How Vodka Cranberries Helps Mad Men think Creatively

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  The cast and ...

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: The cast and crew of 'Mad Men' including Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm, Matthew Weiner and Christina Hendricks pose in the press room after 'Mad Men' wins Outstanding Drama Series during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on September 18, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

With the premiere of season 5 of Mad Men just around the corner, I found Time magazine’s, How Getting Tipsy May Inspire Creativity fascinating. I’ve been in the advertising industry for nearly two decades and have become desensitized to drinking. Though Mad Men has been criticized for “promoting a glamourized and unrealistic image of functional alcoholism,a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found drinking moderate amounts of alcohol helped with creative problem solving. Perhaps that explains the acceptance of drinking as a way of life in the ad industry.

On the topic of Mad Men, alcohol, creativity and advertising…a few days ago I went to dinner with some friends. In catching up, one of my friends asked if I was still enjoying Mad Men. When I shared how Mad Men wasn’t relaxing because it was too much like work (umm, maybe not in all the ways you might be thinking!), my friends were surprised. What they were most surprised by was the alcohol. When I shared how I’ve known people who have kept alcohol in their desks, displayed alcohol on their bookshelves, and lugged in mini fridges to keep their beer (and vodka) cold, there was disbelief. I guess this type of thing isn’t normal in other industries.

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Emotional Intelligence and Innovation

Angry Penguin

A few weeks ago, my two boys engaged in a heated argument about whether reading Harry Potter, then watching the movie, was a tradition or a condition. My kindergartener started by saying watching a movie, only after reading a book, was a tradition. He pointed to the fact we had read three Harry Potter books, then watched the three movies as proof. Conversely, my second-grader rationalized that watching a movie after reading a book was a condition. He surmised the fact we never watched the movie first, made movie watching conditional to reading.

In the end, I surprised my boys by sharing they were both right. Watching the movie was both a tradition and a condition. This rocked my boys worlds. As I explained why it was both a tradition and condition, they simmered down and listened intently.  As emotions subsided, they were able to take in alternative points of view.

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How Meditation Can Help Students Improve Grades, Boost Self-Esteem, and Curb Bad Behavior

Two Kids, boy and girl (Trysta), Watch the Par...

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably seen my posts about how creativity gets stifled by stress. A relaxed mind is helpful in many ways. In fact, there is lots of chatter about the stress-busting benefits of meditation with school children. Studies have found meditation can help students improve grades, boost self-esteem, and even cut down on bad behavior. Makes sense right? Introducing quiet time should be beneficial. But, why so?

According to researchers, deliberate silence invites concentration and cuts down on stress. Conversely, noisy classrooms lower concentration and increase stress. Noisy classroom environments are also linked to lowered exam scores. A study by South Bank University and the Institute of Education in London found that test scores were cut by as much as a third if children Read more of this post

Is Teamwork Driven by Nature or Nurture?

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Some say the First Law of Nature is self-preservation. If that is the case, then teamwork runs counter to nature. But, of course, that depends on your societal, familial, or organizational culture. While Western culture might be more geared towards an individual-focus, Eastern cultures are more apt to think about things from the perspective of the team. This debate led me to consider whether teamwork was driven by nature or nurture. For some clues, I looked to my 8-year old son.

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Project Managers Are Creative Too!

idea

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There’s a lot of talk about creativity these days. A sweeping number of companies around the globe cite creativity as the number one competency for the future. Creativity beats out rigor, management discipline, integrity and even vision for this coveted position.

About a month ago, I ran a creativity training program for an advertising agency. The folks who attended the training included representatives from strategy, account management, and project management. As I invited participants to introduce themselves, a curious trend emerged. More so than any other discipline, project management professionals described themselves as “not creative.”  This is unfortunate as the prevailing question in the field of creativity has shifted from, “Are you creative?” to “How are you creative?”

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How “Good Stress” Breeds Creativity and Innovation

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There are some who believe stress is a bad thing when it comes to creativity and innovation. However, those of us in the trenches know a little “good stress” can actually help boost creativity and innovation. So, what is the difference between good stress and bad stress? When asked if people want the good news first or the bad news first, most choose the bad news, so here goes. Bad stress includes time pressure and organizational impediments, like political problems, harsh criticism of new ideas, and emphasis on the status quo. I’m sure many of you have “been there, done that.” Researcher Theresa Amabile, has spent much of her career studying time pressure and organizational impediments. If you’re interested, check out Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side. Now for the good news, stress can also be positively linked to creativity and innovation.

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Number Sense: How to Help Your Kids Reach their Math Potential

math problems for girls

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With the back to school season upon us, memories of my elementary school years flash before me. I don’t know about you, but as a child I knew instinctively what type of student I was and what type of student I wasn’t. While subjects like English, Language and History felt natural, I was never one for math.  I was reminded of my gut feeling about math as I read the New York Times article, “In Future Math Whizzes, Signs of ‘Number Sense’“. The article confirms math abilities can be identified even before children enter school.

The New York Times reports children as young as three have a ‘number sense’, or intuition when it comes to mathematical concepts. In research that first appeared in the Developmental Sciences journal, Dr. Melissa Libertus, psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, found preschoolers were able to use their number sense to estimate whether there were more blue or yellow dots flashing on the screen even before they could count. The children with better number sense were also better at simple math problems.

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How Eating Dinner as a Family Improves Critical Thinking

Mormon Family Dinner

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Growing up, my family sat down for dinner together seven days a week. My grandfather was a chef, so dinnertime was always a treat. Five and seven course meals were the norm back then. My grandfather’s day revolved around meal preparation. There were seven of us at the dinner table, so making dinner was a time consuming process. He would  start dinner preparation after lunchtime and soon our house would be filled with the wonderful aromas of ginger, garlic and fragrant spices.  These days, families are sitting down to dinner less and less. It is estimated that only 10% to 25% of families eat together 4 days a week. This is leaving our children at a disadvantage – especially when it comes to critical thinking. Outside of an educational setting, what better place is there than the dinner table for a child to practice, exercise, and experiment with critical thinking skills?

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Meetings…How many people does it take to solve a problem?

Conference room

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Recently, I’ve been pondering how many (or how few) people it takes to efficiently and effectively solve a problem. Unfortunately, sometimes solving problems means lots of meetings. While meetings are intended to promote collaboration and to bring the best thinking to challenges, not all meetings are productive. I believe  good meetings hinge upon two things: 1) leadership and 2) teamwork. As I watched the recent U.S. debt deal unfold in Congress, I began to think about how poorly solved problems could be a result of unproductive meetings.

When it comes to leadership, a good leader sets a vision, creates clear goals AND helps the team reach those goals. Yes, there are different types of leadership styles and ways of approaching situations, but as author, John C. Maxwell said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

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Imaginative Thinking Isn’t Just for Kids

"We are told never to cross a bridge unti...

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Over the past week the word “imagination” has been popping into my mind. I just celebrated a birthday and was remembering the many articles I’ve read about creativity and aging. Studies have found creativity dwindles with age as people hit their 60’s. Though I’m a few decades shy of my 60’s, I began wondering what  effects age has on my personal creativity. Given children are more prone to imagination than adults, I looked to my 5-year old for comparison.

What I enjoy about my 5-year old is his randomness. On my birthday, we celebrated by having a family lunch at a local restaurant. My 5-year old asked if his stuffed pet, Gussie Lion, could come along. He stated, “It’s a very special day and Gussie Lion would like to come to lunch.”

Of course, I enthusiastically replied, “Yes.”

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