We rarely get to choose where inspiration hits. Turns out, sometimes it strikes in a cafeteria.
On a meal break during the 2014 Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) conference, we sat in a secluded booth nestled between the dessert selection and tray return. We’d just shared a lightbulb moment: as a duo, we’re uniquely suited to address the intersection where storytelling meets creative problem-solving. With cafeteria trays clattering in the background, we dreamed of ways to merge our talents. Within twenty minutes we’d hatched a plethora of schemes and possibilities for how we might collaborate. When we parted ways, our brains swirled with ideas.
Soon after, we bid on a couple of consulting proposals together. During those collaborations, we experienced a mind-meld that was intensely creative and productive. We learned that our skills, talents, and approaches are complementary and synergistic. And working together was seamless—it felt almost magical. Mimi would produce an initial brain dump of ideas and possibilities. Jean would build, refine, and pull all the pieces together into a clear and coherent communication. It felt easy and energizing. But after that professional nirvana, our lives went in slightly different directions.
After nine successful years with Sherlock Creative Thinking, Mimi was finding the life of an independent consultant a bit lonely. As an extrovert, she missed the energy of working as part of a team. She decided to return to the corporate world to take a dream job.
Coming off a corporate layoff and a “sabbatical” year of severance, Jean was gaining traction with her new consultancy, Storlietelling LLC. The proposals she developed with Mimi fired her passion to explore how storytelling could be merged with innovation and creative problem-solving facilitation. The experience helped her cement a new focus. She started to develop a book concept to explore this new direction. Just as Mimi reentered corporate life, Jean began to research and conceptualize what became Once Upon an Innovation.
Then in 2017, we revisited our collaboration to co-create a training workshop, “Storytelling in Innovation,” for that year’s CPSI conference. By that time Jean had started writing her book, and the workshop became a valuable test lab. In late 2018 Mimi brought fresh energy to the book project just when Jean was hitting a wall in her writing marathon. Mimi provided thought leadership, ideas, resources, and support. We began another intense sprint of collaboration that culminated in Once Upon an Innovation.
As President/Owner of Storlietelling LLC, Jean uses story-based techniques to design and facilitate highly engaging strategic planning, innovation, and team-building sessions. She also runs training programs in business storytelling skills for clients that span boutique consulting firms to Fortune 500 companies across a range of industries. Jean has facilitated innovation in consumer packaged goods, supplier, and direct marketing companies, focusing on building their innovation pipelines. She worked at General Mills for over a decade, where her knack for distilling complex content into compelling communications helped business teams drive business growth for consumer brands like Cheerios and Yoplait. As a child, she loved reading books, playing dress-up, and solving puzzles, foreshadowing the work she does now-solving problems with stories.
Mimi is the leader of Global Strategic Insights for IFF Taste. She is responsible for inspiring and motivating creative teams by bringing actionable insights to life and facilitating end to-end innovation. Prior to this, Mimi was the Principal and Owner of Sherlock Creative Thinking, a creativity and innovation consultancy that served a variety of clients and industries across the globe. Through her highly engaging and experiential approach, Mimi helped business teams in companies like Visa, L'Oreal, and Nestle crack the code on gnarly problems . . . and enjoy the process. She has been a leader and facilitation trainer for the Creative Problem Solving Institute for close to thirty years. As a natural ideator, if you give Mimi a challenge she's likely to spew out twenty-five ideas in under five minutes.