speaker

"It is creativity that allows us to harness the opportunity of the unknown."

-Aithan Shapira

Aithan Shapira, CAHR20 Keynote Speaker

CAHR20: HR professionals tend to focus on resolving conflict… How can they encourage creative conflict within and beyond their department?

AS: Difference drives creativity. Our unease with conflict, and often premature resolution, limits our ability to leverage the perspectives that diversity provides for innovation and growth. There is an art to curating organizational (and individual) cultural practices that contain a healthy dose of differentiation. Increasing capacity to work with the discomfort of holding competing points of view simultaneously and the practice of listening by dropping personal perspective in order to fully engage with another are bridge skills that enable high-performing cultures to reap the benefits of creative tension. 

Rather than avoiding or resolving tension too quickly, build a culture of candor and feedback loops that will actually enable the psychological safety necessary to operationalize diversity – of people, perspectives, processes, and skills.

CAHR20: Where would someone start if they want to position themselves as a leader that not only embraces, but builds progress during uncertain times?

AS: Uncertainty is what separates leadership from management. It is during uncertain times that our leadership stands out, whether we like what it looks like or not. We are constantly looking outside of ourselves for answers – asking experts, watching TED talks, consulting Google, reading blogs. We’ve forgotten how to look internally for our answers. The only thing you control is how to be – that’s where certainty lies. Understanding yourself and how you relate to those things outside of you – that’s how you begin thrive in a constantly changing world. 

At any time, and especially in uncertainty, a leader builds progress by measuring the success of a day by how closely she lives to her values.

CAHR20: Without revealing too much, what takeaways can our attendees expect from your keynote?

AS: Attendees can expect an experiential immersion, despite being virtual, on change-ability. We will engage in an avant-garde approach using the arts for transforming leadership, training to change in evolving contexts, and defining culture that changes together in more creative, agile, and adaptive ways.


Wow. Sounds cool! Thank you for your time, Aithan!

Gain even more actionable insights from Aithan Shapira LIVE at the Virtual 2020 California HR Conference.

Your time and budget are especially precious these days. That’s why we designed the Virtual CAHR20, happening October 27-29: a compact, 3-day live event featuring the top minds from a variety of industries, providing you with a whopping 30+ HR recertification credits. 

Plus, CAHR20 attendees get early access to complimentary weekly HR content & credits with our PIHRA Road to CAHR20 Webinar Series every Monday at 2:15pm!

Until October 16, 2020, you can take advantage of the CAHR20 Early Bird Rate to secure excellent HR professional development – including Road to CAHR20 Bonus Sessions – at a reasonable cost.


Register for CAHR20 today!

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