Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
Feb. 17, 2022

How to use your emotions as a creativity tool with Dr. Zorana Ivcevic Pringle

Emotional Intelligence and Creativity Scientist, Dr. Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, reveals the connections between emotions and creativity and how to manage emotions at work to be more creative and manage your wellbeing.

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#006 - We’re trained to leave our emotions at the doorstep when it comes to work but using emotions consciously and intentionally can make individuals and teams more creative, more motivated and happier. This is according to Dr. Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Senior Research Scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, who studies the role of emotion and emotional intelligence in creativity. Zorana shares her insights on using different emotions for the divergent and convergent parts of a design process and how designers and facilitators can manage their and their team’s emotions to help them be more creative. We also talk about the benefits of acknowledging your feelings at work instead of hiding them. Zorana also shares her tips for bringing more emotional intelligence into your workplace as a leader, individual contributor or even someone starting a new role and how even a single individual can spread a positive emotion contagion by being the first one to embrace their emotions.

In this episode:

  • The types of emotions needed for divergent and convergent thinking
  • How and when to introduce constraints into a creative process
  • Acknowledging and labelling feelings to relieve the pressure of hiding them
  • Bringing emotional intelligence into work proactively
  • Managing emotions in a new role
  • Talking to co-workers about how you’re feeling
  • Importance of rituals to begin and end meetings to prevent negative emotional contagion


Join the Design Feeling Fireside chat with Zorana on Thu 24th Feb 2022 2pm UK time

Zorana's blog on Psychology Today

Gravitational waves

Emotional granularity

Rituals for Work by Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan

Courage to Create by Rolly May

Zorana's website

Zorana's Twitter


[00:00:00] Zorana: No emotion is bad. Emotions are information, information is data. In the workplace and organisations people value data. They value data in decision-making. They value data in informing performance and emotions are just another kind of data.

[00:00:22] Nirish: That's Dr. Zorana Ivcevic Pringle. Zorana is a Senior Research Scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. So she studies the role of emotions and emotional intelligence in creativity. And as designers, we're all about understanding the emotions of our users, but how might we harness our own emotions and those of our teams to be more creative in our own practice? In this episode, Zorana talks about links between the emotions and creativity and how you can manage emotions in your team for both divergent, creative thinking and convergent, critical thinking.

So, if you, someone who leads or facilitates people through a design process, then you need to listen to this episode. There's a lot more to creativity than just the crazy eights and the design sprints. After this episode, you won't look at your design workshops the same way ever again.

And as a bonus Zorana will be joining us for an intimate fireside chat on Thursday, the 24th of February, 2022 at 2:00 PM UK time, where you can bring in any questions that might pop up as you listen to this episode, go to to join the event.

[00:01:35] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:45] Nirish: Hi, my name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a Designer, Educator, and the Host of my new podcast Design Feeling. This show is not about your designs. It's not about the shiny new tools or frameworks either. And it's also not about your customers. This show is about you, the human behind the human centred designer and how you can know yourself better so that you can be more creatively confident, and find more joy and meaning in what you do.

Are you ready? Let's jump in.

Zorana welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:29] Zorana: Thank you. And thank you for having me. 

[00:02:31] Nirish: I'm actually really fascinated with your work. And the first time I heard you speak, at the World Creativity Day last year, I was just blown away by, all the fascinating insights that you shared about, emotions and the impact of emotions on creativity. 

But before we kind of get into the juicy bits, there's one question I wanted to ask you because you are the expert on emotions. What is an emotion?

[00:03:00] Zorana: Ah, that's a great question and such a good place to start. Emotion is an experience, that has physiological parts to it and psychological parts. to it. So physiologically something happens in their body. There is some kind of activation and reaction in the body, and there is a psychological experience that we recognize as a feeling, and emotions are caused by events. Sometimes called triggers that are either something in the world outside, something happens. But also could be something that is within us, something internal, like our thoughts, our thoughts, they are not related to what's going on right now in the world around us. Like our imaginations, like our war. can also trigger, emotions and scientists distinguish, different kinds of emotional experiences. So we use the word emotion for something that is pretty short living. Something happens, you have a reaction and that reaction changes and goes away in a matter of relatively short time. So let's say minutes in duration and then moods, are more longer lasting, usually less certain intensity than an emotion, but longer lasting. So that could be in many minutes hours. It could be even days.

[00:04:41] Nirish: So what you're saying is there's the thing that lasts doesn't last very long, which is emotions. And then there's more long lasting phenomenon, which is moods. 

I'm actually really curious to know how did you get started with emotions. And, how did you then start linking that to creativity? Could you tell us a bit of about your story leading into that?

[00:05:03] Zorana: Well, I first became interested in creativity and, I really am interested about every seeing creativity. I am interested who are the people? What kinds of creativity, what, what forms it can take. I'm interested in how people make things. I'm interested, really everything, creativity and how I became interested in it was really long time ago when I w I don't want to date myself, but let's just say it was the last century. When I was, an undergraduate student, I was university student and I was, looking for a topic for my thesis and I was always interested in lots of things in psychology. But I knew. On very vague level that I wanted to study interesting people now, course, scientists don't define things as interesting people, but I talk about things more precisely and specifically, and I didn't know yet I, what I wanted to do. And then I was reading very broadly, about all kinds of topics and I came across, writing on creativity from a long time ago from the 1960s. Uh, that was a first big movement in creativity research. And in the United States, it associated the space age, uh, with the space race. Yeah. With the. 

[00:06:37] Nirish: The space age?

[00:06:39] Zorana: Uh, it was, so take us back in history. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the height of the cold war and the Soviets ended up sending a first person into orbit the first satellite and the United States wanted to, well, they wanted to be first, but then they wanted to catch up and surpass the Soviet. and they knew they needed creativity and innovation to do that. And there was a big movement in studying creativity and teaching creativity. It was, it was a big boom in this area. And I always loved the research and the innovation in thinking that came from that time. And as I was first discovering this, I came across one statement. You know how sometimes it happens that you read something and it's so, so poignant that is so impactful that inspires you for a long time. It was like that. was statement by Frank Barron who said that creative people are in the same time, more, same, and more insane than the general population. 

[00:07:59] Nirish: More sane and more insane at same time.

[00:08:03] Zorana: Right. And you are puzzled now. And I was puzzled then, and I did not know what that meant, but I thought that I found my interesting people because how could it be that both of these things are true in the same time. And I wanted to study that I wanted study this happens and what this means. And I did, I just had a paper published on exactly that topic. I started studying, creativity in my doctoral program and very broadly I wanted to see what are we missing in understanding the core of creativity. And as I was exploring that in different ways, I came to the conclusion that people are talking and putting too much emphasis on thinking while lots of people have ideas. But what happens is that sometimes oftentimes people don't follow through on these ideas or they give up on them. And why that happens really comes to feeling, and they think you have something very precious in your insight and how you name the podcast. It is about feeling and that's how I started studying, emotions in more depth in the context of creative work. 

[00:09:28] Nirish: So would you say a feeling is the same as an emotion?

[00:09:32] Zorana: Feeling is a broader term. And here I am getting into the weeds of, how emotion scientists define terms. In everyday language, we use the term feeling synonymously with emotion and with mood, psychologists and an effect of scientists, scientists who specialize in the, in the emotions. these terms in minute ways, and they don't always agree on where the boundaries are. These boundaries can be important in some precise ways in scientific literature. But they might not be so important for people in everyday lives. So, scientists use the word feeling to be broader in nature than either emotion or mood, for instance, it's more diffuse. It includes both emotions and moods, but also some other more physical states. So when we we are tired, scientists would not consider that to be emotion or a mood. But it's a, it is a feeling there hat, there are psychological and physiological components through it. But it's more diffuse in nature. It can come with different other emotions or different other moods together. So if you are tired, you could be sweetly tired after a wonderful workout where you feel proud of yourself, or you can be exhausted, tired, and chewed up tired, in if you are burned out at work. So feeling is, something that we can use as a, as an umbrella term for all of these different emotion related experiences. 

[00:11:27] Nirish: So a feeling could be both physical, the physical manifestation of whatever sensations or feeling plus the, the emotions you're feeling as well. Okay, cool. 

Obviously very interested in the connection between emotions and creativity. I would love to know what, how you define creativity.

[00:11:48] Zorana: It is a great question because, oftentimes people come with different definitions of creativity and it is not that any of them are wrong. It is a matter of, the finding it in a more comprehensive way. So, the core of what creativity is, are two components. One is originality and, something has to be new and to some extent, original, to qualify as creative, but also it needs to be not bizarre. Uh, something can be original just bizarre or nonsensical. Creativity is not that creativity is not something that is bizarre nonsensical and people to describe this, this quality of creativity use different terms and in different areas of, work, those different terms, some terms are more, are better than others. We can describe this quality of creativity is appropriateness or usefulness. And that can be a good term in, design or in engineering. For instance, effectiveness is another. Term, authenticity can be more appropriate in, artistic areas. Meaningfulness, all of these terms are capturing something of this quality and exactly which of these is, is better. It's probably going to depend on exactly what kind of creativity we are talking about.

[00:13:31] Nirish: So this creativity has to have a purpose?

[00:13:35] Zorana: That is a great question. And it is, I think a deep question and the philosophical one in nature. So I don't think we are going to settle on it. I think that it has a purpose, but that purpose could be also in itself. So if you want to define purpose in that way. Yes. But I don't think it has to have a purpose in the sense that it has a use or an application. It can be a purpose for enriching life or building something that is new.

[00:14:15] Nirish: Um, and you also mentioned, um, can't be something bizarre. I've seen a lot of, bizarre art, which, people tend to label that, oh, that's really creative, what's your thoughts?

[00:14:27] Zorana: Yeah, it's uh it's and I was, I was trying to be careful in the words I choose in, describe that second component of creativity. And there is, there is no good, overall description of it. So when I say not the bizarre, it applies art the least. let, me give you an example. What I mean, there are some ways how scientists measure creative thinking. For instance, you are asked to think of all things that round and people can get really imaginative and in what they, what they come up with. But if you say that the triangle is round, is just. Or, if you, say that and perhaps this is, this is not the right word, bizarre, I'm trying to find the best one. Sometimes it's called appropriate. So I'm thinking it, in that sense, it is going very far away from the intended, purpose or the intended task. In art sometimes, art can, can seem can seem to the, to the audience really out there, uh, for lack of better terms. That is not what we mean by this quality in, artist often times intends to create that kind of experience and and they want to provoke and they want to do something that is, going to be puzzling confusing, or disgusting to the audience. So, it achieved that purpose if you want to use that term or the intent. 

[00:16:22] Nirish: Hm. 

[00:16:22] Zorana: So this being in line with the intent is a part of this definition of 

[00:16:30] Nirish: Um, I think that intentionality seems be the key word here. Um, okay. 

And Zorana, how did you start seeing the connections between emotions and creativity? 

[00:16:43] Zorana: So as I started studying creativity in a broad sense, I was interested in where are those gaps? What are the things we are not understanding? Right. And I ended up being personal disclosure, quite, uh, inspired by those points of frustration. When they see something is not right when something doesn't fit it, it spurs me into thinking, okay, what does missing, can I contribute to figuring out the missing parts or start contributing to the domestic parts. Not to be too grandiose. And what they know this in the research on emotions and creativity is something they really got me going is this is missing the point. And, um, it helps to consider how research was done, to, see what was frustrating. So the research on creativity and emotions looked pretty much like this. Researchers would bring into the lab, students usually university students, because they're just easy to get. They are your students. Uh, you can give them some extra credit and they come to the lab and participate in. studies. These students were never selected to have creative potential, to be interested in creativity. They're just students who happen to be taking psychology classes. Then, scientists really like running experiments because in experiments they have control. know exactly where the emotion is coming from. What kinds of emotion people are experiencing. So they would, instead of seeing what people are feeling. naturally, would create an emotion in the lab. What this process is called is mood induction or emotion induction. And that means that you go through an exercise for a few minutes, that creates a particular emotional experience. So that could be, uh, listening to different kinds of music. could be, thinking and writing about a personal experience that was sad or happy or, made you angry. It could be different, small exercises of this. And after this exercise, people would be given a creative thinking task. These creative thinking tasks are short in nature by, design because, you are in the lab, you cannot hold these students for very long. An example question would be what all the ways uh, you can think of to use a brick? And you are given usually three to five minutes to think of all the uses of the brick. Now, when you think about it in real life, creativity is little bit different than this right creativity. We are engaging in creativity for those kinds of tasks and topics and content that we care about. Now, none of the students care about bricks. Um, and the another example is uses for a paperclip or a tin can. These are designed in such a way that nobody has particular experience or expertise, or they don't care about these objects. And the in real life, creativity is related to things we care about. We are passionate about. We want to engage with and emotions in real life. When they come to creativity are also related to what we are doing. They are related to that brick or, whatever the topic is. So I was very frustrated with this research because it seems that, it does not get things to those attributes that are key in everyday life. And the conclusion after 35 years of research using this model, using this process, was that happy, positive, energized, emotional experiences are helpful for creative thinking. come up with more and more original ideas if they are in these happier moods. And, that is a very reliable finding. Pretty much whoever runs, these experiments gets this same finding. But it felt to me that it was missing something, how many of us really know real life, creative people who are cheerful, happy, bubbly people. It seems to be missing something. And I was curious what was missing. And so I wanted to find, what is going on with emotions and in more That's not just in very short tasks of coming up with ideas in three or four minutes, because. In real life, we spend more than three or four minutes in coming up with ideas, but then we don't stop there. We, creativity is not just coming up with ideas and saying here they are 15 ideas, but we have to do something with them. So I was interested in not just this part of generating ideas, but evaluating them, developing them, uh, seeing how they change, seeing what it takes to get them to something at the end. And that's something at the end could be a performance. It could be a podcast, it could be a book. It could be really anything piece of scientific research.

[00:23:02] Nirish: I was just, um, reading up some of your writing and, how you mentioned different emotions can help fuel different activities. I think if we were to kind of use that knowledge of how that happens, I was thinking we can do so much in a workplace, for example, where are we even able to create environments to trigger certain emotions, which can then help people perform certain activities?

[00:23:34] Zorana: Yes, yes, yes. What you are mentioning here is I think a profound insight into the nature of the relation between and creativity. So I think we were asking the wrong question when we say. What the emotions help creativity, what emotions hurt creativity. It's not really like that. It is that different emotions are helpful for different things.


[00:24:10] Nirish: you're saying is bad. 

[00:24:12] Zorana: I'm saying exactly that. No emotion is bad. Emotions are information, information is data. In the workplace and organisations people value data. They value data in decision-making. They value data in informing performance and emotions are just another kind of data. If you think of it that way, emotions become less intimidating. And they are telling you different things. Those pieces of information can be used to inform what you are doing at different times and, um, to do it better, more effectively, more efficiently, more creatively, and the process of how we use those emotions, whatever those emotions are, in the service of being more effective is the process and the skills of emotional intelligence.

[00:25:13] Nirish: You've just made me think of all the workshops and design workshops I've run, where I've asked people to generate lots and of ideas. It's like an ideation workshop, but without actually checking in on their emotions, how they're feeling, whether they have the right emotions to be able to do that effectively. How could have done better? Like And you go into the workshop, you have a bunch of people there, stakeholders, and now you're trying to get them to come up with many ideas for a particular problem for the or the customer. What could I have done to, enable those in a certain emotions that help with with the ideation process?

[00:25:51] Zorana: We come back to realizing that all emotions are valuable because they're going to provide you different information. Quick idea generations. So if you have this kind of big burst of idea generation, and they think of, very classic ways of running, brainstorming sessions, where people are using post-it notes and it goes quickly and, people are writing ideas on notes and posting them on a board that can be very quick process and for very quick bursts of ideas, being in a relatively, somewhat more positive and energize the mood is helpful, but that is not the only part of creativity. We don't want to stop with having hundred and 37 ideas, which oftentimes happens on those boards. Right. Now, other, kinds of emotions are going to be more helpful for what we do next with those ideas. We don't want to just let them sit there because, there are these surveys of organizational leaders, where they are very clear. They having ideas is not very difficult. People have ideas, but then what do you do with them? What happens once you have those, hundred plus ideas and they're being in positive, energized, moods is not that helpful. Now you want to shift your mood. So shifting your mood is the process of managing moods and that is another skill of emotional intelligence. In the basis of it is this realization that we are not just helpless puppets. We are not just pushed, by our emotions. We have agency, we are the puppet masters. Uh, we can change them and modify them influence their course.

Uh, so we can find ways to move from that highly energized mood that this helpful for those five minutes of burst of brainstorming, to switch in a different state, because this is what happens when you are in happy, energized moods. And you look at those ideas. What happens is that you congratulate yourself. And you say yourself, this is great. We did a great job. Now we are done. These are great ideas and they may be great ideas, but you cannot implement or work with 137. So now even if those ideas are, are good good materials to start, you want to shift emotionally into more critical of mood.

And those more critical modes are going to less inactivation. You don't want to be energized that energized. You want to be little bit more unpleasant, sort of more on the set and subdued, end so that you can a step back and, consider them a more critically. When we are more pessimistic moods, much sadder moods, we are better at critical thinking. 

[00:29:18] Nirish: Wow. And here I was thinking, I need to make sure that people are happy all the time in the meeting and a workshop, and trying really hard to maintain that level of happiness. Like, I don't want to anyone off. I want to be, to make everyone leaves happy and stays happy the whole time. So how can a, innovation facilitator or a design facilitator, shift these moods in a room when they're running a collaborative design workshop or an idea workshop from in a positive to something more, I guess pessimistic for critical thinking.

[00:29:53] Zorana: The helpful thing is again, in the nature of emotions and the nature of emotions is that they are very intimately related to thinking. So you can shift moods by shifting thinking. And this is used in therapy a lot. You shift the thinking, you are going to the too. So, one potential strategy is to start thinking of, okay, what are our constraints now think of constraints. They universally get people frustrated, nobody likes constraints.

[00:30:38] Nirish: Could you give me an example of a constraint?

[00:30:41] Zorana: Constraints can be something that is material. You have certain budget, right? You are, you are thinking of ideas, you are thinking what you could do to improve people's lives, through create new products. You have fabulous ideas, but then you also have a limited budget. Budget is the most, probably the most obvious constraint there is, but there are other constraints. So to give you a science related example, Einstein way back in, 1915, wrote about, relativity and he predicted in his theory, gravitational waves, and he wanted to detect but he did some calculations. He did some thinking and he realized that he cannot do that because the technology is not there. And really, it took more than a hundred years for a gravitational wave that he in 1915 to be detected. They were first detected in 2018.

[00:31:53] Nirish: Wow.

[00:31:55] Zorana: And the constraint here was technology. So sometimes what we want to do is constrained by what is possible, what is possible, technologically possible. So that's another kind of constraint, constraints can be in what, kinds of more physical resources like this. We have, what kinds knowledge we or don't have. So w they can be of different nature. They can be, just cultural in nature. They can be societal in nature. So those are all kinds of obstacles that come in our way. And the Einstein story is really beautiful because shows how powerful it could be. It wasn't his lack of ideas. Right? back to this idea. Creativity is about ideas, but it's about different things, too. So if you shift thinking to focus on not what could be in an ideal and unconstrained way, but what are the possible problems? What are the constraints? What are the limitations you are starting moving people into different emotional and thinking space.

[00:33:10] Nirish: So you say then, let's say when we first do the divergent thinking, which is ran, just generating multiple ideas, you start off with, bringing people into a more positive mood. And then once we get into convergence stage, when we're starting to eliminate some of those ideas is that when would present different relevant constraints to frustrate people?

[00:33:33] Zorana: Yeah, you can introduce them at that time. There is actually research that is examining exactly when to introduce constraints and when it's most helpful to introduce constraints and make people aware of constraints, if you introduce them too late in the process, people will not be able to move. They will be so frustrated and frustrated in such a way that, it blocks them. If you introduce them early, there is no cost. There no cost for their ability to think broadly. So either starting this session with here are some things that we are doing and, they are some things we are going to have to consider at some point, but right now we are going to pretend those don't exist. It's a fine approach. Or introducing them after the initial burst idea, generation is still early enough to be, to be productive.

[00:34:39] Nirish: Wow. This is such fascinating stuff that, I'd never thought about. 

 I've been to so many business meetings, which starts off with a very tense mood. Everyone's like you're sitting around the table, everyone's really tense. Everyone has deadlines to hit and, pressure and expectations and, and that's when you ask them, Hey, let's come up with some ideas. And obviously that is not right mood for them to, come up with multiple ideas. And hence you see a lot of, um, conflict happening in those sessions well, where everyone has their own pressure to deal with. How would you manage like going into meeting everyone is tense. Are there techniques you can use to, would you say manipulate or change the, the mood in the meeting

[00:35:26] Zorana: I would use the word manage. 

[00:35:28] Nirish: That's it, was looking for. 

[00:35:31] Zorana: I think manipulate is. It evokes feelings that we don't want to evoke. It evokes feelings of ill intent and the intent is positive here. 

So when you think of, I'm going to say something really radical now in terms of business meetings, I think starting meetings by acknowledging that people have feelings that people are experiencing something emotional is very helpful. Now I'm saying that this is radical because there's this very, outdated notion professionalism means, leaving emotions, leaving feelings at the doorstep of 

[00:36:22] Nirish: Exactly what I was taught to do throughout my career.

[00:36:25] Zorana: Exactly. And you are not the only one. We were all caught that implicitly or sometimes even explicitly. And that is very counterproductive because it is not possible to leave emotions at doorstep. They are part of us, they are part of being human and they cannot be isolated. They cannot be dissociated. Now people to do that and people try to push them aside. But what happens is very counterproductive because it is possible push them aside for little bit. but then they start to leak, and is actually a technical term and emotion science that the emotions leak. start to be shown in small ways and sometimes we perceive these small ways consciously, and we can say, oh, look at that frown, or look at the that that the person showed. Sometimes we just have more diffused feeling. There's something here in the air, that is not being expressed or acknowledged, but starts on people. So if, we do not repress what we are feeling, and acknowledge day-to-day are that we are feeling something and what we are feeling can be difficult. It can difficult to have a deadline. You need all the time in the world to meet this deadline. Now you are sitting in this meeting that is not directly related to your deadline. You can start to get, more anxious, more tense. Maybe even resentful. None of that is helpful. However, if a meeting starts with acknowledging feelings, but in an honest and open way, not just asking, Hey, what are people feeling? And then everybody says, we are fine. You are not accomplishing in anything. But honestly with openness and wanting to hear what is going on with people, that becomes very helpful because now it instead of increasing the pressure, not only you have to with that tension and anxiety of the impeding deadline, you are adding more pressure to it or trying to hide it. You do not have that pressure anymore. You can acknowledge it. And sometimes quite magical things can happen. I'm using the word magical because it's not often that it happens. So feels magical, but it's not magic if there's, it is very pragmatic. If somebody acknowledges they are feeling tense because they have an upcoming deadline, it is possible that somebody else in this meeting is able to help.

[00:39:25] Nirish: Hm.

[00:39:25] Zorana: And is possible that somebody else in this meeting has the right expertise. Has the required time. But we are trying to push feelings and never acknowledge difficulty, we would never learn that somebody is able to help. And that, our work can be made more effective, and less stressful if we only acknowledge

[00:39:53] Nirish: Hm. 

[00:39:54] Zorana: Now, this is not guarantee it's not always going to happen, that somebody can help and jump in, but the least that happens is that we remove that additional burden of hiding the feelings. And another thing that, that we accomplish, if we acknowledge, the feelings in a meeting is that naming of feelings saying exactly and specifically what we are experiencing. So not, not just saying I am stressed or I'm fine, but saying, what kind of stress are you? Are you, stressed in the sense of pressure towards deadline or you stressed because you are disappointed stressed because are anticipating. Just that act of naming what's going on helps feel better. Seems so simple yet because we don't know that, we don't use this strategy.

[00:40:52] Nirish: Hmm. It's like giving people space to be heard and acknowledged. 

[00:40:57] Zorana: Yes. Having people space, permission to be, acknowledged. So removing the that is first know, and also getting validation and possibly even material substantive, help from others. 

[00:41:13] Nirish: What I find, is that, it's, it's really difficult to even bring up feelings emotions at work. You know, sometimes you might say, that's just too, wishy-washy here. Let's just talk business, right? Let's talk numbers. And also, people might not be comfortable being honest with how they're feeling because people want to appear strong and in control, everything's fine. I've got the deadline, under control. And I guess that comes down to, safe do they feel be vulnerable in though the. workplace? 

[00:41:42] Zorana: Yes. It really comes down to how safe people feel workplace. That is not an easy thing to achieve. It requires participation, willingness, effort and scale from leaders. Leaders have a key role in creating the climate in the workplace. So we did, recently, really large study. It was a survey of about 15,000 people across the United States across all industries. The sample was representative of demographically of the working population and representative in representation of different industries. And we asked, people to a bunch of questions about their supervisors. So we wanted to see whether their supervisors acted in emotional, intelligent ways. So we asked them whether their supervisors notice how they were feeling, how employees were feeling, whether they acknowledge that explicitly, whether they could, inspire others, and energize others, but also be aware of both pluses and minuses, those points of optimism and points for pessimism and balance them. Then we asked them whether their supervisors understood how others are feeling and how their decisions are influencing others. And when we asked all of these questions, we found that there is a very dramatic difference, in the work experiences of those described their supervisors as acting in emotional, intelligent ways, and those who describe their supervisors in not emotional intelligent ways. Those who supervisors are emotional intelligent are, I mean, first of all, everybody experiences wide range of emotions at work. If your experience is good, if your experience is bad, occasionally you are happy at work occasionally or stress that work. These common things are common to everybody, whoever works.

However, when we look at what is unique in those who supervisors are emotional, intelligent, whose supervisors not, there was this big difference. So, emotionally intelligent supervisors create a workplace where their employees are motivated. They say their experiences in work that they typically are motivated at work. They are fulfilled at work. They are challenged, but have fun at work. And, um, they feel appreciated. Now on the flip side, whose supervisors do not act in emotionally ways do not know this, people are feeling or if they're noticing they're not acknowledging it, they pretend like they're decisions are making no difference or they don't care what difference they're making. Now, these supervisors have employees, who say they are underappreciated or unappreciated that. And who experienced, lots of feelings that are related to anger. So they say they're annoyed, irritated, aggravated all the way to mad. Now you see this different picture and you don't have to be an emotional scientist to tell that those people who really annoyed that that are not going to do as well as those who are motivated, fulfilled challenge, but have fun at work. It becomes very, very simple. And when we speak in terms of numbers, you can see those numbers in these things that are about engagement and emotional experience of climate of work.

[00:45:49] Nirish: Hmm. And what if you work for a leader who you consider to not have, high emotional intelligence, or what, if you are the leader who wants to improve your emotional intelligence? What are some of the things that they can do about it? 

[00:46:05] Zorana: This is the ideal case scenario. If you have a leader who wants to improve their emotional intelligence skills, because the good news is that these are skills and like other skills they can be learned and improved on. And we have by now a couple of decades of work showing. And really good analyses. that these skills can be improved and can be improved in the context of the work. Sometimes people think, oh, children can learn it but adults. Well, it's too late. No, it's not to late. No you don't have an excuse. You can learn it. So there are programs, there are work-based programs that can build these skills. The first, starting point is to create this awareness that no, you cannot leave at the doorstep, because that's going be counterproductive. There are demonstrations, very easy demonstrations for those people who say we don't want to deal with it because it is wishy washy and, warm fuzzy, we are not about that. There are wonderful demonstrations that show. Okay. Try to be in control in this exercise, that short exercise that they just three to five minutes, even in this amount of time, you cannot be in control enough not to let anything slip. leaders open enough to be curious to learn about emotional intelligence, they are great demonstrations to show them the value of it. And once they realize the value, then you can start learning the skills. If you do not realize the value first, it's much harder to learn and well, if you're not buying you are not really going to be trying.

[00:48:02] Nirish: And then what if you are working for a leader or a manager who you consider to not have high emotional intelligence and that's impacting your wellbeing at work? 

[00:48:13] Zorana: It is. It is impacting your wellbeing at work and, you are not completely hopeless and helpless. You can still do small things to improve your experience to some extent. There you can try to rely on coworkers and, one attribute of emotions is that, they're contagious.

[00:48:40] Nirish: Contagious.

[00:48:42] Zorana: Yeah, contagious. just like this virus we are dealing with, and quite contagious. So when you are in meeting with somebody who is, very down and very gloomy or somebody who is really combative, you can sense that the mood of the room is changing. They are impacting the room. So that's what we mean by mood contagion. Somebody with strong feelings can influence how others are feeling cool. So because of the mood contagion, even one person on a team who is interested in building their emotional skills and who is working on it, can influence others because they're going to influence others' feelings. They might motivate them. They might inspire them. And they might help them, to feel more accepted than the appreciated and respected. Now we do have to acknowledge that leaders have an out-sized role, and then there are limits what we can do within a team, without having support from leaders. It is possible that there is some bottom up effect that changes within a team can inspire leaders to, that been really studied yet.

So I don't know how strong would be. But leaders can have a really outsized effect on everybody else. So ideal case scenario is you are not in that situation, of a leader who is very close to emotions and want to acknowledge them. But there still something that you can do on the smallest.

[00:50:40] Nirish: Um, and as you know, like with the new year, a lot of either, change jobs, they get into like new jobs and it's like a new environment. I remember, like, especially the first couple of weeks, I used be so scared, scared of my own imposter syndrome or thinking that, someone's always judging me or, observing me, watching my every move and what I'm doing and how good I am and just having to prove yourself. And that can be really, really stressful at first, in a couple of months, even your probation period. How can you manage your emotions in that kind of scenario?

[00:51:12] Zorana: Managing emotions is hard. So acknowledging that it's hard helps, and the give yourself a permission to not have positive feelings at all times. Sometimes you going to feel down. you're going to feel worried sometimes going to feel self-conscious. But, there are some things you can do. So if are, reflective about what you're experiencing, you can label what you're experiencing precisely, in emotion science, we call that being granular about emotions, granular in the sense of being specific again, not just saying I am fine, but saying I am inspired or am curious different, or not just saying I'm stressed, but saying, I am concerned or I am self-conscious, it's going to change that, that feeling the nature of the field. And it's going to give you more information. So you're going to learn by labeling the feeling you're going say, oh, I'm feeling self-conscious okay. What does that tell me? Well, that tells me that on some level, I think that people are monitoring me or making judgments. Now have more information on what do, about Now you can try to solve that problem, not just problem of feeling stressed, but the problem of thinking that, and having an experience that are monitoring you, you might not be able to completely solved the problem, but you can address it somewhat. You might have coworkers, who you can talk to and sort of double check yourself because sometimes, those triggers of emotions are internal and that's very important to remember they are coming from something that we have imagined. Perhaps that's self-consciousness, it's a real feeling. This is not to diminish the feeling. This is just to say, we have to figure out where it's coming from. Is it coming internally from something that we fear or that we have imagined or that can be validated from the outside? So talking to a coworker might be a good approach. Seeing what kind of communication you can have with the supervisor is another good approach to get, not to be annoying to supervisor, of course, but, but to have some kinds of feedback too, to see whether you could or should correct something at work, or to have a reassurance, to, to quiet that internal voice of, exceptional self-criticism.

[00:54:15] Nirish: Wow. And how important is the role of the physical space in this? Uh, and especially with the new work environment where a lot of people are working in a hybrid kind of mode where some people are in the office, others are home. Well, what are of the things that maybe you have seen being done in companies or when it will some of those things that you can, suggest people do to, create spaces that enable, more, I guess, emotional, awareness and management.

[00:54:46] Zorana: Spaces are important cues. Spaces are are giving us signals of where we are, what is going on around us and this during the pandemic we had a new situation where there is no, distinction between personal life and work life, because it all happens the same space. Now create things, some ways to create that distinction could be helpful. So that, that contagion does not transfer from work life to to private life. It's more likely when it's all happening in the same space. There are people who specialize in, rituals and ritual design. I have a colleague at, d.School at Stanford who has just published the book on a ritual design at work.

[00:55:46] Nirish: Is that the name of the book?

[00:55:48] Zorana: Um, I believe it is Rituals for Work. I want to say that to the title.

[00:55:53] Nirish: We'll put that in the show notes. 

[00:55:55] Zorana: And it's lovely. There are ways to, acknowledge what is going on in more formal ways. And that can be through rituals. That can be through little habits that you insert, to mark beginning of something, the end of something. It oftentimes in this zoom world, virtual world, in which we oftentimes are these days, people's meetings are scheduled back to back and you end one meeting and you immediately start another one. Speaking of emotion, contagion, there is leaking from all the all sides. So thinking, and this doesn't have to be taking a long time, but a minute, taking two minutes to pause and to reflect, what just happened and then to yourself psychologically to what is going to happen next, it really change the mood.

[00:57:01] Nirish: Wow. That's such a fascinating topic that a lot of times we don't think about in a corporate role or any sort of organization, because we're all about just the work. We're all just about doing the work, and not about, how people are feeling when they're doing the work and how we can make them feel the right things that will help them, to the work better.

[00:57:23] Zorana: And I I think that it's, it's actually, really misleading when we convince ourselves that we are all about work. Because we were all about work, we would think of ways the work most effective. If we are not dealing with emotions, we are not creating ways to make work effective.

[00:57:43] Nirish: Definitely. So Zorana what's the next exciting thing the horizon for you?

[00:57:49] Zorana: The next big thing me is studying in more depth what happens between having an idea and doing something with it, making it come to life. We, all know that ideas happen. We have many ideas, and not all of these ideas, find their place in the world or are acted on, there is this wonderful New Yorker cartoon that I found, where it's a scene at cocktail party, very fancy cocktail party. And, a lady, says to her party, did you know that Harry invented the Daquiri and companion replies? Oh, to which she says, but he never did anything with it. And we all had ideas. that were splendid ideas that didn't act on. So here, I'm not talking about those ideas that, you we generate hundred and 37 and 134 are actually not that great once we start thinking about them. But what happens with those three ideas that are really good? I think we all had the experience of having an idea and the year or two later, somebody else does it. And we are not the one who did it. How do we deal with that? How do we prevent that? What is necessary for people to their ideas, run with them, do what it takes to, end up with a successful performance or a successful product, successful design book, whatever it is. 

[00:59:48] Nirish: Wow. And would recommend any, um, resource that can, check out or read or watch that might help them, learn a bit more about, what we talked about around emotional intelligence and regulation? 

[01:00:04] Zorana: I oftentimes write about these topics, so I'm a regular contributor at Psychology Today. We can put that link in the show notes.

[01:00:14] Nirish: Yeah. I have actually created a short link for So it's that's ZORANA. you C. If go to that link, that'll take you straight to Zorana's Psychology Today, page where you'll find all her articles and resources that she's.

[01:00:35] Zorana: Thank you. Thank you very much. And I, I often times really like to read work that is more inspirational. That is making me think in challenging ways. And there is a rather old book that has been very important eh, for my inspiration and learning about creativity, and guiding questions and making me wonder. And that a book from long time ago, 1975 by Rollo May. And the title is Courage Create. It is a series of essays based on his, lectures on creativity. And, it an old book and lots of science has happened in the meantime. However, Asking the most inspiring questions, in my opinion. And, the, late psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who 

[01:01:42] Nirish: I could never pronounce that last name. You did it so well, you've been practicing.

[01:01:47] Zorana: it. I practiced it. I practiced it. I had a Hungarian friend who, who had to, who have to pronounce it for me. And he, he coined the term flow to describe this state of consciousness that happens when, we have been engaged in challenging work, but work for which we are, we are capable of. And we have the skills for, and that it's changed changes, perception of time. We have this immediate feedback of what we are doing. And ideal performance and sues. You can see it with athletes all the time. You can see that musicians, but it happens with all creators and more likely to happen with creators than other people. I think he had many ideas about creativity and lots of very interesting writings. But I think his biggest insight into the nature of creativity was that it's not about solving problems or having ideas. It is about finding problems. He called this process problem finding and he argued that that is the distinguishing attribute, of creativity, that you can teach machines to solve problems, but finding problems and identifying them. And, playing with them is something that this key to, human creativity.

[01:03:21] Nirish: Wow. That's such a different way of thinking, right? Because I always thought of creativity as problem solving. But what you're saying here is that problem finding is probably a more important skill, that us solve the right problem.

[01:03:37] Zorana: Yeah. It helps us, it identify important problems. It also helps us, It identify the specific features of problems that could be best solved or would be most helpful to be sold.

[01:03:54] Nirish: Nice. So, Zorana imagine that it's your last day on earth. And I give you a very tiny piece of paper and I tell you Zorana, write something on this tiny little piece of paper that you would like to put up on a big billboard for the world to see. What would you write on that tiny piece of paper?

[01:04:19] Zorana: And it's my last day on earth, but not everybody else's last day I would want people to know something about creativity, because that is what they care about. And they think that it is at the core of our human condition and improving human condition, I would say creativity is a decision and emotional decision.

[01:04:45] Nirish: Creativity is an emotional decision. 

[01:04:49] Zorana: Yeah.

[01:04:50] Nirish: Wow. I've never thought of creativity like that. And I think that's a very powerful way to look at it because I think I read somewhere that it's the emotions that actually drive a lot of our decision-making and creativity can be that decision, right. That choice we make by learning to manage it.

[01:05:11] Zorana: And it takes risk to make that choice, to make that decision to be creative with is safer to go with something that you have done before. Therefore it is more commonplace. But to be original means to stand out, to stand out, opens you criticism, you to ostracism. So it takes real courage to go for it.

[01:05:41] Nirish: Is there a question that you'd like me to ask you that I haven't asked you yet?

[01:05:55] Zorana: No, I think that, that it was really to end with what is one I thing we are about creativity. I think one thing missing about creativity is the one thing that is included in the title of the podcast. It is fundamental change in how we consider creativity, what we think it is. It is not fundamentally that the difficult part of creativity is thinking, coming up with ideas. It is having the courage to stand up for those ideas to develop them although, we are going to be experiencing frustrations and obstacles on the way, and we are going be experiencing criticism on the way. And develop something that will, will be a contribution. It could be contribution to, the place where we work. It be contribution to end users. It could be contribution our culture.

[01:07:15] Nirish: Nice. Obviously, Design Feeling is Probably not in official term, like Design Thinking is, if you had to define what design feeling means, how does. you do it?

[01:07:28] Zorana: What does an official term, why does it have to be approved by an approving entity to be an official term? Now it is an official term design feeling is an official term. By the power of me invested by the, scientific community, it be termed official. Joking aside, I think that Design Feeling, means that we are acknowledging that there is feeling in being human and being human, who is engaged in design and creativity and innovation and that feeling is both integral part of it and the part we not only cannot ignore and shouldn't ignore, but in order for creativity and innovation to happen, we have to acknowledge explicitly and manage purposefully. We have to put it front and centre.

[01:08:33] Nirish: I love I think that's going to go on the website. Great. We have talked about such fascinating topics and I'm just looking at my pages full of notes here that I've been taking. We talked about, what his emotions and how it's both physical and psychological, what triggers it. And what's the difference between emotions and moods. And how do you shift the mood from that, say something more positive that is helpful for generating lots of ideas, to something more pessimistic, which is helpful in terms of, more critical thinking to eliminate some of those ideas. We also talked about, having that emotional intelligence to, first of all, acknowledge how people are feeling before starting a meeting, and giving people the space to feel what they're feeling seems to be a very powerful way to make people, had and acknowledged, we even talked about the role of the leader in being able to create this climate of, better emotional intelligence. And if you're working for a leader who does not have that level of creative, emotional intelligence, the things you can do with that as well. We also talked about, when you're starting a new role and the you're feeling and how do you just be at peace with it, and what are some things we can do to, manage For example, you are I suggested maybe, talking to coworkers or maybe labeling emotions precisely kind of the emotional granularity. And that all leads down to, creativity and what role emotions play in creativity and in love how you down that piece of paper. How intertwined, emotions and creativity are, like you creativity is an emotional decision, And it's a decision that we all have power over and we all can make, it's a matter of being aware of that power and how to regulate that power. 

[01:10:30] Zorana: Thank you. 

[01:10:31] Nirish: I love it. Thank you so much for that Zorana. My mind is blown. I don't think I have any space for, more critical right now, because there's so much, I still need to process from what I from you, but you so much for your today, and I'm sure everyone listening right now took a lot of value out of all the wisdom and the insights that you shared with us. 

And finally if, people want to find you a line or follow you, how can they do that?

[01:11:02] Zorana: Well, I have a website that's And also can be found on Twitter at, @ zoranapsych. 

[01:11:11] Nirish: Thank you so much. Zorana and, we will see you again soon. 

Thank you so much for joining me in this episode with Zorana. 

If you have any questions for Zorana or would just like to say hi, please join us for a fireside chat on Thursday, the 24th of February, 2022 at 2:00 PM. UK time by going to

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