This topic was inspired by the argument that many business leaders have used as to why people need to be brought back to the office. Namely, that people are better able to be creative and innovate when they are together versus working remotely.  As I thought about the highly innovative work my Work EvOHlutionTM team has been doing in a hybrid way for the last decade, I cannot agree with the sentiment that we need to be together to do our most creative work.

I had the gift of crossing paths with Marie-Josée Lareau almost one year ago, when her company Innovelab, like my company Work EvOHlution, was acquired by Humance. We were instantly curious about each other’s work and, despite being across the country from one another, we began to collaborate. 

Stefan Zavalin Ted Talk

What led you to apply innovation to help people and organizations?

Marie-Josée worked for Cirque de Soleil for a decade, where she coached the acrobats to improve their artistic expression on stage. When she was completing an executive MBA, she realized how important it was for business people to be creative. The demand for her innovation-focused training grew and led to the founding of Innovelab.

What’s the difference between creativity and innovation?

For Marie-Josée, creativity is the spark of ideas. Innovation is taking ideas and making them reality.  Innovation is all about transforming, which could be an adjustment or something new or disruptive on the market. Innovation is about executing or implementing creative ideas.


According to Marie-Josée, what kills creativity is when we try to be perfect. When we set the bar too high and are afraid to fail, our creativity suffers


Do you think creativity is something we all have, or is it something we’re born with more or less of?

Marie-Josée believes we are all born with creativity and it comes out of us in different forms. According to Marie-Josée, what kills creativity is when we try to be perfect. When we set the bar too high and are afraid to fail, our creativity suffers. When we’re kids, we experiment and have fun. As adults, we need to continue doing so if we want to think creatively and innovate. It’s extremely important that we allow ourselves space to make mistakes.

Marie-Josée gives the example of a pharmaceutical company she worked with that was trying to become more innovative. Fear of failure was getting in the way, so she masterminded a creative event where failure would be discussed openly. Everyone’s faces were painted, and everyone in the company was in full costume. They did a ceremony where everyone came up front and explained something they didn’t do well and what they learned in the process. It made a great impact on people about how failures are actually some of our best ways to learn.

Marie-Josée Lareau

Does our best innovation happen when we’re together with others?

A lot of organizations Marie-Josée works with are international. They must innovate from a distance.  Whether organizations need to be together to innovate really depends on whether it’s a hands-on or physical creation (for example, a Cirque de Soleil show would be impossible to craft remotely). Marie-Josée explains, however, that a lot of innovation can be done remotely. The key ingredient is being fully present. It’s very distracting being online. It’s not a condition for creativity, innovation, or success when we are distracted and multi-tasking.

What are some tools or tricks leaders can use to promote innovation?

  1. Learn how to create safe spaces for people to share ideas.
  2. Give people the space and time to innovate. Take the time to slow down in order to be creative. Creativity takes time and space. With being too busy we don’t have time to think, let alone to create.
  3. Listen to people’s ideas carefully. Do something with some of the ideas: just do it! The worst thing is not to do anything.
  4. Use analogies around ideas, such as Marie-Josée’s collaboration with Cirque de Soleil  and Disney where they would use kitchen analogies for what to do with ideas (e.g., this idea needs to marinate, as it needs more time; this one needs more cooking, as it needs more work; this one goes in the freezer, as the market not is not ready for it).
  5. Understand how and when your people are most creative, and support them to innovate.

“We have the power to be so creative. We have so much potential to create a better, more peaceful world.” – Marie-Josée Lareau

Does creativity improve our wellness?

Marie-Josée feels that creativity and wellness are circular. “I let out my emotions into free flowing thoughts I write out or draw. The more we are able to create, the better we feel. I see it as a loop.  The more we’re able to come back to white space after we empty emotion or tension.” Marie-Josée further explains how creative outlets help us improve our lives and those around us. “The better we feel, the better we can contribute to creating a better world around us.” Marie-Josée also encourages people to walk or run outside: this releases tension and opens the space in your mind and heart to create.

Marie-Josée Lareau

What is one book and one podcast you’d recommend to help people learn more about incorporating more creativity/innovation into their lives?

What’s your wish for a better world when it comes to innovation/creativity?

Become the change you want to see in the world (Ghandi). We have the power to be so creative. We have so much potential to create a better, more peaceful world.


About Marie-Josée Lareau:

Marie-Josée Lareau yoga

With over twenty years of experience in the field of creativity and innovation, Marie-Josée Lareau specializes in the development of corporate events that stimulate ideation, strategic thinking, cultural change and collaboration. She likes to adapt every event, conference, or workshop to offer solutions most adapted to the needs of her clients. She has worked with internationally renowned organizations such as Cirque du Soleil, HEC Montréal, McGill University, Concordia, C2-MTL and Abbvie Canada as Chief Innovation Officer.  Innovelab is now in the Organizational Transformation and Strategy division of Humance.

Ms. Lareau has completed her EMBA (Executive Master Business Administration) with HEC and McGill University. She has taken The Art and Science of Coaching, a coaching course accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) offered by Erickson International. She is also a Hatha yoga and Prana flow certified yoga teacher. 

Learn more about Marie-Josée and InnoveLab:

InnoveLab (English)
InnoveLab (French)