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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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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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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Poetry: Music of the Soul

Colouring pencils Français : Crayons de couleu...As part of an end of the year project, my oldest son’s teacher embarked on a poetry lesson. In this intensive, active learning project, the kids learned about the different kinds of poems, wrote a half dozen poems, and celebrated the end of second grade with a poetry reading. By the way, did you know poems include acrostic, ballad, cinquain, and more? Fascinating.

The poetry reading was bittersweet in many ways. It marked the end of my son’s time at the school and served as a yardstick to demonstrate how much he had grown, learned, and developed.

Voltaire once said, “Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”

Each of my son’s poems showed different sides of him – playful, serious, fun, logical, sports-minded, and even profound. In particular, my son’s Color poem moved me. I was surprised by how such a young mind (8-years old) could be so introspective. The way my son was able to dig so deep and explore the figurative and affective aspects of nature caught me by surprise.

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The Benefits of an Arts Education

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Gessica Silverman,  participated in the  Somerville Open Studios. I’ve known Gess for what seems like ages, although in reality it has only been 6 years. I still fondly recall the day she put her wish out there for the world to hear and told me she wanted to “make art.” The bravery it took to say her wish aloud and the work it took to bring it to life was inspiring. It has been many years since we colluded on ways to make art a reality. Now, Gess is doing what she loves best and sharing her talents with the world.

When we learned of Gess’ art show, my husband and I thought it would make a great family event. We packed the kids in the car and headed for Somerville. At the studio, Gess walked us through her pieces and explained how they were made, what they were made from, the concept behind the pieces, the parts of the art making process that gave her energy, and the parts of the process that proved to be challenging. Gess did a great job breaking the conversation down into kid friendly bits. However, while polite, the kids looked like they had some bottled up energy.

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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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Is Gaming the Future of Education?

Controlador de Video-Games

I started reading Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken and can’t wait to learn more about how gaming is being used for social good. Though I am only on Chapter 1 (yes, I could use more free time. LOL!), I recognize many of the “gamer” traits in my two boys. At just 8 and 5-years old, both kids enjoy playing video games. In fact, my 5-year old has been waking up extra early every day in order to get time alone with the Wii before his brother wakes up. At first, I was disappointed that my younger son felt pressured to exchange sleep for improving his game play. After all, I’d hate to think the Wii was so competitive and/or addicting that my Kindergartener would go to such great lengths to play. However, after chatting with him about why he woke up early, I was surprised (and happy) to learn my 5-year old’s efforts to get better at the Wii were not necessarily aimed at beating his older brother, but for self-improvement and the joy that comes with unlocking new achievements.

And, in case you think play is easy, it really isn’t. Playing games is hard work. McGonigal describes the video game experience as, “…always playing on the very edge of your skill level, always on the brink of falling off. When you do fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on. That’s because there’s virtually nothing as engaging as this state of working at the very limits of your ability – or what both game designers and psychologies call ‘flow.'”

BTW, “flow” is another way of describing the state of extreme happiness. To learn more, take a look at the field of positive psychology.