Senior Leader of Research and Organizational Learning at Skills Society, Founder of Think Jar Collective
Photography by Curtis Comeau
WHY HE'S TOP 40: He’s tapping into how creativity has the potential to not only improve productivity, but also help disabled citizens garner a greater quality of life.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT EDMONTON?: “There’s something in the zeitgeist where there’s a lot of people putting projects out there. It does resonate in that there’s plenty of opportunity for people to make something out of nothing and make it relevant. I think people are also concerned about the welfare of citizens in Edmonton and they want people to do well.”
Elementary school wasn’t exactly an easy time for Ben Weinlick. He recalls putting in more hours in the time-out chair or the corner than at his desk.
“I guess, as a kid, I was always getting into trouble for questioning and challenging things,” recalls Weinlick. “I’d bug people and disrupt things and not listen to the teacher as much.”
As it turns out, those nuances were more symptomatic of his ability to think outside the box. It’s evident at his day job at Skills Society, an Edmonton-based, not-for-profit agency geared towards enabling disabled people to become more active in the community. So far, he’s mentored staff on how to better the lives of disabled clients and facilitated think tanks on new ideas to implement creative processes he’s developed. He’s also spearheaded a number of initiatives including Project Citizenship, which has showcased inspirational success stories of at least 30 disabled Edmontonians since it debuted in 2012 at the Snap Gallery.
“One of my big passions is how you foster relevant, outcome-based creativity and innovation in organizations,” says Weinlick, who has a MacEwan diploma in Disability Studies Leadership and Community as well as a master’s in leadership from Royal Roads University. “Creativity is good. When you have an idea and bring it to fruition, it’s exciting, amazing stuff, and a big part of what makes us human.”
In 2011, he also founded Think Jar Collective, a website resource centre that focuses on bolstering creative culture with contributors ranging from local community leaders to scientists, including an artificial-intelligence pioneer based in California. He also consults and speaks publicly across the country on his favourite subject, contributes articles to New York-based Web platform The Creativity Post and, in 2010, launched yet another project: The CommuniTea Infusion Project, a mobile town square that folds into a van to further engage community interaction.
Weinlick is quick to defend creativity as anything but a frilly boondoggle, but a necessary component for progress in all professions and walks of life.
“More and more in our day and age, if you don’t have creativity in our business and our non-profit sectors — in fact, in every area — with things moving so fast, we’re going to fall behind,” he says. “Creativity, as a competency in order to move forward, is important for everybody.”
Still, Weinlick can’t help but think his career path sprouted from his MBA thesis, Humour And Serious Play Enhancing Creativity In Disability Service Design, a concept he concocted as a lark and a reminder of his more disruptive public school days.
“I realized at a certain point I could do a thesis on the merits of being an ass and how that might help organizations think differently.”