Becoming a Creative Genius (Again!)
Carl Nordgren '73 and Krista Anne Nordgren '12 return to Knox to talk about creativity, entrepreneurship, and activism
December 14, 2018
Carl Nordgren '73 and Krista Anne Nordgren '12 delivered a series of lectures and workshops this fall as part of the Professional in Residence Series. The father-daughter duo focused on creativity and entrepreneurship in the modern age—a topic that has become increasingly relevant as students apply their liberal arts training to the demands of the business world.
The Professional in Residence Series, a project of the Office of Alumni Relations, helps foster mentorship between alumni and current students. For Carl and Krista Anne, this was their first time returning in this capacity. Carl taught at Duke University for 14 years, and is now an author and entrepreneur. Krista Anne is a startup marketer, web and product designer, and business owner.
In the first session of the series, “Becoming a Creative Genius (Again)”, Carl laid the foundation for developing creative thinking and identifying its importance. The lecture is built on discourses that he had with his students at Duke University in entrepreneurial classes. He found that many of his students were not taking his class to start a company per se, but rather, to become more adventurous and innovative so that they might thrive in a variety of corporate environments.
In his talk, Carl dispelled the myth of creativity being about having that “one big groundbreaking idea.” He called attention to the more practical outcome of creativity: “The real benefit is that the work that is yours to accomplish has human interaction, and so you have agency over what you bring… whether or not you listen intentionally and creatively. What you can have absolute control over is what you do with the next inch and with the next minute.”
Aqib Hussnain '21 connected with these ideas after the lecture. “I really enjoyed talking to Carl and I found his charismatic words very thoughtful. I had this personal interaction with Carl, where we talked about how fulfilling one's enthusiastic pursuit for beauty can be!”
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Krista Anne’s workshop, “Radical Work: How Creatives, Activists & Humans of All Kinds Can Build a Business,” was Brenda Hernandez Limon '20’s favorite session: “I have always been interested in the business world but also intimidated by it. I felt like Krista Anne was able to explain the business world in a more accessible manner... It is always nice to hear people's personal stories and understand that not everything is black and white.”
Krista Anne seeks to topple this black and white dichotomy by doing away with the extremes of either striving for a specific form of activist work or resigning oneself to the status quo, i.e. “selling out” and working in business. “The world needs more people applying hope and vision in all areas of life, and business is such an important one,” said Krista Anne.
Honesty and transparency were another aspect of Krista Anne’s workshop that resonated with students. She gave an example of being consistently late to meetings: “Absorbing the consequences, apologizing... being accountable for yourself in the moment is really an empowering act,” she said.
At the end of the week, Carl and Krista Anne held a Q&A luncheon discussing how writing and communication is an essential skill in any field.
“I believe that story is one of the most important tools,” said Carl. “When I was a type-A, hard charging entrepreneur, and I was pitching to businesses, customers, vendors, suppliers, I was quite clear with myself that I was telling an aspirational story, a story rooted in today's truth that shows an even better future.”
This insight on narrative was helpful to Hernandez Limon, who said “I knew that in marketing you want to tell people why they need the product you are selling, but I never realized the true importance of fully understanding and listening to the customer.”
Throughout the series, the liberal arts mindset of adaptability and creative problem solving seemed to carry through. For Krista Anne, that educational background is a key part of her story today.
“I learned to code after I graduated college, did all these things that were outside my comfort zone, acquired a whole new skillset. Knox really gave me the confidence to do that.”