Harvey Seifter, Founder and Managing Director and Fred Mandell, Founder, Creating Futures That WorkHarvey Seifter, Founder and Managing Director and Fred Mandell, Founder
In an increasingly volatile and unpredictable business environment, the only thing leaders can count on is that tomorrow’s conditions will be radically different from the ones they face today. Increasingly forced to deal with disruptive change, organizations all over the world are spending staggering amounts of money to provide their people with leadership training and development to help them navigate. But these conventional, ready-made approaches are falling short and the companies that provide them lack tried and true measurement tools to gauge their effectiveness.

The need of the hour is a new breed of leadership training that instills in leaders a flexible mindset, allowing them to continually innovate, adapt to the accelerating pace of change, and inspire new possibilities across their organizations.

Creating Futures that Work, a global leader in experiential learning, has developed a uniquely effective way to meet this need, blending the hallmarks of science and the arts – creativity, curiosity, focus and discipline – to help leaders and their teams excel.

The firm uses its proprietary Arts- Based Experiential Learning (ABEL) System to develop exceptional leaders and teams that are ready to create dynamic, successful, and sustainable futures for their organizations.

ABEL combines emotionally connected arts-based learning experiences that spark innovation, collaboration, creativity, empathy, and resilience, and a unique assessment instrument that identifies strengths, targets skill gaps, and tracks progress. Together, art and science form a powerful system for transformative learning and development.

“The arts are a remarkably accessible point of entry to transformational learning, breakthrough thinking, innovative leadership, and emotionally intelligent collaboration,” says Harvey Seifter, Founder and Managing Director of Creating Futures that Work.

The ABEL System grows out of a decade of Seifter’s groundbreaking National Science Foundation-funded Art of Science Learning research, which discovered that even a few hours of arts-based learning can lead to strengthened creativity skills, increased collaborative behavior and better team innovation outcomes.

Building on these discoveries, Creating Futures that Work has developed a comprehensive system that uses the arts to help spark basic foundational skills in business leaders, enabling them to navigate the unpredictable. These skills include the readiness to learn, cognitive agility, collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation.

Unique Approach to Assessments

Creating Futures that Work is in a class of its own when it comes to both arts-based experiential learning and measuring the impact of its training.

“Our approach integrates assessment, training, and coaching in a continuous cycle of learning, growth and development,” says Seifter.

Creating Futures that Work typically starts out with the firm’s unique Leadership and Innovation Skill Assessment (LISA)®, launched late last year. This instrument acts as a navigational framework for the ABEL system, allowing the company to identify existing strengths, target skill gaps and track the progress and growth of teams and their leaders.

The way Creating Futures that Work assesses leadership and innovation is unique. LISA is the only assessment instrument currently in the market that relies on direct skill measurement, rather than self-report or personality profiling, to generate insights and conclusions. By working on the assessment up front, Creating Futures that Work leverages a rich data set to identify baselines and help organizational stakeholders develop shared understanding. In a series of coaching sessions, the firm uses the data to help its clients target priorities and formulate skill-building plans for individuals and groups, and then addresses client skill gaps and developmental priorities through powerful and effective arts-based experiential learning.

As all the tools and techniques come together in impactful learning experiences, the firm conducts further parallel assessments on an individual or team basis, measuring changes over time. The detailed and nuanced assessment reports allow clients to build on progress and course-correct where necessary.

With field-tested and lab-validated leadership development and innovation programs, Creating Futures that Work uniquely measures the impact of arts-based experiential learning on executive leaders’ creativity, innovation, collaboration, and other critical future-ready leadership skills.

Originating from a Shared Passion

The idea for Creating Futures That Work was born of its two founders’ shared passion for art, embodying both Harvey Seifter and Fred Mandell’s different, yet closely related approaches to experiential learning.

As the former director of the famed Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York, Seifter was able to apply his understanding of the orchestra’s workings to different activities and endeavors related to business, innovation, and learning. Over the years, he brought corporate training programs using jazz, sculpture, improvisational theater, poetry and many other art forms to clients all over the world, including hundreds of leadership development, innovation and collaboration workshops he led at GE’s legendary Crotonville Global Leadership Development Center.

Mandell brought in his rich experience in business as a long-time senior executive at American Express, along with his expertise in painting and sculpting wonderful works of art. He put those two passions together and developed highly innovative approaches to leadership development, teaching leadership using lessons learned from the lives and the work of great artists at MIT’s renowned Sloan School of Management.

Together, the founders developed a wonderful partnership and collaboration over the years, speaking a similar language of experiential learning, business, art, and leadership. They shared a wealth of craft and knowledge as their experiences were similar, yet different enough to challenge them to learn from and enrich each other’s practice.

The ABEL System in Action – Enabling Future-Ready Leadership

An example of the effectiveness of the firm’s innovative approaches and solutions involves a startup division of a Fortune 500 financial services company.

The division’s new CEO was worried about the lack of creative output from their teams. Creating Futures that Work was brought in to strengthen the creative thinking and problem-solving skills of team members, but as the firm’s work with the client progressed, it became increasingly clear that the core problem was not a lack of individual creative thinking. The real issues were with team culture and processes. Specifically, teams were dominated by group think, with the best ideas being left on the cutting room floor. Compounding the problem, teams lacked processes for experimentation, real-time feedback and iteration that would have encouraged innovative ideas to flourish.
  • The arts are a remarkably accessible point of entry to transformational learning, breakthrough thinking, innovative leadership, and emotionally intelligent collaboration

From its initial work on strengthening individual creative thinking and problem-solving skills, Creating Futures that Work pivoted its focus toward fixing fundamental problems with team culture and process, making sure that all individual innovative ideas were rapidly and efficiently surfaced and explored. The best of these new ideas quickly became game changers, as the client began to see powerful results in the performance of their products and services in the marketplace. At the same time, employee engagement rose dramatically, and the client won several awards for its workplace transformation.

Building the Team

Over the past year, Creating Futures that Work successfully launched its certified innovation coach program, accredited by the International Coach Federation. The firm currently has 24 certified coaches working with clients all over the world using the ABEL system, with its next cohort primed for certification before the end of 2022.

These coaches join the extraordinary Creating Futures that Work team of artists, scientists and innovators who collaborate in many creative ways. What they all have in common is tremendous passion for learning, development, and innovation, enabling the company to deliver much-needed value to its clients.

“It’s remarkable to bring together so many talented and skilled people, working at the intersection of art, innovation, and future-ready leadership, to deliver value to our clients. Our team is made up of bright, deeply engaged individuals who look at the world through fresh eyes and are passionately dedicated to helping our clients develop future ready leaders and innovative solutions,” says Seifter.

With the precision of science and the emotional connection and tremendous impact that the arts have on cognitive abilities, the ABEL system is truly a powerful tool that empowers leaders to ‘create futures that work.’