How traveling the Genius Journey impacts creative leaders long-term

How traveling the Genius Journey impacts creative leaders long-term

Genius Journey
Innovation Method
Published On:
August 23, 2023

What are the long-term impacts of a proven creative leadership development program on its graduates’ creative leader mindset preservation and professional career progression? My colleague Brian Hunt and I investigated this overarching research question (that we further operationalized with 5 subordinated research questions) in a new longitudinal study that I presented earlier this week at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Innovation Conference 2023 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. What exactly did we examine in our paper? And what findings did we uncover?

Background of our new study

Our new study titled “Developing Creative Leaders Effectively and Creatively: Investigating Long-Term Impacts” is part of a more comprehensive research program on creative leadership development based on Genius Journey, the creative leadership development program I created for thinkergy: 

  • In 2015, I kickstarted this research program with two conceptual research papers that introduced the methodology and then the related pedagogy of the Genius Journey program of creative leadership development. 
  • Later on, in three empirical studies that employed both quantitative (in one case) and qualitative methods (in two other cases), Dr. Brian and I investigated —and confirmed— the creativeness and effectiveness of Genius Journey’s mindsets-based methodology and its experiential pedagogy in the short run (i.e., by the end of the course program). 

Our latest research study aims to shed light on how undergoing the Genius Journey program in creative leadership development impacted its graduates’ careers in the long run and to what extent they have retained the acquired creative leadership traits. 

Research design of our study

In our explorative longitudinal research study, we contacted 92 program graduates by email and via social media with an invitation to complete an online survey. We used a mixed methods approach combining quantitative constructs (6-point Likert scales) with a qualitative element (open-ended questions related to the program’s contents, pedagogy, and career evolution). We were able to collect 55 usable survey responses. Seven out of ten respondents are Thai nationals, the rest coming primarily from European countries. Their ages range from 30 to 43 years, with a mean of 35. The mean time passed since the graduates had completed the Genius Journey program was nine years and two months, whereby the time spans varied from 7.5 years to 10.5 years.

Findings of our study

In the following, I present the key findings of our longitudinal study by addressing each of the five subordinated research questions used to operationalize our main research question.

1. Long-term recollection of the Genius Journey methodology and pedagogy

“With roughly a decade elapsed since program completion, what do graduates still remember of the mindsets-based Genius Journey method and its experiential pedagogy?” We investigated this first subordinated research question by scrutinizing the qualitative feedback for respective comments. 

Regarding the long-term recollection of the Genius Journey method, the sample collectively recalled all 10 Genius Journey mindsets, whereby mindsets 1 (“Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start being a courageous, action-oriented, and persistent believer”) and 6-7 (“Stop thinking only with half of your mind. Start becoming an integrated whole mind-thinker.” and “Stop being stuck in the expert tunnel, Start becoming a T-shaped Leader who collects and connects the dots:) stood out in graduates’ minds.

The respondents also recalled many elements of the experiential GJ pedagogy, such as having to keep a notebook, doing weekly genius exercises as homework, and solving open-ended creative puzzles, among others. Unsurprisingly, the Genius Journey’s out-of-class excursions to extraordinary sights related to the GJ mindsets stood out in graduates’ recollections. One graduate characterized these field trips as “going out and doing something crazy.” Some trips still vividly live on in the memories of graduates, as many students exemplified in respective comments. For example, one Thai graduate now working as a Learning & Development Manager recalled her experience of visiting the “House of Horrors”:

“We went to the haunting house discussing on the topic of Fear. It impacted me that I usually had the thought of fear to start the journey. Actually, most of the fear comes from our own thought in the head rather that being there for real. From that experience, I tended to have more courage to trial and error and if I failed, I merely learned from it.” —Thai Female

A female graduate from Italy shared how the ascent of the Golden Mount (an excursion related to Genius Journey Destination Stop 5) made a deep, transformational impression on her:

“Climbing on top of a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok, for some reason for me, was a big moment for self-reflection and made me realize how lucky I was to be in that specific place, in that specific moment. Despite some other things in my life that weren’t going as planned. I also think it was nice I could enjoy it as a self-reflective moment despite the fact we were in a group sharing that experience.”  —Italian Female 

2. Long-term preservation of the acquired creative leadership capabilities

Our second subordinated research question was: “To what extent has the course contributed to the acquisition of a lasting creative leader mindset?” Regarding the enduring development of creative competence, confidence, and leadership capabilities, most graduates also agreed to have built-up creative leader mindsets with a lasting effect, as evidenced by high means between 4.5 and 5 on the 6-point Likert scale. 

Graduates’ qualitative comments echoed these quantitative findings. For example, one Thai graduate working now as a leader in the creative agency sums up his lasting CL mindset as follows: “Thinking outside the box and intuitively. Inspiring others around me. Being a natural leader. This does not come from my position/title, but from my inner strength.” One German graduate now working as a Manager in a large Real Estate company commented in this context:

“During my career, several managers told me I have a talent for being a (natural) leader and for positively impacting people around me. I can easily focus on only what matters (mindfully).” —German Male 3

3.  Long-term career impact of the Genius Journey program

“How has the program influenced the graduates’ career choices and progression?” Before investigating our third subordinated research question, let’s first take a look at how the careers of graduates developed over, on average, almost a decade since graduating from the Genius Journey program: 

  • Interestingly, 37.4% of the graduates hold senior executive positions, 47.3% work as Middle Managers or Senior Functional Specialists, and only 15.4% remain in lower-level roles. 
  • Roughly six in ten graduates work in industries and functional roles that are more dynamic and require higher levels of creativity. 
  • Many graduates also have demonstrated high career agility by having enjoyed, on average, 2.3 vertical career jumps (aka promotions) and having made close to 2 horizontal career moves (into a new industry, business function, or country) over roughly a decade. The German graduate mentioned above noted to the latter aspect: “I recently changed industries and successfully joined the real estate (finance) industry as a new starter, because I wanted to learn something new and prove myself. Since then, I am being admired by my colleagues for having been so open-minded and courageous.” 

These demographic details are also reflected in graduates’ quantitative feedback, which suggests a strong career impact of the Genius Journey program. Half of the program graduates (strongly) agreed that the GJ course program directed them toward more creative career choices, with another 38% rather agreeing (mean 4.55). Likewise, 57.2% of graduates voiced (strong) agreement that the course positively impacted their career progression (with another 33.3% stating they rather agree (mean of 4.6). Moreover, 73.8% of respondents (strongly) affirmed that the GJ program taught them essential creative success mindsets valuable for their professional career evolution (21.6% rather agreed; mean: 4.88). 

Graduates also qualitatively affirmed the beneficial long-term impact of the Genius Journey program on their careers and important life choices. “Believe it or not, this is the single course that had an impact on my career!” shared one Italian graduate. And one of her Thai classmates, who in the following years went on to work as Regional Product Manager at a Multinational Corporation in the Life Sciences industry in Singapore, noted: 

“The Creative Leadership course influenced me both personally and professionally. Especially my perspective on fear. It helped me decide to take on the role I previously did feel I may not qualify for and also move to another country to work.” —Thai Female 2

One Spanish graduate now working as a co-founder in a Strategy Consultancy stated: 

“I wanted to work for fun and be free, not to work for money and be a slave. This allowed me to come up with an idea of an ideal scenario and then put a plan in place to achieve it, i.e., getting a remote role and directly contributing to something bigger than selling products.” —Spanish Male

When asked if the Genius Journey program impacted her career choice, another Italian graduate who is now working for a global tech scale-up in Denmark responded: 

“Absolutely, yes. It helped me pick the industry I could see myself working in the most (travel) by realizing I couldn’t have picked a job without being truly passionate about the industry.” —Italian Female 2

4. Attribution of professional successes and advanced creativity experiences to the Genius Journey 

We formulated our fourth subordinated research question as follows: “To what extent have the course graduates experienced: a) subsequent professional successes attributed to the GJ mindsets?  b) creative flow states?  c) a moment of breakthrough creativity?”

In our survey, we also asked graduates to what extent they can attribute professional success experiences to the GJ program and if they had experienced creative flow states and moments of breakthrough creativity (which was our fourth subordinated research question). Again, the quantitative results with means between 4.33 and 4.57 (on a 6-point scale) suggest that many students reported connecting professional success and advanced creative experiences to the Genius Journey mindsets.  

Here are two cases that exemplify the professional successes of Genius Journey graduates: 

  • One Thai graduate now working as a Creative Lead in a Digital Marketing Agency, was one of Campaign Asia’s ’40 Under 40 Leaders Award winners,’ and he shared: “Most of the breakthrough idea happen in the creative business process. Quite so technical, but it helps me a lot being self-confident and inspires other people with my success.” 
  • Another Thai GJ graduate co-founded the sustainable textile company Moorloop which was featured in Deutsche Welle’s ‘Global 3000” television program as a standout venture. She commented on the course’s impact: "My company is using waste as a resource so every project requires some understanding and creativity to deal with the limitation of materials.” (By the way: Can you spot the young lady with the striped shirt on the header photo taken during one of the Genius Journey excursions? She is the said entrepreneur featured on Deutsche Welle TV.)

Graduates also provided credible evidence of having experienced the advanced creative states of flow and a Eureka. For example, one female Italian graduate stated: “That creative project was a constant creative flow.” One American graduate turned entrepreneur described how his transformational “Eureka moment completely changed the way I looked at how I wanted my career to progress.” (He got his business idea for a new venture on a hike while taking the Genius Journey program). The Spanish graduate shared how his courage to opt for the path less traveled was rewarded with subsequent Eureka experiences: 

“Yes. When I decided to leave a comfortable corporate job at a large firm to pursue the idea of doing something meaningful and helping communities through tourism through a very small firm. It was a risky decision, but overcoming fear was key. Since then, I had many 'Eureka' moments that made me very happy.” —Spanish Male

5. Verdict on long-term creativeness and effectiveness of the Genius Journey program

“Almost a decade later, how do program graduates rate the a) effectiveness and b) creativity of the Genius Journey methodology and pedagogy?” I was particularly interested in graduates’ feedback on this fifth and final subordinated research question. Once again, learners affirmed these aspects quantitatively, even with mean scores over 5. And many comments also provided further qualitative context. One French graduate commented in this context: 

“I didn’t think creativity could be taught; for me, it was a quality that one has or not, but I found it interesting that we can all work on it and improve it. Today my colleagues refer to me as the creative one, but I never pictured myself as creative at all.” —French Female 1

The American graduate turned entrepreneur stated: “I successfully founded a company, likely also motivated by the learnings of this course.” Finally, one Danish graduate who worked as a product lead at Google commented on his recollection of his Genius Journey: “I would love to revisit all of it!” And he went on: “I've responded to the survey, and it actually made me think how much I would love to refresh the learnings from the course. I have lost the workbook we used back then - is there any way to get it again?“ 

Conclusion: Traveling the Genius Journey develops creative leaders not only short-term but also in the long run

So what are the main takeaways from our longitudinal research study? Our quantitative and qualitative findings confirm that the Genius Journey method and pedagogy are effective, creative, and transformational not only in the short run (as evidenced by our three earlier empirical studies) but also in the long-term with a time lag of almost a decade.

In particular, Genius Journey graduates:

  1. Affirmed the viability of its mindset-based approach to creative leader development and the importance of animating these genius mindsets with an experiential pedagogy to make the learnings stick in graduates’ minds.
  2. Confirmed a strong and enduring impact of the Genius Journey program of creative leadership development course on graduates’ creative career choices and dynamic progression.
  3. Provided clear evidence that the GJ method delivers on its ultimate goal in the long-term — inducing flow states and allowing some CL to get breakthrough ideas. 

Would you like to read the entire research paper on “Developing Creative Leaders Effectively And Creatively: Investigating Long-Term Impacts” with more results on the long-term impacts of the Genius Journey on the careers of program graduates?

  • Get access to and download the new paper by clicking here.
  • Moreover, you can also gain access to our earlier studies by visiting my researcher profile on

Have you become interested to learn how to become a creative leader in the innovation economy yourself? 

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2023. A shorter version of the article is earmarked to be co-published in the coming weeks in the Bangkok Post.