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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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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Ideas are a Result of Genetics and Experiences

Whitman Giant Tell-A-Tale edition, 1963

Image via Wikipedia

The other day I saw my 7-year old son’s homework strewn about on the kitchen table and asked if he needed help. He replied, “It’s not due til Friday. I don’t need to start it yet.”

I though, ‘Ah, the makings of a procrastinator.”

After a bit of encouraging, my son decided to do a portion of his homework. The assignment included reading a book, completing a worksheet, and creating a diorama. My son had read the book previously, so he started on the worksheet. To complete the worksheet, my son needed to list the main characters, the title, and then write a few sentences about the beginning, middle, and the ending of the book.

Interestingly, as he began what I considered a language arts assignment, he started asking me about math. My son’s questions included, “What’s 31 divided by 3? Can you show me how to divide? What is a third of 31?”

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How an Arts Education Improves Academic Achievement

4-year-old boy starts painting Revell model of...

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One of the biggest differences between my oldest son’s preschool education and his elementary school education lies in the arts. When he was enrolled in preschool he brought home fantastic art projects. Every year our family looked forward to the art open house where we were invited to the gallery (i.e. transformed classroom) for a showing. Many of the students would dress up in formal attire to proudly walk their parents through the gallery. On the long awaited day, the teachers would hand out index cards with open-ended questions parents could ask to start a dialogue about their child’s work. And, at the end of the year, each grade would put on a play. One year my son was in the Wizard of Oz and the next year he was in The Sound of Music. I treasure these memories and proudly display my son’s artwork in my office.

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The Marshmallow Test as a Predictor of Future Financial Woes

Marshmallows

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In the 1970′s Dr. Walter Mischel of Stanford University conducted the famous marshmallow tests where he put 600 of 4-year olds into a room by themselves and told them they could have one marshmallow or cookie right away, or wait until he came back and have two marshmallows or cookies. This test of willpower, self-control and immediate gratification ended in 30% of the preschoolers eating the treats and some waiting as long as 20 minutes to double the number of treats. The interesting learning from this study is how 4-year olds performed on this test predicted patterns later in life. In short, children Read more of this post

Is Creativity Inherited?

A few weeks back at the FEI11 conference, I helped setup the Lego exhibit. After unloading boxes and boxes of Legos, I dove into contributing the first of many user-generated, or in this case, conference attendee-generated, creations that would grace the exhibit. As I thought about what to construct, I decided it might be nice to welcome folks to Boston by building the skyline. After constructing the John Hancock Tower, the “Boston Legal” building, the Prudential building, and a “Bridge to the Future” with a divergent and convergent staircase, I started on the waterfront. I added water details including Read more of this post

Creativity, Languages, and the Subconscious

dream pillows

Image by sweetjessie via Flickr

Being able to speak a different language helps spark creativity by providing access to more people and more cultures. This leads to greater understanding, a more open mind, and greater empathy – all great building blocks for drawing creative inspiration.

Although I live my life in an English-speaking world, sometimes when I dream about my grandparents, I dream in Chinese. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time living with my grandparents and speaking Chinese. Now that I’m older and do not speak Chinese as much, I feel most comfortable with the language in my dreams. While dreaming, I carry on lengthy conversations with my grandparents. Upon waking and walking through a play-by-play of the conversations, I am always surprised by how much of the language I still remember.

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Scientific Proof for Sensing Gaps and Imagining Possibilities

Peeking

Image by wickenden via Flickr

This is a follow-up post to an article I wrote a few weeks back titled, Creativity: Sensing Gaps and Imagining Possibilities. In the article I hypothesized about how a person’s mind could recognize a gap in a situation and fill in, or imagine, the possibilities. I used examples from my early work experience to shed light on how the mind might work.

In listening to an NPR story on an early morning commute, I was surprised to learn of scientific proof backing the sensing of gaps and imagining possibilities. In the segment Mindreading: Technology Turns Thought into Action the NPR team interviewed researchers who found, “Whether it’s musical phrases or strings of words or scenery we look at, our brains are always filling in missing information.”

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Creativity and The Brain

Colourful Thinking?

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Is creativity about nature or nurture? Turns out, creativity can be attributed to both nature and nurture. While we are born with unique ways of being creative, that doesn’t mean we are stuck with what we inherit. Studies on the brain and neuroplasticity suggest we are able to rewire our brains based on the experiences we have. By adding different experiences, we can create a rich stockpile of artifacts to draw creative inspirations, connections and ideas. Want to learn more about the brain’s role in creativity? Take a look at this short presentation titled,  Creativity and the Brain.

Do You See a ‘Merry Go Round Going Upstairs’? You Can by Trying this Creativity Technique

Windows Media Player 11 (8)

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

From time to time I like to test out new creativity techniques on my kids before I use them with clients. It is a great way to work out any kinks, as well as, a great source of entertainment and learning for the kids. I find if I am able to explain how to increase the quantity and quality of ideas by using a  creativity technique with a preschooler, then it is easy enough for an adult.

A little while back I began thinking about learning styles and how each of us has a preferred method for interacting with and processing information. In thinking about visual learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners (those who learn by physical activity), I worked to devise a creativity technique that tapped into a variety of learning styles.

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