Hiring for Innovation

English: Berlin, office building of Schering c...

In the world of education, there has been a lot of chatter about the creativity crisis. According to Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at The College of William and Mary, creativity has decreased in the United States since 1990. While data and numbers are important, a trip into an elementary school classroom can help shed light on the situation.

On a recent visit to a second grade class, a parent volunteer shared stories about how students were dumbfounded when asked to make a craft for Halloween. Without a model or instructions to rely on, the 7-year olds stared blankly at the volunteer and couldn’t figure out what to do. As they began working on their projects, students criticized each other saying, “that’s not the color you’re supposed to use” and “what’s that supposed to be?” While the volunteer let students know there was no right or wrong way to use the craft table materials, the students’ discomfort was evident.

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Improv and Innovation

In May, I attended the Front End of Innovation conference. Here is a great improv technique you can try at your next meeting…

During a packed breakout session, Michelle James led attendees in an applied innovation workshop. In case you were unable to join the workshop, or were too busy to take notes, here is a run down on how to apply Improv techniques to innovation:

  1. Warm-up to break your pattern. Do a handshake without letting go until you’re both shaking hands with someone else as well. This exercise helps to wake you up and helps you get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  2. Practice “Yes, and…”Find a partner and pretend you’re on an amazing trip to Mexico. The first person opens with a sentence to start the story. The second person must say, “Yes, and” then add to the story. By listening to your partner and building, the ideas become generative and focused. “Yes, and” expands the playing field for ideas (Note: Orin goes on great vacations!).
  3. Try “Random Word Generator” where one person chooses a topic and the other person starts telling a story based on that topic. The person who chose the topic, then throws in random words that the storyteller needs to incorporate. This exercise takes “high stakes listening,” justifying, building trust, and lots of practice in adapting.
  4. Co-create a “Living Being” by taking turns drawing one line at a time. Once you’re done creating your Living Being, name him/her by taking turns writing down one letter at a time until a name emerges. (BTW, we named our Living Being “Sidney Taken” – see photo). Because you’re taking turns leading and following, it helps with leadership skills and being open to collaboration.

Improv and generative thinking takes co-creation.

This article was originally posted as Live from FEI 2013: Applied Improv for Leaders: Principles and Practices for Innovative Leadership

Creativity Means Planning Ahead

Sand Castle

A few weeks ago our family packed up the car and headed to Maine to celebrate the 4th of July. The weather, though a bit on the warm side, was perfect for the beach. The kids and I strolled to the beach with my sister, my brother, my uncle, and a bunch of friends. We had about a dozen kids in tow. Soon enough everyone was settled in and the kids set out to build sand structures. As I watched the kids playing, it reminded me how important planning ahead can be to creativity and innovation.

Both of my boys were by the water creating moats. Each child had built a circular defense system to protect against the incoming tide. My oldest son was having a blast. As the tide came in, he yelled over to a bunch of the kids and enlisted their help against the rushing water. One of the kids brought a shovel and started expanding the height of the wall, while another kid laid in front of the sand structure to divert the water away. The shouting, laughing, giggling and barking of orders caught the attention of passersby. People began commenting on how much fun the kids were having.

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What does Creativity and Innovation have to do with age: A look at Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies

Over the last few months I had a chance to get together with folks I do not see very often. One of the folks I visited with was my manager from when I was in my early 20′s. He’s always been one of my favorites – a mentor, a great listener, and someone who has a way of calling a spade a spade. In our conversation, we chatted about how a person’s age effects his/her openness to new ideas. We shared war stories of the many “older folks” we’ve come across in organizations who would rather maintain the current course of business than risk doing something new and novel.

Unfortunately, these older folks tend to be in leadership positions which means they’re also the ones charting the future course of the organization.  We also speculated these managers had an eye on retirement (and not rocking the boat) rather than a calling for innovation (hmm, this may be why there are so many companies clamoring for innovation, but very few actually achieving it).

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The Benefits of Integrating Art into the Classroom

ArtDid you know that today is National Arts Advocacy Day? Well, I didn’t either until I read The Link Between Art and Education. Not to worry, if you are not able to join the live event on Capitol Hill, you can participate virtually.

In some ways, celebrating the arts with a nationally recognized day is a step forward. Yet, the fact that art (particularly in elementary and secondary education) requires a special day reflects a step backward.
While some look at art as one more thing to fit into the school day, art teachers know that learning to apply human creativity and imagination can actually help kids become better students and better problem solvers.

In a study of 25,000 middle and high school students, those with an art education performed better on standardized tests. In fact, the more art classes a student took, the higher their SAT scores. Other benefits of an art education include improved reading and language skills, improved mathematics skills, improved thinking skills, improved social skills, and a greater motivation to learn – all leading to positive school enrollment.

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Why Constraints Improve Creativity

House of Art

 

Over the years I’ve worked with with many designers and copywriters – otherwise known as “creatives” in the advertising world. Though some would say putting constraints on creativity lowers the amount of creativity, constraints actually help to enhance creativity. When done right, constraints help to focus the creative product.

Have you ever been in a big idea session where it became a free-for-all. You know…one of those sessions where the leader starts by stating  “no idea is a bad idea.” From there, the folks in the room typically start shouting out their ideas. In these types of situations, it often  becomes a game of influence where people spend time selling in and defending their personal ideas Read more of this post

Can Mandarin Save a Failing Georgia School?

This says something.In a recent segment of the CBS Evening News, reporter, Mark Strassman shared how a failing Macon, Georgia school district is mandating Mandarin language lessons in order to stave off a staggering fifty percent failure to graduate rate. Within three years, all 25,000 students in Bibb County will be learning Mandarin. In fact, third graders at Sonny Carter Elementary School have already begun.

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The Human Side of Business

New England clam chowder. Source: http://pdpho...I’ve had the good fortune of spending time with my older relatives. One commonality I’ve noticed is that when my relatives tell stories of  the past, their stories usually involve a kind person who touched their hearts and changed their worlds. Recently my 83 year old cousin spoke of a teacher he had when he was 9. This teacher took him under her wing and helped him learn the ins and outs of the English language. She also introduced him to his two favorite foods – lobster and fried chicken. My cousin kept in touch with his teacher over the years and even reached out to his teacher to invite her to his wedding. The kindness of my cousin’s teacher was never forgotten. 74 years later, the story is still being shared.

It seems kindness is not just an individual value, but a business value as well.

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Exploring New York City with Curious Kids

New York City A trip to New York City is a wonderful way to beat the summer doldrums. After asking my 8-year old and 6-year old where they’d like to spend a few days, we landed on New York (sorry kids, maybe next year we’ll visit Dublin or Rome. LOL!). They had both been to New York a few years back and fell in love with the city. This time though, we were going with 3 others. In our group we had 4 children and 3 adults. The question soon became, “What do you want to do?”

After a ton of research and planning, we ended up with a great mix of fun and educational experiences to fill the kids’ curious minds and to ignite their creativity. Here are some of the highlights.

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Gamification and Serious Games

English: A newly unboxed Gold Classic Controll...

A few weeks back  I attended the Useful Social Media conference in New York. It was refreshing to meet people face-to-face, to learn about the new and inventive ways companies are using social media, and to commiserate over the many challenges and roadblocks that still exist when it comes to corporate social media. In many ways social has seen a great evolution, but in other ways social is in its infancy. When it comes to gamification, 2012 shined a spotlight on gaming and game mechanics – the strenghts, the opportunities, and the room for growth.

In a pre-conference workshop, gamification platform provider, Bunchball summarized the game mechanics that motivate and engage. They talked about the importance of progress (levels in games, miles and points, progress bars), status (standings in leaderboards, likes and followers, communities, groups and teams), and rewards (access to exclusives and perks, early boarding/upgrades, recognition). More importantly, the key takeaway was that gamification works best when tied to a business case.

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