Creativity exercise led by professor empowers women in manufacturing industry

Kathryn Jablokow presenting on stage at the Women in Manufacturing summit

Kathryn Jablokow, Penn State Great Valley engineering professor and associate chief academic officer, led a creativity and problem solving workshop to a group of 300 at the Women in Manufacturing annual summit.

Credit: Kathryn Jablokow

MALVERN, Pa. — Kathryn Jablokow, Great Valley engineering professor and associate chief academic officer, and Karen Norheim, campus advisory board member, are working to unify and empower women who work in the manufacturing industry.

The two traveled to Hartford, Connecticut, in September to attend the Women in Manufacturing annual summit, which not only educates professionals on current manufacturing trends, but also focuses on personal development and community building. Consisting of nearly 700 members, the national organization connects women in a variety of roles — from production to CEO.

Nearly 300 women attended this year’s event.

On the second day of the summit, Jablokow led a two-hour workshop that explored the diversity of creativity. Using the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI), Jablokow helped attendees understand their strengths in problem solving, decision making and teamwork.

A former student of Jablokow, Norheim first experienced KAI while pursuing her master’s degree in information science. As the executive vice president of American Crane and Equipment Corporation, Norheim has been involved with Women in Manufacturing for four years, most recently serving on the organization’s steering committee.

“Learning about my problem solving style through KAI completely changed my career,” Norheim said. “It improved my relationships at work; the impact was significant. I knew others could benefit from the exercise, so I suggested it to the board for consideration at the 2017 summit.”

Combining both hands-on activities and theory, each attendee took inventory of her creative characteristics and problem-solving preferences as measured by KAI. The workshop helped the women realize their creative potential and how to manage their talents.

“By the end of the workshop, the women viewed themselves differently,” said Jablokow. “Individuals who thought they weren’t creative saw their abilities in a new light. Creativity is not one size fits all, and it was a rewarding experience to break down the myths with such a diverse group.”

According to Norheim, the amount of data gathered at the conference is among the largest of all KAI collections and may be the largest KAI dataset for women in a technical field.

Other keynote topics featured at the Women in Manufacturing summit included developing a personal brand, recruiting skilled labor positions, and strategizing for digital growth.