It was wonderful to connect with Robin Landa, distinguished professor at Kean University and a globally recognized creativity and ideation expert.
What drives you to give back?
Higher education is one way to increase equity–an equal opportunity for all students to achieve their life and career goals. By donating a good portion of my royalties to university scholarships, I hope to broaden access to learning. Most people do not realize that public universities need charitable giving in order to best support their students.
I also believe in supporting faculty research. For years, I have facilitated a design writing
fellowship for faculty nationwide (and occasionally internationally) who want to research and
write books, formally through the auspices of Design Incubation and now with Writing Space.
Most of my fellows who have submitted proposals to publishers have received publishing
contracts; many are now published book authors. Additionally, I give presentations to universities to disseminate my research and support higher education.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I’m not sure if raising a daughter to be kind and generous is an accomplishment. If it is, then
If the answer lies in a career achievement then it would be my body of work–25 published nonfiction books, including Graphic Design Solutions, 6th ed.; Advertising by Design, 4th ed.; and Strategic Creativity: A Business Field Guide to Advertising, Branding, and Design. Most recently, I wrote The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential, which I hope will inspire people to produce worthwhile ideas that positively impact individuals, society, creatures, and our planet.
What is one thing that a student taught you?
We each have our own perspective, our own view of the world shaped by our education,
experiences, communities, families, and friend groups. This personal perspective is the lens
through which we see the world and ourselves in it. Multiple-perspective thinking allows you to mentally walk in others’ shoes, to look at a situation, an idea, a life lived, or an event from the viewpoints of people who are different from you, who have had different experiences.
That shift in perspective adds a fuller dimension to your thinking. Whether it’s seeing a goal or issue from your teammates’ perspectives or ensuring any team is diverse and inclusive—which should always be the case—seeing through a different lens ensures greater creative and inclusive outcomes.
Share one teaching strategy that worked.
There are three questions that position you to be the one who consistently produces good
ideas, even great ideas. Ideating by using “The Three Gs”—Goal, Gap, and Gain—is a process that has great efficacy in practice. It’s my framework for generating worthwhile ideas.
Ask: What’s the goal? A goal isn’t an idea—its what you want to achieve.
Ask: What’s the gap? The gap is the missing piece or solution that your idea provides.
Ask: What’s the gain? Once you’ve set a goal and determined whether it fills a gap, assess
whether there is a gain—a benefit or advantage for individuals, society, or the environment.
Go beyond profit and think about the triple bottom line: profit, people, and the planet.
What is the most meaningful part of your job?
When my student Brooke returned from her first week as an intern at a top New York City
advertising agency, she said, “I was the only one on my team who rattled off one good idea
after another. My creative director said we could use all my ideas. The other interns just sat
Now Brooke is a senior art director at another top New York ad agency, where she creates
award-winning ad campaigns for national brands. So are thousands of my other former
students, who are award-winning professionals working in advertising, branding, UIUX, and
graphic design–professions that are creativity-dependent ones demanding many ideas daily.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“The task is … not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”
—Erwin Schrödinger (1933 Nobel Prize in Physics)
One way to unlock your creativity is to seek insights and to notice possibilities. An insight is a revelation (an eye-opener) or realization (awareness)—a truth or finding no one has yet noticed brought to light. That insight or truth ultimately should warrant responsiveness—a change in the way you look at a behavior, situation, theory, or an issue—and it should be the catalyst for idea generation.
You can think of insights into people in two main ways:
1) a fixed insight that dominates behavior over an extended period, or
2) a dynamic insight that bends with micro or macro changes in the people’s needs, behavior, or situation (think a major unforeseen event, such as a pandemic or tsunami), which is more flexible than a fixed insight.
Learn more about Robin at robinlanda.com.
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us.
Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
Write to us to nominate yourself or someone else who fits the bill.