How I became an international creative speaker?

Cyriel Kortleven - creative speaker at Creativity World ForumOften, people ask me how I became a creativity expert. So I figured this is a perfect moment to share my personal story with you.

I’m a Belgian speaker on creativity and innovation. I work 30% of my time in Belgium; 30% in the Netherlands and 40% abroad (all over the place – from New York to Mumbai and Cairo to Melbourne). 

Trainee-ship ORMIT
I studied Economics – commercial engineering to be exact. After my studies, I didn’t have a very clear view of my goals and I joined ORMIT – a company that works with management trainees (during 2 years, I’ve done 4 different projects in 4 different companies). During the trainee-ship, I got a lot of courses and one of them was a half-day workshop on creative thinking. It was a great experience and I realized that there isn’t just one right answer (that’s what they thought me at the university but that doesn’t always work in the real world) but thanks to creativity you will always find a second answer, and a third one, … It has become one of my life motto’s: There are always alternatives (sometimes you don’t like the consequences but don’t say that there isn’t another possibility).

The Centre for Development of Creative Thinking
The evening after the creativity training, I checked the internet if there was a company in Belgium that was working in the domain of Creativity and Innovation and I discovered the COCD – Centre for Development of Creative Thinking. I immediately booked a three day course ‘creative thinking’ and became a big fan of this topic. In the same period, my management trainee-ship finished and a position came free at the creativity centre. I applied for the job and 2 weeks later, I was working as an office manager at the COCD. I’ve enjoyed that role for 3 years until 2004 and then I started to work as an independent creative speaker and expert. And I ‘m loving it.

Boosting a creative mindset as a creative speaker
Since 2004, my role has changed from giving training sessions for smaller audiences to facilitating brainstorming sessions and the last 4 years, I’m focusing on boosting a creative mindset in front of large audiences in my role a keynote speaker. I gradually grew into this role because I noticed that I was quite good in creating an open, informal atmosphere at conferences and events. I didn’t take on training requests anymore (of course I helped the client with recommending other colleagues) and focused on connecting with event-managers. I restyled my website and again only focused on my role as speaker. I have invested a lot of time and effort to build up networks all around the world and those investments are bearing fruit now.

Do you want to read more? Read all about it in the interview (in French) on my creativity colleague Jérémy Ouassana website (april 2014).

And if you want to know more about Cyriel’s latest book ‘Less is Beautiful’ read this blog ‘And the name of the baby is …’.

And here you can experience my work as a creative speaker on stage: