Interview with Robin Landa

In today's podcast, Robin Landa describes how to unlock your creative potential and find great ideas worth pursuing.

Berrett-Koehler will release Robin's new book in November. It's called “The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential”. In it, Robin presents a novel technique for coming up with great ideas that matter. 

She has written 25 nonfiction books that prestigious publishers including Simon & Schuster have distributed. And she's a distinguished professor at Kean University's Michael Graves College.

The National Society of Arts and Letters, the National League of Pen Women, and other organizations have given Robin accolades and awards for her design, writing, art, and teaching. She has received the Teacher of the Year Award, the New Jersey Author's Award, and the Kean Presidential Excellence Awards. According to the Carnegie Foundation, Robin is “one of the great instructors of our time” and has trained both industry experts and college students in the art of idea generation.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to

The book will be launched in November and it is currently available for pre-order on Robin's website, Amazon, and other booksellers. Additionally, it can be found online at Berrett-Koehler and Penguin Random House. 

Unleash Creative Potential with the 3 G's: Goal, Gap, and Gain

Since Alex Osborn introduced brainstorming in 1953, Robin's method is the first fresh approach to enhancing one's creative potential to develop new ideas. Her method for problem-solving and foreseeing issues involves the “Three Gs.”

Many concepts are fanciful and only concerned with profit or novelty. The “Three G's” in her method ensure that the concept is valuable and not frivolous. The first “G” is Goal.

People wrongly believe that once you develop a good idea that you're finished. But that is only the beginning, according to Robin. That is the result you seek. The Gap is then extremely important in determining how an idea may actually meet a need.

The final “G” stands for Gain, which denotes that there must be a benefit to society, the environment, and/or living things.

Robin Landa's Encouragement

I think anybody can come up with a worthwhile idea. It's not the person, it's the system you're using. So that if the process you're using isn't helping you, try the three G's, try goal, gap and gain. It's proven to work…


Being receptive and observant is what Robin dubbed “golden habits to form,” and they are necessary to unleash creative potential. Whether in design or developing a new business, the “Three G's” can be effective.

The goal of the book, “The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential” is to enable readers to apply Robin's framework.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode.

EXCLUSIVE: Get a daily dose of inspiration, information, news, training opportunities, and amusing stories by CLICKING HERE.

Links for Today's Episode:

Download This Episode:

Right Click Here and “Save As” to download this podcast episode to your computer.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, share it on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a review on iTunes.

Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton

Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 263

How to Unlock Your Creative Potential as a Physician

- Interview with Robin Landa

John: I'm really looking forward to have today's guest with us, because number one, I like book authors, and I think it's really important for you listeners to be able to come up with creative ideas, particularly creative ideas that are worth pursuing. That's the second half of that equation. Our guest today definitely can tell us all about that. So hello, Robin Landa.

Robin Landa: Hi, Dr. Jurica. I'm honored to be here with you. Thank you for having me as a guest.

John: I'm really happy to talk to you today. You have a book coming out soon, which is really the main core of what we're going to talk about, but I will mention, as I did in the intro that you're a professor and you talk and teach about branding and just being creative, how to come up with ideas, design, other things in marketing. So, I think there's a lot we can learn from you. So, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background in addition to that, and then we'll get started with my grilling.

Robin Landa: Thank you so much. I'm a Distinguished Professor at Kean University in the Michael Graves College. I'm a designer and I started out as an artist and then segued into being a designer and then switched over to being an author. And that's pretty much what I do when I'm not teaching. I'm the author of 25 published non-fiction books by esteemed publishers like Berrett-Koehler and Simon & Schuster. And I'm very, very interested in diversity equity inclusion in making sure my students do well in the industries and making sure that they are at the top of their game when they leave our program. And that's where my intense interest in creative thinking comes in.

John: Well, the name of the book, since we've mentioned it already is "The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential." And we're going to get into that. But the thing that kind of struck me when I was looking at that, and this is a quote, "How to get great ideas worth pursuing?" So how to get the ideas and then kind of show or at least have an assumption or a belief that they're worth pursuing. So, how do you identify an idea that's worth pursuing? Is there a secret to that? I mean, once you've come up with the idea.

Robin Landa: Yes. I'll talk to you about coming up with the idea as well. But to answer your question directly, for me, there has to be more than just making a profit from an idea. There has to be what people refer to as the triple bottom line: profit, people and the planet. And so, I only see ideas that are worthwhile as those that have some benefit for individual society, the environment creatures, our planet.

John: Okay. Yeah. And I think maybe we'll get into that as we get into the Three G's. So, why don't you just take us through a description of the Three G's and maybe intertwine even the ideas about why you decided to write a book about this topic as you go along.

Robin Landa: The Three G's that you're mentioning are my process. And my new process is the first new creative process since brainstorming was introduced by Osborne in 1953. And what's really, I think, very good about my process is that it's actionable. And there are three components, as you said, the Three G's. There's a goal, the gap and a game.

And many people mistakenly think that a goal is your idea, but that's just the beginning. That's what you want to achieve. And then the gap is really crucial. And I think your audience will really understand this in a way that many other audiences that I've spoken to don't because they are physicians and scientists, and they really understand that there are missing pieces in research. There are questions that haven't been answered. There are neglected diseases. There are endemic problems that we haven't addressed.

So, thinking about a gap, whether it's a product or service, a mediated mechanism for delivering vaccines. We all know that wonderful breakthrough saved so many people by Dr. Katie Kariko and Dr. Weisman. That was a gap, right? We weren't using messenger RNA to deliver as a mediated mechanism. And so, they came up with that, against the star chamber, I should mention. The gap is crucial in really identifying how an idea can fulfill a need.

And then the third G is the gain. And I can tell you how I came to that, which is an interesting story. But for me, the game means that there has to be a benefit for, as I said earlier, individual society, the planet, the environment creatures. And so, those three G's really ensure that your idea is worthwhile and not frivolous. Because many ideas are frivolous and they're just about profit or novelty and I'm not interested in it.

John: Okay. Well, let's see. Maybe we should go back through each one and get a little deeper if we can. I remember people that I've interviewed, for example, I had a urologist I interviewed. She was working clinically, but she had a side gig. And the thing that she came up with is that her patients, her younger women that had, let's say urinary problems didn't have stylish undergarments they could wear. So, she actually created a line. That was just such an aha moment for her. It just drove her. She had never intended to even go into business on the side. She just had, which she was solving a problem. Is there a way to stimulate those kinds of ideas? I don't know, that I guess would fall into the gap perhaps, but maybe just in your model, maybe talk to me how things like that might fit in and if someone's thinking about trying to solve a problem.

Robin Landa: That's an excellent example, by the way. I should have put that in my book. I wish I had spoken to you sooner. That's what I would call a pain point.

John: Okay.

Robin Landa: If you notice a pain point, whether something like that, or he noticed that his wife had arthritis, was having difficulty using normal utensils and tools to open jars. And he realized that that's a pain point that he wanted to solve with his company. So, pain points are definitely an entry into a gap, into as you said, solving a problem.

And so, you can use my method, my process to solve a problem. And you can also use it to anticipate problems, to think ahead and wonder and notice, ask questions. Like, is there a more sustainable method? Is there a way to address a crisis before it's urgent? Well, I guess a crisis is urgent, but how do we address it when there's a hurricane, is there a way we can figure out how to create temporary shelters before it actually hits? So rather than in the moment where we're thinking about it ahead of time.

Pain points, as you mentioned, are a fantastic way. Kat Nouri was in the kitchen making lunch for her three children, and she was putting the sandwiches in disposable plastic bags, and she thought, "Boy, this is really wasteful. This creates toxic waste. Is there a way to create something that is reusable baggage? And she invented Stasher which SC Johnson bought from her. So, there is a moment where you think about what you're doing and how do you solve this problem.

John: Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. I guess maybe it's not before the second step, it's just the way it happens to be modeled, but the goal is more of an overarching, like kind of are you working in this field? Is it a medical issue? How would you describe the goal?

Robin Landa: Well, the goal can be anything. The goal can be very general. For example, an attorney, a friend of mine, and this is kind of like your audience, decided that law wasn't for her anymore. She went into it as a very pragmatic decision in life. And so, she took a very early retirement and she wanted to explore creative venues because she's a very creative person.

Her goal was very general, to explore a different creative track. She became a docent at a museum and then became the head of the docents. She took dance classes. She expressed herself by wearing very fashionable clothing. And somebody on the street in New York City stopped her and said, "May I take your photograph?" Well, now she's a fashion influencer at the age of 50 plus. She had this very general goal of being more creative, leaving her attorney job and doing that.

So, the goal can be general or it can be very specific. I want to create a brand of underwear that is more aesthetically pleasing. You can come to that goal in a specific way or in a very general way or through a passion. Many people come to a goal through something that they really love to do.

John: Okay. And then in terms of the gain, perhaps you have two or three ideas, but then you kind of vet those ideas in terms of how many people or how the environment or how something else is going to benefit from that particular idea.

Robin Landa: Exactly. It's a way of vetting it. And to me, that is really important. I came to that in a couple of ways. One main way is just understanding people, that people want something. We all want something. But by teaching advertising, we always think about the audience and what's in it for the audience. So, when you're watching a commercial, "What's in it for me?" That's the question. And so, we always tailor our advertising solutions to creating either a practical benefit, meaning something very functional, like this hair color will cover your gray hair or something emotional like you'll feel younger and feel better because of this hair color.

So, we're always thinking about benefits. When I thought, well, it's human nature to want something, but it's also in my opinion to want to make sure that the planet is okay, that we're thinking about sustainability, that we're thinking about other people, that we're thinking about underserved populations, neglected diseases, questions that haven't been asked or explored, the new James Webb telescope out there, thinking about things that we haven't answered yet. So, there's so many paths to take.

John: All right. I think that's a good model. It's a good way to look at things, step back and really look at it from all those different perspectives. Is there any secret to unlocking creative potential? Because that has to be part of this process. I know that's what people complain about. Like "I just don't have any good ideas" or "I don't know how to come up with an idea." How does one unlock that?

Robin Landa: Yes. I teach this. There are really many behavioral things that you can do. And what I call golden habits to form. One is to be observant and to really notice things. So, if you listen to really good comedians, observational comedians, they notice things that other people might miss and they turn them into humor. Velcro came because he was walking in the woods with his dog and noticed that burs were sticking to his clothing, right? So, we notice things. Or the famous story of penicillin. Being observant is crucial to being creative. And children are very observant and we kind of lose that as adults. And one characteristic that I've noticed in myself is that I notice everything. And it can be very fruitful. It can create a fertile mindset.

The other habits to forum are being receptive. And that's kind of being open to possibilities, open to potential, open to other people's points of view. And I'm not saying to listen to the ramblings of ignorant people, but if you present an idea to me and let's say it's MRNA and I'm like, "Well, no, we don't use that to deliver vaccines."

I should listen and I don't necessarily have to move forward on it, but I should be open to your educated point of view, because it really expands one's thinking. And being a mindful listener. The characteristic of great leaders is that they not only tell stories, but they are good story listeners. They really listen and listen very carefully. And I've developed that as a professor. I have to listen very carefully to my students to understand and to empathize. And then being resilient, of course, you know as a scientist that you don't go into an experiment knowing the outcome. You go in and things fail because we don't know the outcome. We're in there to figure it out, an experiment. So, you have to be resilient. And then there are other things that I can go on about, if you'd like.

John: Well, let me just observe that especially when you're talking about being receptive. It's so common when you're just having a conversation or talking about an idea that the first thing the person's thinking about is how to respond and how to argue with your thoughts. But you're right. It takes either a lot of practice or really thinking like, "Okay, I'm not going to respond. I'm going to keep my mouth shut. I'm going to listen to this idea and really try and get to it and maybe ask more questions."

I'm reminded of, I was leading a mastermind group and the core thing about that is don't jump in with solutions, just ask more questions and then you can get to the core of what the real issue is. And then there is probably some logic to it. And particularly when you're trying to be creative. So, I really like that reminder. How about one more?

Robin Landa: One more. Well, let me just say that you're a terrific listener and that's one of the reasons your podcast is so successful. So, you've put that into practice. And I think what you do is develop dialogue rather than debate. And that's a secret. That's a golden habit. I'll give you one more.

John: Okay.

Robin Landa: There are two questions you can always ask that really pose possibilities and they are questions that a lot of science fiction writers pose. And that is "What if?" What if we had a digital twin of you who would live on and carry all your memories and all your knowledge? What if we could be a fly on the wall and nobody would notice us? All these possibilities that we see and wonderful ideas that you see in science fiction films. "What if" is a wonderful, wonderful question to really get the creative juices going.And then the other one is "If only." And it's not about regrets, but again, it's about possibilities. If only I could fly, if only I had aesthetically pleasing underwear, if I had a urinary problem, right?

John: Right.

Robin Landa: Those two questions really let you get out of your own realm of experience and into alternate possibilities.

John: Yeah. I'm assuming that there are conditions that exist that make it easier to go through this process and be creative. And I think one of the things I was going to ask you about was diversity and inclusion and how that actually enhances this process.

Robin Landa: Yes. I think it's crucial to get multiple perspectives and you really need to have a diverse and inclusive group of people to do that. And multiple perspectives really broaden the thinking. And diversity equity inclusion also goes against groupthink, right? We want to avoid groupthink where it's a kind of forced thinking about people with the same values and the same background and the same attitude. So, I think that really great ideas are amplified when you get multiple perspectives from different people. And it also becomes more inclusive. You're really thinking about a broader audience.

John: Absolutely. When you were talking about that, all of a sudden it hit me. I was a chief medical officer for a hospital for a while, about 14 years. And we would have these strategic planning sessions. And the thing was, what the CEO did, that was great. He made sure everybody was included in the conversation. And we had people in that group, it was about 10 people in the senior team. Some were introverts, some were extroverts. Some were older, some were newbies. Some were different backgrounds, where they grew up and different experiences. And really the organization always came out the best when we had everybody's input and could try and kind of put it together and people would come up with would seem like the oddest suggestions or the most out there. And they turned out to be the best solution for that particular problem.

Robin Landa: And that's where being open comes in because they could have been shut down.

John: Exactly.

Robin Landa: So, you were a great leader in that case by getting everybody to listen and not shut down the discussion. That's a great rule of improv. The yes-end. You say yes and you move on it.

John: No buts, only ands. So, you keep things moving, the conversation is going and come up with more ideas.

Robin Landa: Yes.

John: Well, okay. We're going to pause for a minute because I sometimes wait till the very, very end to talk about my guest products, book in this case. So, tell us how the book is laid out and maybe even a little bit about how you wrote it. I'm always interested in hearing about authors like the process they go through. I mean, you've done so many it would be interesting to hear your advice for fledgling non-fiction authors.

Robin Landa: Well, I can give you an hour or more of that on what to do.

John: I'm sure.

Robin Landa: This book is really very, very close to my heart. I got to work with an extraordinary editor, Steve Piersanti, who is the founder of Berrett-Koehler. And he really pulled out of me I think the best that I could give. I really wanted to make sure that people understood how to use my framework, my system, whatever you want to call it, the process to get to what they need, to get the best results. I tried to get them to understand the process and then gave many, many examples from different disciplines, because this really could be used in any discipline. I came to it through my own, but it really can be used across the board. I gave an example of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. If you reverse engineer a lot of great ideas, you can see how my framework comes into play. But I'll give your listeners a clue, a tip, a big tip about writing non-fiction. Most people don't read beyond the first chapter.

John: I could believe that. I'm kind of so OCD, I will go through almost any book I start, but I agree. Okay. So, what's the solution for that?

Robin Landa: The solution for that is then in a non-fiction book, you have to lay out your entire premise in the first chapter.

John: Oh, okay.

Robin Landa: You have to give it all to them in the first chapter. And then the other chapters go on to explain different aspects of it, but everything is laid out in that first chapter. And if your listeners do want to think about writing a book, they really need to do a fantastic proposal because your book proposal at this point in time is really a marketing pitch. Not only is it about the content, but you've got to pitch it to that acquiring editor that they're called the commissioning editor in England, and a senior editor here, an acquisitions editor. Different titles, same person. That person is the first gatekeeper. But beyond that person, if that person says yes, it's got to go to the editorial board and the marketing team. So, it's got to be part marketing pitch.

John: Yeah. And that's one place where physicians are not that good at marketing and selling themselves. It's amazing. They're obviously interacting with the public constantly, but they kind of have this thing about selling themselves. But basically, that's just sort of letting people know that you're there to help and you have skills that they might need.

Robin Landa: Absolutely. And it's even difficult for me coming out of it because it's about yourself. I can advertise a brand or a product or you, but about myself, it becomes all of a sudden more modest. And so, I've had friends read my bio and say, "Really? That's all you're going to say about yourself? You've forgotten, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." But a non-fiction book proposal at this point in time is heavily part marketing pitch. You have to let editors know what makes your book special and why you are the right person to write this book.

John: That's a good point. Yeah. I hadn't thought of it and never put it that way. So, tell us what's the best way to get your book? It's in pre-order status now, right? Because it's coming out in November and this will be released basically in early September. So, we have a little bit of time, but we can pre-order it. So, what's the best way to do that?

Robin Landa: You can go to any of your book sellers, you can go to my website, which will take you to a bookseller. It's really all over the place at this point. It's on the Penguin Random House website. It's on the Berrett-Koehler website, it's on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, but I would like your listeners to know that right now, anybody who buys the book, whatever money I get, I'm giving to the red cross for Ukraine for humanitarian relief. And once the book goes into regular sales, once it's published, I give 80% of my money to scholarship funds for students in need.

John: Very nice. Yeah. That also was very encouraging when you're purchasing something like this. That's another reason to buy it. You're doing some good through that process as well as learning something. So that's fantastic. The website is So that's there, you can find a place to buy the book there. I will put links of course in my show notes and make it simple.

All right. Any last words? I guess it would be more of encouragement for my listeners, what they might get out of the book and in general, how it might help them in terms of looking for a new career or a side business or something like that.

Robin Landa: Yes. I think anybody can come up with a worthwhile idea. It's not the person, it's the system you're using. So that if the process you're using isn't helping you, try the three G's, try goal, gap and gain. It's proven to work. I taught thousands of people to use it and they're all gainfully employed and have terrific hustles and side hustles and jobs. So, it's not you, it's the system you're using. You can do it.

John: It's amazing how these things that seem to be ephemeral or "Oh, I just have to think." There are systems, there are protocols or formulas you can use. And lo and behold, they actually work once you implement them the way they can be.

All right. This has been so much fun. I'm definitely on the list to pre-order the book because I could use some help with being creative. So, Robin, thank you so much for being here today and hopefully I'll contact you when you get your next book out as well.

Robin Landa: Thank you so much, doctor. I'm honored to be with you.

John: Okay. You're welcome. It's been my pleasure. Take care.


Many of the links that I refer you to are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you.

The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life, or business.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. I do not provide medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counselor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.