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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Designing for Kids has Adult Sales Appeal

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I’ve never been much of a parade person. Not that I have anything against parades, but they’ve just never held my interest. However, this year has been different. And, it had a lot to do with how the parade was designed. Our town, probably like many others, was experiencing a dwindling parade population. In thinking about how to solve the problem, parade organizers designed a creative parade experience with kid appeal.

First, they invited the town’s little leagues to march in the parade. Second, the little leaguers tossed candy into the crowds. While some little leaguers aimed candy towards their siblings, others were happy to throw the furthest, throw to the loudest fans, or throw to unsuspecting parade goers. What a great way to engage attendees and to workout to those future-baseball arms. Lastly, little league families were invited for a free ice cream social after the parade!

Designing the parade with kids in mind had great adult “sales” appeal as well. Some of my learning from this experience included:

  • When your kids are invited to march in the parade, your entire family is more likely to attend the parade
  • Giving the marchers an activity, like throwing candy, is fun and helps pass the time
  • Siblings enjoyed watching the parade go by, spotting family members, and catching candy
  • Happy kids = happy parents!

For me, this year’s parade experience has changed my perspective. Our town did a great job of changing my mind by changing how I feel. By incorporating my son into the parade and making the parade fun for his brother, it put a smile on my face. So, each year as the weather gets warmer, and the parades become more plentiful, I look forward to Memorial Day parades, July 4th parades, and so on…

And, if you think designing for kids just pertains to parades, think again. Look no further than the cereal aisle, toy store, or video games for the explosive potential in designing for kids. The next time you pass by a product geared towards kids, think about how marketers might be subliminally (or not so subliminally) talking to parents with packaging, advertising and emotional appeal.


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My Sons’ Reactions to Creatively Ever After

Chapter 1, Creatively Ever After

Every night for nearly 7 years my husband and I have read bedtime stories to the kids. Now that the kids are older, they are excited to choose their own books. With shelves of books, I was surprised when my boys asked to read my book, Creatively Ever After. Though it is being published in just a few short weeks, I have never read my book aloud to an audience.

At first, I wasn’t sure if a soon-to-be second grader and a soon-to-be kindergartener would understand the “grown-up” concepts of creativity, innovation, and the creative problem solving process. I was a bit nervous as I started reading. My kids tell it like it is..the good, the bad and the ugly!

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Letting Kids Win at Games Builds Creative Thinking Muscles

View of a game of Strange Synergy, a card and ...

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My 5-year old loves playing board games. He also loves creating his own rules and ways of playing which drives my 7-year old crazy because he views this as “cheating.” Recently, rather than playing board games or card games with both kids at the same time, I’ve been playing with each child individually. This gives my 5-year old time to stretch his creative thinking muscles and my 7-year old a chance to enjoy an age appropriate playing environment.

In separating play time between the two boys, I’ve gained some insights. My oldest son tends to be more literal, by-the-book, and logical. To him, it doesn’t make sense to create your own rules. He sees right and wrong…and there are never any gray lines. My older son loves building things, math, science, IT class and sports. On the other hand, my younger son tends to be more imaginative. He enjoys divergent thinking. With him, there’s always lots of gray. My younger son seems to be drawn to coming up with ideas, inventing things, creative story telling and art.

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CIO’s Urged to Think Outside the Box

Server room in CERN (Switzerland)

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If you think the need for innovation hasn’t touched every corner of the workplace, think again. According to Network World, IT personnel who have their sights on becoming CIO’s need to think out of the box.

With the complexity of issues facing CIO’s, it is no wonder creative and innovative attitudes are required to get the job done. Issues like globalization, the need for acceleration, more and more data, a push to digitize, increasing proliferation of personal devices in the workplace, and having to do more with less budget, requires a great deal of out of the box thinking.

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A Little Creativity and Chicken Parmesan Becomes a Summertime Favorite

Chicken Parmesan

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I came home from work the other night exhausted. Once I settled in, the kids began asking what was for dinner. Usually, each of the boys wants something different. I typically don’t give in, but every now and then, I can’t resist. This night was different though. I was making grilled steak and grilled chicken for the adults. I figured there must be some way to get the kids to eat chicken. So, I asked if they wanted chicken parmesan.

They both jumped for joy and yelled out a resounding, “Yes!” One hurdle down, both boys agreed on something.

The next hurdle was how to cook everything outdoors. I really didn’t want to bread and fry up the chicken. In addition to chicken parmesan being time consuming and messy to make, I wanted to create a healthier Read more of this post

Homework Wars: Why Limiting Homework is Not the Solution

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

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Ever since the invention of school, there have been debates over homework. Should we institute more homework or less homework? Or, should we ban homework all together?

In The New York Times article, New Recruit in the Homework Revolt: The Principal, parents, teachers and educational administrators sound off on the homework debate. After reading the article, one thing is clear. Limiting homework is not the solution. Why, you ask?

Parents, teachers and administrators are not aligned on the problem we are trying to solve by limiting homework. This misalignment only adds fuel to the fire.

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Hospitals Turn to Creativity and Innovation to Deliver Better Care

A doctor from the United States uses a stethos...

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Though it may be counter to how many people view productivity, in order to improve patient safety while being squeezed by health care reform, Bassett Healthcare Network is giving leaders and staff paid sabbatical days. Wouldn’t it be great if all workplaces gave employees paid sabbatical days? You’re probably thinking you’d love the time off. But, what does paid time off have to do with delivering better health care? Well, Bassett Healthcare Network recognizes that doing more with less requires creativity and innovation. Sabbatical days allows leaders and staff the time to think up and pursue new ideas.  This time away from the daily grind and pressures of meeting financial performance goals and providing better services paves the way to think differently about the challenges that plague the health care industry.

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Bringing Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity to a School Near You


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Last summer The Creativity Crisis made the cover of Newsweek. The report documented the decline in creativity in U.S.  school children. This leaves American children at a disadvantage when it comes to competing in a global economy. With social, economic, and political challenges getting ever more complex, creative leadership is rising in importance. In fact, a study of 1500 chief executives identified creativity as the most important competency for the future. If creativity is that important, shouldn’t it be taught in schools? Though embracing creativity within schools is slow going, I am hopeful change is coming soon. On June 10, 2011,

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