Creativity expert brings life lessons to UIndy students

When students start thinking about careers, creativity may not be a word that comes to mind. But that’s exactly what Tanner Christensen, Facebook product designer and author of “The Creative Challenge,” wants them to consider.

Creative Millions: A Dinner and Discussion for Creatives, featured Tanner Christensen, Facebook Product Designer and Creativity Expert, at the Fountain Square Theatre on February 28, 2017. (Photo by D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

Creative Millions: A Dinner and Discussion for Creatives, featured Tanner Christensen, Facebook Product Designer and Creativity Expert, at the Fountain Square Theatre on February 28, 2017. (Photo by D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

Christensen visited the University of Indianapolis campus Tuesday as part of “Creative Millions,” a Professional Edge Center initiative to encourage students to pursue creativity in their careers. He spoke to more than 60 students at Fountain Square Theatre and was joined by local creative professionals.

For more than a decade, Christensen has been researching the science behind human creativity. “We can really do a lot more than we ever realized we can. We’re definitely not limited in our lives,” he said.

That’s a valuable lesson for students who are considering career options. The focus of Christensen’s talk was about developing your creativity, communicating its value and putting it to work for a productive and fulfilling career.

At a marketing company he worked for, “people kept using the word ‘creative’ and I didn’t really know what that meant.” Christensen set out to find out “what it means to be creative and how it impacts our lives.” He says he’s learned a lot in the process. In realizing his goal to become a designer, he’s also become a published writer, an app creator and entrepreneur.

“I think the reason I was able to do all of that was that I understood creativity – the potential of my brain,” he said. His mission now is to help others do what he’s done, and as Christensen puts it, “unlock their creativity.”

Whit Bones,  an assistant director at UIndy’s Professional Edge Center, came across Christensen’s work in his search for someone who was talking about creativity in a meaningful way. He was thrilled with the response to the event.

“The quality of discussions facilitated by the creative professionals at each table, the engagement of the students and Tanner’s talk far exceeded my hopes for this event. I had the chance to speak with a few students and they all seemed energized and inspired to invest more deeply in their creativity after hearing the message of the evening,” said Bones.

Christensen said sometimes people get stuck in ways of thinking that eventually limits them. Escaping from that “fixed box” can be applied to the way students consider potential professions.

So how do you do it? It all starts with actively seeking out new perspectives.

“You have to first recognize that your perspectives are completely limited. The moment you start looking outside those perspectives, those things can provoke you into seeing the world differently,” Christensen said.

That message resonated with Juliana Rohrmoser Pacheco, a Visual Communication Design major. “Learning about and being exposed to various environments and people make you grow as a creative professional but also as a person because you might feel challenged to appreciate different perspectives,” she said. “Listening to Christensen showed me that the more you expose yourself to different people, even by reading a biography, the more creative you become.”

The talk was perfect timing for art major Olivia Moor, who admits to feeling stuck for the past few months. “Hearing Tanner speak and hearing stories and feedback from not only the creative professional at my table, but UIndy faculty that also attended, forced me to confront that mindset and flip it on its head,” she said. “One of the best quotes I heard from my creative professional was, ‘Creativity doesn’t just appear, it is cultivated every day.’”