How to Build Winning Teams – Playing the Game of Innovation

with special guest David Cutler

David Cutler quote from Patti Dobrowolski's podcast
Up Your Creative Genius
How to Build Winning Teams – Playing the Game of Innovation

Dr. David Cutler, a self-proclaimed WEEKEND TRAVELER, is a pianist and composer equally comfortable with classical, jazz, popular, folk, and world music. Stretching what it means to be a performer, events regularly involve crazy antics: extreme eclecticism, choreography, humor, interdisciplinary collaboration, superhero costumes, character ushers, celebrity cameos, kazoo playing marching bands, you name it.Cutler’s remarkable composition SuperNova dramatically reimagines the most popular string method of all time, SUZUKI VIOLIN SCHOOL, VOLUME 1. While melodies remain unchanged, rhythm section accompaniments are virtuosic and exploratory, inspired by music genres from around the globe (tango to techno, Baroque to boogie). This project includes 4 full albums, a SuperCreativity eCourse, string ensemble arrangements, and more.One of the world’s leading voices on ARTS ENTREPRENEURSHIP, Cutler has led keynotes and workshops for Music Teachers National Association, College Music Society, Juilliard School, Dutch Classical Music Meeting, Chamber Music America, New World Symphony Orchestra, Indiana University, and Italy’s soundSCAPE music festival. His books The Savvy Musician and The Savvy Music Teacher, which provide tools for amplifying income, impact, and innovation, have shaped a generation of musicians. Dr. Cutler is a distinguished professor of music entrepreneurship at University of South Carolina, and a Yamaha Master Educator.Cutler and his consulting firm The Puzzler Company work with arts, business, and education organizations to foster innovation. His upcoming VISUAL book (illustrations and design throughout) The GAME of Innovation: Gamify Challenge, Level Up Your Team, and Play to Win helps teams turn problems into GAMEs and play to win.


1:31 How two different worlds in music shaped David’s perspectives

4:03 Making a Difference – The Savvy Arts Venture Challenge

6:46 The birth of “The GAME of Innovation”

8:26 Dissecting the GAME

12:33 How does the GAME result in positive change in a fast paced world

15:17 The Problem Solving Process – getting everyone in play

18:18 Future university work in Indiana, while being a facilitator and musician

21:26 Big changes and success are the result of teamwork

23:37 David’s typical daily routines

25:04 Finding sources of inspiration

25:51 Putting the GAME into practice: a COVID case study

32:30 Project management tips for anyone seeking change

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Patti Dobrowolski 00:03

Hello, Superstars! Welcome to the Up Your Creative Genius podcast – where you will gain insight and tips to stomp on the accelerator and blast off to transform your business and your life. I’m your host, Patti Dobrowolski. And if this is your first time tuning in, then strap in – because this is serious rocket fuel. Each week, I interview fellow creative geniuses to help you learn how easy it is to Up Your Creative Genius in any part of your life. Hey, everybody, it’s Patti Dobrowolski, and I can’t wait for our guest today – you are going to meet one of the smartest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I love him, he’s creative – his name is Dr. David Cutler. He’s a jazz and classical composer, a pianist, a conductor, a collaborator, a concert producer, a speaker and advocate and author – and author of the newly minted book, “The GAME of innovation”! And let me just say that Dr. Cutler is a distinguished professor with the University of South Carolina, and he’s got a whole bunch of things up his sleeve. He’s also a collaborator of mine in The Puzzler Company. So welcome, David, woo! Here we are in the podcast.

David Cutler 01:27

Thank you, Patti. It’s always so great to talk to you. You’re one of my favorite people in the world.

Patti Dobrowolski 01:31

All right. Well, I love that – I’ll take that on. So I would love for people to hear your story, David, because it’s fascinating to me how you got to where you are. And you’re so wacky – if you Google him, you’ll see just how wacky he is. But tell us a little bit about how you got into music, how you started to be helping other entrepreneurs in the music industry and other arts industry to expand themselves, and now your journey into corporations. What are you doing? Tell me all about it.

David Cutler 02:01

Well, my story. Well, it goes way back when I can’t quite remember what happened first, music lessons, or my mom yelling at me.

Patti Dobrowolski 02:11

Either one, both work. (laughs)

David Cutler 02:13

Right, about the same time. But I started playing classical piano at the age of maybe four or five. But even back then, I was not like the other kids. So I’d be playing my Mozart and just, you know, changing the notes and the rhythms, you know, change it up a bit to make it better, which I’m not sure that did but you know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Patti Dobrowolski 02:33

It did. I’m sure it did.

David Cutler 02:36

Maybe, arguably. Well, my mom was in the next room and she was not happy. And she would say, “David, that’s not what it says, David, play what’s on the page. David, you are doing it wrong.”

Patti Dobrowolski 02:45

Oh, wow.

David Cutler 02:46

Even back then. Yeah, it was – it was really tough, Patti. But there was something inside of me that just had to find my own voice, my own take on things.

Patti Dobrowolski 02:56


David Cutler 02:56

And it was those urges that ultimately led me musically towards both jazz and composition – two places where creativity was not only tolerated-

Patti Dobrowolski 03:06

it was embraced.

David Cutler 03:07

Exactly, it was like, the thing.

Patti Dobrowolski 03:09


David Cutler 03:10

And so these two very different worlds shaped my world, my – you know, my whole perspective on everything from classical music, it was about attention to detail, getting stuff done, having a work ethic; from the jazz world, it was about taking something that already existed and making it your own, walking the tightrope, finding your own voice. And those themes are still with me today.

Patti Dobrowolski 03:34

That is so true. And so, but, you know, the thing is that I met you at Savvy ’cause you invited me to Savvy. So tell people about Savvy. Your first book is called The Savvy Musician. You know, the Kronos Quartet wrote a really nice thing, saying you’re just, you know, above and beyond, this was the go to handbook for musicians to use to get into business, but tell people about the Savvy workshops that you run, because those are incredible.

David Cutler 04:03

They’re pretty amazing. Well, over the last 10-12 years, I’ve been running many different types of what we call innovation games. And sometimes a game lasts an hour or a day, or in the case of this program, the Savvy Arts Venture Challenge, a week. And the idea is to bring together a highly diverse community of people. In this context, the idea is artists – so from all different disciplines, but different ages, races, religions, backgrounds and perspectives. But hopefully, if we get it right, everyone is super amazing, super committed to making a difference in the world. And we put them together in this very intense environment for one week, where they work on teams, and they’re charged with solving some kind of a problem. And that ends in a competition – it’s a tournament, where they get awards and feedback.

Patti Dobrowolski 04:54

Yeah, they do a pitch. It’s really – they have to come up with something brilliant that they sell and then some of those get funded, isn’t that right?

David Cutler 05:03

Absolutely, absolutely. And each season, we’ve just taken it further and further. And part of that has been, you know, not only bringing together these different perspectives to come up with remarkable ideas. But of course, you and I met in part because of the visual art element – you know, I’m a musician by training – but even most musicians are visual learners first: they just need to see it. So from even the first iteration of that game, one of the really fun things that we’ve done and something that separated from so many other events, is that in addition to their pitch, each of the teams would create this exhibit – a 100 by 100 inch exhibit showcasing their proposal and their big ideas and their pitch. And so that was actually part of the competition. But we’ve always brought in visual artists to help with the visual communication about the projects. So by the time you got there, we just had artists in our community, and you were such an important voice in that.

Patti Dobrowolski 06:05

Yeah. What I love about you is that, you know, the visual artist of me, which is fantastic. And I would just say to people listening, you know, I was an actor, and I was all these other things and a facilitator. But David really called me out as a visual artist back then, he’d be like, I don’t know why you keep saying you’re not a visual artist, you are. And so, as a matter of fact, every illustration – almost every, I think, maybe there’s only two in that book, “The GAME of innovation” I drew – that was like 500 illustrations in there, and along with all this beautiful layout, that Cara Belloso did – did I say her name right?

David Cutler 07:02


Patti Dobrowolski 06:46

Bellosso. And Lance LaDuke helped with- but that is, I think, in a nutshell, that’s like Savvy into a book, it’s really about how people can work together better, to create something amazing, some kind of change in their community. So where did you get the idea for “The GAME of Innovation”, for the book? Because that really came from you – it came from all your work in doing innovation workshops. So tell us just what stimulated you to write such a volume of material that is incredible and laid out so beautifully.

David Cutler 07:26

Well, you helped a lot with the beautiful layout part. But you know, for a long time I’ve been running- Savvy was one example of these, but I’ve been running these experiences where teams work to solve a problem. We’ve worked with all kinds of different organizations from different sectors on different kinds of challenges, but the one thing that connected them was they were working as teams to do something different than they’ve done in the past. And it took a long time to even figure out what it is we were doing. At first, we called it a retreat, but we figured out it is not a retreat.

Patti Dobrowolski 08:00

We’re not going backwards. We’re not holding hands here at all. No.

David Cutler 08:04

That’s right. And then someone said, well, maybe it’s – it’s like a bootcamp. And it is kind of like a bootcamp.

Patti Dobrowolski 08:10

It is.

David Cutler 08:10

And we’re working hard, but it’s more than that – because in boot camp, you’re just training; here, we’re getting something done. So we went through all these different concepts. And actually our colleague, Lance LaDuke, it came into focus one day in talking to him and we were just chatting, we said, you know, this is kind of like playing a game.

Patti Dobrowolski 08:26


David Cutler 08:26

And we went further with this idea of “game”. Ultimately, “GAME” became an acronym that is kind of the foundation for all of the, you know, productions – all of the events that we run. G.A.M.E. stands for: “G” – guidelines, which is what constraints you’re trying to solve.

Patti Dobrowolski 08:44

That’s right.

David Cutler 08:45

What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? What are the non negotiable constraints? What constitutes success? Then there’s “A”, Arena, which is what do you have to work with? Who are your puzzlers, the people that are solving the problem? The period – how long do you have? And the place – where are you going to do the problem solving? “M” is Materials – the tools of problem solving, whether they’re virtual tools, or physical ones, like crafts, and post it notes, and all the things that you have in front of you right now. And “E” is about the Experience – what are the questions that are asked, in what order, and for how long. And so, that’s really where the idea of the GAME came from. In terms of the book, Lance and I got this idea that: Wouldn’t it be cool if we didn’t just talk about gamifying innovation, but it actually looked that way? And I still remember when we approached you about working on this project, and we’re like, Patti, we have a crazy idea – you want to put this together in a book. And it has been so rewarding and different from anything I’ve ever done before, because of course the other books were word books-

Patti Dobrowolski 09:51


David Cutler 09:51

and this was a visual book. And what I’ve learned, in large part because of you, is that – you know, maybe a beautiful word, or word with a great sense of humor, or word with a long fancy background – but when you’ve got too many of them, it just looks ugly in a visual context.

Patti Dobrowolski 10:12

This is so funny, because when we first you know, David would send iterations of the book – and me and Cara, we’d be like, “Too many words! Too many words – get rid of the words, streamline!” And you were so fantastic. Like, what I love about you is that you took feedback and take feedback – it’s this really extraordinary pace, like you take it in, and then you figure out, how can I do that? Is that the right feedback? You know how to sort and sift for what’s good. And then you flip – you flip the thing over and back.

David Cutler 10:44

Yeah, I mean, part of that feedback actually came out of music lessons. That’s what you do when you’re working on perfecting music. In this case, I remember, even before I started, when I was just putting this together, I knew that I needed short sentences, short paragraphs. I made the Google Document kind of look like the book – so a page of text would be a page in the book. And I will never forget sending in to you my “concise poetry” – and you said, “Oh, my God, David” – it just goes on and on and on and on. Like, what? There are no words there, what do you mean? I said, can you just show me some examples? And you went through and just went slash, slash, slash – and it really changed my life and the whole way that I write every sentence now. I learned so much from that, and I’m really grateful for your insights.

Patti Dobrowolski 11:34

Oh, well, you know, I mean, I’m grateful that you accepted the feedback. Because what I know now is this book, not only is it incredibly beautiful, like the way that Cara has laid this out, like, here’s one of my favorite pages: you know, it’s got these incredible illustrations, but it’s full color. And so this makes it beautiful to hold and look at – every single person that I’ve given a pre copy to, they’ve said the very same thing, “Oh, my God, that book is gorgeous”, and I’m like, yes, because we want you to have an aesthetic experience. All of us are about the aesthetic experience, and making it an experience that you get into and you want to read more, and you want to learn and apply the process. So what’s your dream of that book? What are you envisioning is going to happen now that you’ve got the book and it comes out, you know, it will come out shortly – may have even dropped by the time this podcast comes out – but what’s your big vision of that?

David Cutler 12:33

Of course, the whole reason for doing any of this is to help organizations and teams make positive change in a world that is changing at an exponential pace. So we use the book and a whole bunch of ways – sometimes it’s, we get the privilege to work with the organization first, and then afterwards, they will get this state to go deeper into the methodology; and it works the other way too. So we have many different types of organizations, buying bundles of the book to give to employees, or partners, or collaborators. The idea is to get them to start thinking about how might we work, team wise, to solve some of these challenges we have in a very non threatening way. You know, one type of leadership that does not work so well is the top down thing – “we’ve got to do this, I’m going to tell you how to do that”. First of all, if it comes from the top – I mean, it’s just impossible that the CEO is going to have all of the best ideas. It’s always better when you’re collaborating. But even if they do, it turns out people do not like being told what to do. But you know, you can’t tell people what to think, but you can tell people what to think about. And that’s what good processes do. And so the hope is that with this book, it just gets people to start to think about what changes we need to make, what’s the most important problem to start with? And with the resources we have, the hand we’ve been dealt – what can we actually do?

Patti Dobrowolski 14:02

Wow, I love that. Because what I know from working in big companies is that: there’s always one change initiative or another that’s happening, and that if you can get good at understanding the process that you could use and make it creative and fun and turn it into a game, it’s so much more fun. You know, somebody just called me yesterday and said: you know, you came and did this, it was so much fun – you made it gamified, the whole room – and I’m like, yep, and we’ll do it again. She’s like, “That’s good, because we want you to come back”, and I think to myself – that’s really what people need. We have enough people telling us what they think and what they think we should do. We have a lot less fun and play – and this book, to me, really gives permission to people to A) understand how to interact with other people that are different from you. The prickly personality is a big part of it – I love that part of the book. Understanding really what motivates them, so we understand that everybody’s perspective is good, and that you need to work with people to figure out where can we put their strengths in this environment, and how can we work with them – so that we can get the best out of all of us, and that book really shows you how to do that.

David Cutler 15:17

For sure. Your people are the right people – you know, sometimes when solving a problem, you have the permission to really figure out who are the most qualified people to work with on this problem? And how can you identify folks who all care about the root issue, but intersect with it in different ways?

Patti Dobrowolski 15:36


David Cutler 15:36

But a lot of times, the people you got to solve problems with are just folks that got stuck on the elevator with you, there are people in your

Patti Dobrowolski 15:42

Volunteers, they’re volun-told to go into the committee. (laughs)

David Cutler 15:47

And those people are the right people, because they’re the only people. So as I see people wishing, “Oh, I wish we had different people here” – you don’t. So how can you get the most out of this community? And in terms of – you know, in the first part of the book, when we really talk about the GAME structure, there are no solutions. It’s just about, let’s look at this part of designing the process. And I think that’s very difficult for a lot of people because they just want to dive in and figure out what should we do.

Patti Dobrowolski 16:14

They want to solve it because it’s painful, and they know that the process might be painful – they might have to reveal themself or their ideas or go machinate – because we all have that experience with working in a team in the past. So-

David Cutler 16:20


Patti Dobrowolski 16:29

But, that’s part of the beauty of working out, working a problem all the way through.

David Cutler 16:36

So totally. So much of our educational experience is about we’re told the answers, right? When having a test, the job is to come up with the right answers. But great innovators focus a lot of time on thinking of the right questions, right before they even start to consider what the solution might be, just thinking of a provocative question that might get us to think in a different way. So we had to be very disciplined, and we encourage people to be very disciplined to really think about the process before you get anywhere close to solutioning. And then when you bring people in, not only does that – if it’s a great process, you know, when you start a game, you have no idea what the end game is going to be, what the solutions are going to be. But a great process is designed in such a way that multiple great solutions are almost guaranteed.

Patti Dobrowolski 17:27


David Cutler 17:28

And by bringing people in, what you do is not only get their ideas, but you also get their feeling like they’re empowered-

Patti Dobrowolski 17:36

They’re part of it.

David Cutler 17:37


Patti Dobrowolski 17:38

They came up with the solution for it. And I love that – when we did something at the University of South Carolina, where you teach, we did that around creating a space where people could collaborate, like a drop in place and all of that. And there were so many multiple perspectives that came into that process, and so many amazing ideas that came out of it. So now-

David Cutler 18:01

And not every idea – not every idea can get selected. But I think people just feel- you know, but although we will take a little bit of this one, a little bit of this, a little bit of that one. But I think just by enabling people to be part of the process to play the game, they feel more excited about the initiative.

Patti Dobrowolski 18:18

Yeah, that’s fantastic. Now tell us what are you doing now? So the book’s coming out, and so then what’s happening in your world – your personal world, because you got invited to be the guest Dean and tell us a little bit about that.

David Cutler 18:34

Things are happening at this moment – of course, I continue to go and work with organizations and designing these innovation games and giving workshops that are hands on and interactive and the likes – and so that’s an important part of my life. But I was invited to serve as an interim dean for a University in Indiana – so well, I almost have about a year-long game to solve where they have a lot of amazing assets and some big challenges: they’re going to transform their model, they’re taking a school that’s built in a certain way, and expanding it and changing the vision to actually become a creative school. So the question – what does that mean to have a creative school? What does it look like? What kind of offerings will we have? How do we get interdisciplinary connections to happen? And so it will be extraordinary in wearing that hat, to have a year with that community to kind of work through this and build a sense of team that hopefully is all “plan this to win” and do something unprecedented and extraordinary. You know, Indiana has all of these communities that are spread all over – and it’s a, it’s a very small town, which has its own inherent challenges and opportunities. And so one of the great things about having a university in a town, is to figure out how can you really touch each aspect of this community that’s around you.

Patti Dobrowolski 20:00

Yeah, I love that. That sounds like a perfect game for you to play. I love it. They don’t have no idea what they’re getting with you, the jewel coming into their community – that’s the way I see it. So that’s what you’re doing next year. And then-

David Cutler 20:16

That’s a part of it-

Patti Dobrowolski 20:17

Yeah. What else are you doing? What else you got-

David Cutler 20:19

Well, just, you know, we all wear many hats. So I’m still working as a musician, and I’m working with all kinds of organizations. When I just look at one calendar, we’ve got four different organizations in the same week, which is super exciting. And this kind of work and you know, every community has its own aspirations, has its own challenges, has its own fears. And so part of the process is just working through all of those.

Patti Dobrowolski 20:48

Wow, and this thing I know to be true about you from having been in, you know, at least three of those sessions with you, Savvy, and otherwise, here’s what I know – is that, you’re one of the best listeners I have experienced. Like, you really understand how to listen to people and then reflect back what it is that they’re saying, in such a way that the whole room feels heard and seen by you. So I think Indiana, they’re just gonna have a blast with you. Of course, I think you’re gonna ruffle some feathers there, I hope? Because that always is the good thing. Right?

David Cutler 21:26

Well, thank you for saying that. You know, that really has been the first step in this pre- moving to Indiana period – you know, for that question is I’ve just been – you know, I haven’t started yet. I don’t have the budget, I don’t have any authority – but what I do have is a Zoom account. So I’ve been setting up all of these meetings just to talk to people and to ask questions, and to listen and build rapport and understand. It’s this reconnaissance – just to learn, yeah, what do we have to work with? And what are the landmines ahead? And what are the aspirations of folks? And how can we work as a team? And how can we put people on that team and positions where they’re most likely to succeed – which may not always be the position that is most comfortable, or most familiar, or what they’ve even seen themselves do in the past. But I really feel to, in order to make the big important changes – we have to do this together. It can’t be just one individual or this, you know, small community of leaders to do it, we really have to pledge. So it’s very much like a sport – we are working as a team, moving towards the large goal of success. And it doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to get their way for every single thing; I promise, we will listen to what you have to say and see if there’s a place for it, but ultimately, ideas belong – this is a core belief that ideas belong not to individuals, but to the team. Doesn’t matter your rank.

Patti Dobrowolski 23:02

Yeah, and especially when you’re trying to make change, it’s even better if you can forget your rank, right? So that you can come in at a level – find a way to make it a level playing field by being authentic and showing up, right? And I think you do a great job of helping people to step into that, remember who they are, who they were before, who they are now, right? So that they can respect other people. Now, so in the day of David Cutler – what happens in a day, what do you do in your day? What kind of rituals do you have, what’s it look like, start to finish?

David Cutler 23:37

Mmm. Yeah, I do feel like I’m one of those people that doesn’t really have a typical day, because I just wear many, many hats. But there are pieces of the day that I try to keep consistent, and I try to at least touch a piano for some minutes every day. I try to be curious every day, I try to connect with people every day. So you know, it’s very inconsistent schedule when you’re on the road, obviously, there are planes to worry about and there are projects to worry about – but I am very aware of not just time, but also project management, and making sure that there’s always forward motion, that every day I’m a little closer to something important than I was yesterday.

Patti Dobrowolski 24:22

Yeah, I think you really inspire people to build a legacy in whatever it is that you’re doing. And, and I think that is really one of the things that I love about you and I respect that you have, you know, came into the town of where the University of South Carolina is and you transformed the town. You really embraced the town, you included the town – you included everyone in it. So, you know, I’m sure you’re quite the celebrity there, you know, in many circles because of the kinds of transformation that you brought there. And I think that’s what Green Hill, Indiana, right? Green Hill?

David Cutler 24:59


Patti Dobrowolski 25:00

Greencastle – oh, that’s even better, Greencastle, Indiana.

David Cutler 25:04

It is nice, isn’t it? (laughs)

Patti Dobrowolski 25:04

It is – sounds very good, it’s going to have an experience with – now, who inspires you right now? Who’s inspirational to you?

David Cutler 25:12

Well, you’re inspirational to me, Patti.

Patti Dobrowolski 25:15

Thank you.

David Cutler 25:16

I find inspiration and all kinds of people – I do a lot of reading, I just- I’m looking at a book over there called “Teaching Change”, written by a gentleman named Jose Bowen. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately on – culture is where I’ve been focused recently. I listen to a lot of speakers, I look at a lot of art, and the likes – I try and find inspiration from all kinds of places. And often I don’t succeed every single day, but I try many days to see if I can push myself to do something that I’ve never done before.

Patti Dobrowolski 25:47

Yeah, do something different, right? I think that-

David Cutler 25:50

And that kind of curiosity-

Patti Dobrowolski 25:51

Yeah. Well, I was gonna ask you to- you know, so when you come up against a challenge, or a problem to solve, what kind of game do you play with yourself around it? Is it different every time? Or do you often find yourself using a particular game to solve it?

David Cutler 26:12

That’s a really good question. I mean, it is different, because every problem is different. And also, by playing different games, it causes you to come up with different solutions. But I’ve always tried to be the kind of person that: if 1000 people look at something, and 999 see it one way, to be the one who finds a different kind of solution. And I can give a big example, which has impacted all of our lives. Now, let’s try and see if you hit an obstacle: is there a way you might look at it as an opportunity, so that what you do on the other side is better than if you had not hit that obstacle in the first place? And an obstacle that has challenged all of us in the last few years, of course, has been COVID-19.

Patti Dobrowolski 26:58


David Cutler 26:59

COVID. And it’s- you know, I don’t want to belittle it in any way – I mean, it touched all of our lives, it’s been difficult for many of us, we didn’t see other human beings. For many years, many people died from this thing – so I don’t mean to minimize that. But in a moment even like that, I was determined from the beginning of it, and for myself, and for various communities, where we’re – what is the opportunity in the moment? We have to be better as a result of this thing. You know, Patti, I am- you know, I’m an innovator to my core.

Patti Dobrowolski 27:33

No doubt.

David Cutler 27:34

I am not nearly as creative as COVID-19. Like, I’d never think, or done- a world where you’d have to be six to 12 feet apart, wearing a, you know, a Darth Vader costume, just to get by anyone. I mean, you never could have imagined it. And of course, when you change the rules, you change the game – and the world changed the rules on us. And so, on so many levels. I went into that moment thinking: how can we become better because of this? And as I hear people say: I can’t wait till this COVID stuff goes away, so we can just get back to the way things used to-

Patti Dobrowolski 28:10

it was, yeah, the way it was-

David Cutler 28:12

first of all, it ain’t going back to the way it was. Second, you weren’t that happy with the way it used to be – do you remember just two years ago, most people weren’t that happy with it at that moment? And third, isn’t it a shame to wish away years of your life, right? This is, this- now we’ve got a new tragedy that’s happening, and there will be another one after that – but this is life. The moments of our life are the moments of our life. And so to lean into that, I can give you an example of one of the things we did here in South Carolina.

Patti Dobrowolski 28:46

What’s that? Tell me.

David Cutler 28:47

came out of a game. But basically, this was the idea: as musicians and artists, what do we do? What is our need, at a moment like this – when every performance venue worldwide is closed down?

Patti Dobrowolski 29:00

shut down, shuts down.

David Cutler 29:02

What do we do as musicians? I mean, we can’t cure you. We can’t give you the vaccination. We can’t. I did some volunteer work, just helping people get signed up for vaccinations – I filled out this form, I never felt so worthless – I had no skills except for telling jokes on the form. So one of the things that we came up with is, you know, one of the things we can do is we can offer art in a way that tells a story and builds community. So we came up- if you can get people together. So we came up with this initiative called Celebrating Local Heroes with the concert truck. Part of that – the first part, Celebrating Local Heroes, was – we identified 10 professions that were on the frontlines of this pandemic. And then we went through a whole process where we had folks nominated and ultimately identified these 10 neighbors – not the CEOs, but people in the trenches doing amazing work as nurses and truck drivers and grocery workers and custodial staff and the likes. Then we had to figure out how can we offer art – and we came up with this idea of a concert truck that would go throughout the community – some former students of mine invented this thing several years ago before COVID as another cool way to experience music – now, it’s the only way where it was for a while. And we create all these concerts around town: we made these vignette videos that were scored by local composers and recorded by local ensembles, we created community conversations where they came together and would just talk as neighbors but also had an artistic underlying. And I’m so A) proud to have done this really meaningful thing for our community during that. And I’m so inspired by these neighbors who do such important work. It changed-

Patti Dobrowolski 30:55

It was very moving – I watched it, I watched the live stream of it, It was incredible. It was really incredible, and the music was beautiful. And the people that you – you know, brought up in front of everyone and acknowledged – it was really, really so very cool. So I love that idea. That was a perfect way to bring together a community during a time of, you know, crisis in a way and serve them with no ask on your end, right?

David Cutler 31:25

No ask, other than just be part of this community. And you know, we’re all in this together. One of my favorite stories from that is, remember, one of the truck drivers who’s talking is like: “You know, when you’re on the freeway, and a truck gets in your lane, and it’s so slow, and you can’t switch lanes and get so frustrated, you’re pulling out your- you’re cursing under your breath, you’re pulling out your hair? So that’s me, delivering toilet paper.” Your local grocery store at the time, you don’t remember when the aisles were just empty?

Patti Dobrowolski 31:54

Yes, yes, yes.

David Cutler 31:55

That just makes you think we are all in this together – we all have a role to play. And since that, I have not looked at a car or a truck or a building in the same way.

Patti Dobrowolski 32:05

Oh, I love that. I know, that is so amazing – that’s such a beautiful story. Well, I wish I could talk to you all day, but I’m going to wait until the book comes out, and we’re going to come back and talk more about it. So tell us, really: From your perspective, so if somebody’s out there that really needs to make a change, and they aren’t quite sure what to do or where to go, what are some tips you would give them about how to pivot?

David Cutler 32:30

Well, one of the most important lessons that I would stress and something that I’ve been working on in my own life – you know, we talk often about time management, and time management is very important. But the idea of project management – I mean, seems kind of obvious, if you’ve got a project that will take you, you know, two spaces further, and another one that will take you six spaces, you should do the one that’s going to take you further in life, yet people often don’t make that choice. And furthermore, finding projects that interlock: so that with each problem you solve, you’re building something bigger and more important, as opposed to being, you know, veering off in so many directions, that each effort actually competes with everything else that you do. So I think that would be my number one step: is to take some time to really figure out, what is the single most valuable project for you? And then how do you get that done? What kind of process will get you there?

Patti Dobrowolski 33:32

I love it. And I’ll add to that, you know, find yourself a mentor to help you because I think that’s what’s been very valuable about the process of working with you – I see you as somebody who gives me feedback, I give you feedback – and that’s part of how we grow and learn. Like, you’re in a whole space that I never lived, in the music world – other when I was a bad rapper, which we’ve experienced, we’ve experienced that together, so- (laughs) But you’re amazing. And I think of you – when I think of you I think of one of the videos I saw of something that you did, where you’ve got a grand piano and you’re playing it, but there are ping pong balls inside. And so it’s just this beautiful little metaphor for how life is – you know, add something different, something on top of it that will surprise an audience and surprise yourself, too – take the risk and surprise yourself, which you certainly have done over and over again in your career. So I’m excited about this next risk you’re taking to be the Dean, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you.

David Cutler 34:36

Thank you.

Patti Dobrowolski 34:37

Well, thank you so much for coming and just speaking to us and inspiring us. You’re just such an inspirator – I love having you here. And so thanks for your time today, David. It’s been really incredible.

David Cutler 34:50

Well, thank you. I just have to say, you know, when you work on a great team, it is truly – it fills you with life; and the whole experience of working with you and Lance and Cara on “The GAME of Innovation” has worked the way that a team is supposed to work. Everyone had their own contribution that made – I could never have done this on my own, and none of you could have done on your own, or any of us individually. It is so much better because we were in this together. So thank you for that, Patti.

Patti Dobrowolski 35:19

I love that. Thank you, David. All right, everybody, you know the drill. If you like what you heard, be sure to forward it to your friends, and go and pick up your copy of “The GAME of Innovation”, transform your community, transform your your team – everything you need to know about how to have fun and create change is in that material there. I love it, and we’ll be doing some other YouTubes about it. I’m sure we’ve got – you’ve got a whole bunch of stuff up your sleeve, so I look forward to that. And until next time, please, everybody: Up Your Creative Genius.

Patti Dobrowolski 35:58

Thanks so much for listening today. Be sure to DM me on Instagram your feedback or takeaways from today’s episode on Up Your Creative Genius, then join me next week for more rocket fuel! Remember, you are the superstar of your universe, and the world needs what you have to bring – so get busy, get out and Up Your Creative Genius! And no matter where you are in the universe, here’s some big love from yours truly, Patti Dobrowolski, and the Up Your Creative Genius Podcast. That’s a wrap!

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