New Blue view
A unique campus workspace is proving that creativity is one part talent and one part teaching.
The sea of Post-It notes adorning Studio Blue on the University of Tulsa campus seems to encourage confusion, multi-colored madness — anything but solutions. But study the results of this and other methods used by TU’s one-of-a-kind “creative greenhouse” and the chaos makes perfect sense.
Designed to bring imagination back into business education, Studio Blue opened last summer under the Collins College of Business as a resource for all TU students who want to learn creative processes to improve their academic work and prepare for careers.
Through class projects and optional campus-wide competitions, TU students practice creative problem solving at Studio Blue using brainstorming, group sessions and the latest computer and video technology. With moveable seating and magnetic and dry-erase surfaces, including three mobile white boards, the classroom-turned-think tank is highly unconventional.
“Studio Blue offers students a place to come and experience as many different creative projects as possible,” says Creative Director Jacob Johnson, who provides on-site project help. “You learn creativity by doing it. It has less to do with exercises than just being in an environment where you can use your imagination.”
Charlie Wood, TU professor of marketing, points out that the classroom has traditionally been a poor venue for the creative process.
“Sometimes I think we teach creativity out of students,” he says. “Part of that has to do with the way we test, which is more focused on left-brained skills than right-brained skills, probably because those are more subjective and difficult to test.”
Regardless, Studio Blue is out to show that, given the right setting, any individual can develop his or her creativity — a much-needed trait in a global marketplace that demands increased innovation.
Making a difference
Students use Studio Blue to help area nonprofits solve real-world problems. Several groups recently brainstormed ways to reorganize Gilcrease Museum’s store through field research, sketching and 3-D renderings. Students also devised promotional ideas and surveyed Tulsans to gauge attitudes toward the museum.
“They’ve helped us answer questions like ‘Do people come here to look at the collection or to shop?’ or ‘Would a satellite store be beneficial or not?’” says Amanda Burns, museum store director.
Studio Blue’s influence also is expanding statewide. Marketing senior Ryan Moody is utilizing its resources for a project about mothers in jail. His group’s hypothetical project goal is to communicate with Oklahoma legislators about the state’s high rate of female incarceration.
Wood is excited about Studio Blue’s potential to raise civic awareness about this and other issues and hopes to eventually plug students into social entrepreneurship opportunities.
“Every semester, we want to ask, ‘What can we do that will stretch us?’” he says.
More is better
Studio Blue’s mantra seems to be: To get a good idea, generate a lot of ideas, which has been proved over and over in group exercises.
“We’ve seen that quality comes from quantity,” Johnson says. “If we can keep people coming up with as many ideas as possible, they’ll be better off on day one (on the job).”
Enter the plethora of Post-Its. Students are taught to brainstorm by writing as many ideas as possible on the notes and sticking them to a wall or other surface. From there, the best ideas can be narrowed down until one is selected or expanded upon.
“The Post-It note thing is something I’ve already taken outside of Studio Blue to use whenever I have a bunch of thoughts in my head,” marketing freshman Kevin Baldwin says. “It’s something I’ll use throughout my college career and into my first job.”
No self-editing is the key to this and other idea-generation methods. Students also are asked to encourage peers to share rather than criticize their input.
“In Studio Blue, any idea is a good idea,” marketing senior Emily Cooper says. “It’s just a more open atmosphere.”
It’s all good in theory. But how does one keep Studio Blue problem-solvers from being stifled as they enter the creativity-starved business arena?
Ralph Jackson, TU professor of marketing, admits that part can be tough. He advises students to remain proactive in sharing and implementing on-the-job ideas but also recommends finding a work environment that, like Studio Blue, permits failure and encourages imagination.
“There are certain jobs that take what creative juices you have, seal them in a box and hand them to you when you leave for the weekend,” Jackson says.
Studio Blue’s goal is to ingrain creative methodology into students’ thinking, changing the way they attack business and other problems, Johnson says. While the concept is new to TU, student feedback seems to point toward long-term success.
“You’re exposed to a certain way of learning with Studio Blue, and you take that with you,” Cooper says. “I plan to take what I’ve learned and just continue to use it along the way.”