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Archive for Creativity

Feb
06

Daily Rituals

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A lot of people think creativity comes in waves of inspiration where poetry, music and art just “happen.” According to Mason Curry’s book, Daily Rituals, nothing could be farther from the truth. Curry found an interest in the work habits of creatives and researched the daily work rituals of 161 artists, composers, poets, writers and inventors. His research is chronicled in his book.

Devoting 1 to 3 pages to each person, Curry’s work reveals two important findings. First, those who create view their creative process as work rather than some inspired movement. Second, those who create treat their craft as a job, sticking closely to a disciplined regiment that seldom varied.

If you are a creative person or even have an interest in creativity you’ll enjoy this book. Curry abolishes several myths about creative people and does so in an interesting fashion. I highly recommend it.

Categories : Art, Books, Creativity
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Jul
13

Imagine: How Creativity Works

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One of the fun books I’ve read this year is Imagine! How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. For those of you who have an interest in creativity, Lehrer’s book will provide some wonderful insight into how to develop and utilize those creative muscles.

Like other authors, Lehrer asserts that creativity is not to be “seen as something otherworldly. It shouldn’t be thought of as a process reserved for artists, inventors, and other creative types.” And, like others, Lehrer affirms that each person is hard wired from birth to be creative. This is good news for those of us who tend to automatically write ourselves off as uncreative simply because we don’t fit the stereotypes of musician, artist, designer, or even an Apple user.

The following is a sampling of the principles that I highlighted in the book:

1. Every creative journey begins with a problem. In other words, the essence of creativity is rooted in problem solving.

2. Every creative breakthrough begins with disappointment. Hopelessness, however, eventually gives way to revelation.

3. We are more prone to creativity when our minds are at ease. A relaxed state of mind fosters the stream of free association in the right hemisphere of the brain. That’s why many of our best ideas may come when we first wake up in the morning. So feel free to daydream!

4. People sharing ideas across fields in horizontal interactions is an important part of the insight process. While our natural tendency is to hoard our ideas, it is through sharing that we find the elusive idea we covet.

5. The ability to make separate ideas co-exist in the mind is a crucial creative tool.

6. Invention is really recombination of ideas that already exist.

7. Creativity is work. If you do it right, its going to feel like work.

8. Letting go of previously imposed constraints enhances our hopes of improvisation and invention. In other words, you can be so concerned about perfection that you stifle imagination.

9. The low hanging fruit has already been picked. Therefore, we need to exercise collaboration and share ideas with others in order to solve seemingly impossible problems. Possessions all become devalued when they are shared. Ideas are the only things that become more valuable when they are shared.

10. Grit is one of the most important predictors of success. Grit helps one reach their potential, because it’s not enough to be good when you can be great.

If you are interested in the topic of creativity or would like to learn how to develop your creativity, this would be a good book to pick up and read. The research is well done, but the best part of the book is the anecdotal stories that illustrate the very point the author makes.

Categories : Books, Creativity
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Yesterday I posted some introductory comments from the book Out of Our Minds by Sir Kenneth Robinson. Today I want to delve into some of the fragments that Robinson offered regarding creativity.

In Chapter 9, titled “Being a Creative Leader,” the author offers nine principles to help develop a culture of creativity and innovation. Robinson’s understanding of creativity is based on three definitions:

1. Imagination: the ability to bring to mind events and ideas that are not present in our senses.
2. Creativity: the process of having original ideas that have value.
3. Innovation: the process of putting original ideas into practice.

The principle role of a creative leader, according to Robinson, is not to have all of the ideas. Rather, it is to develop a culture where everyone can offer new ideas. This process begins with the individual, then expands to work teams, and eventually shifts the culture of the organization.

Individuals
1. Everyone has the potential to be creative.
2. Innovation is the child of imagination where playing with ideas, making fresh connections and breaking with convention are valued.
3. Everyone can learn to be more creative.
Teams
4. Creativity thrives on diversity within the framework of teams.
5. Creativity loves collaboration where individual distinctiveness among team members is respected.
6. Creativity takes time.
Culture
7. Creative cultures are supple.
8. Creative cultures are inquiring, balancing chaos and risk with honest evaluation and risk management.
9. Creative cultures need creative spaces.

Robinson’s insights from chapter 9 are helpful to leaders who are envisioning and designed brighter futures and better tomorrows for their organizations. This chapter alone makes the book a valuable resource and well worth the purchase price.

Categories : Books, Creativity, Leadership
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Oct
05

Out of Our Minds

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I came across this marvelous book by watching an interview with the author that was posted on Michael Hyatt’s blogsite. For those of us who are right brained and lean a little more to the abstract and conceptual side of the street, anything to do with creativity is compelling. So I bought it.

Sir Kenneth Robinson is Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Warwick. His achievements include a vast list of world-wide accomplishments in education, creativity, and cultural development. Out of Our Minds is directed toward the field of education in America.

His hypothesis is that our educational system is lagging, still preparing children for employment in an industrial age that has long passed. According to the author, metrics like standardized achievement tests and measuring for “I.Q.” are no longer valid means of marking student’s preparation for the new digital age. Educators will read this book with a particular bias that those of us who are not educators cannot appreciate. While I am not an educator in the narrow sense, his arguments about our public education system were intriguing.

Having said that, Robinson’s thoughts have caused me to wonder whether the discipleship models utilized in today’s local church are being effective. Most local church’s have parroted discipleship forms that are classroom models. Uniform curricula is offered at a standard time and people are encouraged to select from one or more course offerings. Little variety is offered in teaching style, for the main objective is teaching discipleship material and following the syllabus, not making disciples. If attendance is low, churches look for more sensational teaching materials (like “The Book of Revelation”) or felt need driven topics (“Financial Peace University” or other matters pertaining to marriage and the family). What if our discipleship model looked more like a Montessori school than a traditional educational model? What if we developed a system that was more British than American? What if we placed less emphasis on master teachers and more on mentoring or even peer to peer learning? What if “disciples” were allowed to participate in the development of discipleship programs vs. being asked to participate? What would that look like? What could that look like?

Is today’s church being innovative in creating disciples? That’s one take away from Robinson’s book.

Tomorrow I’ll do a second post on some of Robinson’s views on creativity.

Categories : Books, Creativity, Education
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Jun
09

Is Your Child Gifted?

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My wife sent me this chart that details the characteristics of high achievers, gifted learners, and creative thinkers. I found it interesting and thought I’d pass it along to you. The research comes from Dr. Bertie Kingore who has done extensive work in the field of gifted education. Her website is www.giftedkids.about.com. You can find the chart that details the differences by clicking here.

May
18

Ten Steps Ahead by Erik Calonius

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What happens when you take hard research from neuroscience and couple it with experiential data gathered through interviews conducted with visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson? The product of that work is Ten Steps Ahead, by Erik Calonius. Calonius set out to discover what sets apart today’s business visionaries from the rest of us and has published his findings in this interesting and helpful book. In the introductory pages, Calonius writes, “the brain is a visionary device with the primary function to create pictures in our minds that can be used for blueprints for things that do not yet exist.” So far, so good. But what really makes a visionary tick? How does it work? Is the power of vision a gift for a select few who are duly endowed? Or are there some basic elements that can be developed by anyone with a brain?

The writer observes that visionaries have the ability to find something that the rest of us have been missing. They don’t need to see what doesn’t exist to change the world, they just need to see what’s already here but unseen by others. For visionaries, seeing is everything! Ideas, like images, float around in our minds. The thing that distinguishes the visionary, however, is their ability to hold those images in their minds for extended periods of time, changing and altering them as they view them.

So how does that work? As a general rule, visionaries can’t tell you. They know what happens in their minds, but can’t explain the process in a manner that can be replicated. To them it’s just the way it is. Calonius, however, has investigated the phenomena and suggests several elements that make visionaries tick, such as how they “see” and how intuition guides their inner decision making about their ideas. Beyond the ability to see and to think intuitively, additionally, is the passion, courage, and conviction that takes emerging ideas and pushes them into reality. “Courage,” he writes, “is what separates dreamers from visionaries…the contented do not make discoveries.”

Ten Steps Ahead is well researched and well written. With a good balance of data and narrative, Calonius has provided an admirable attempt at answering important questions about vision and creativity that will challenge the reader to think about their thinking.

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Sep
29

Where Ideas Come From

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I thought this was a cool presentation!

Categories : Books, Creativity, Ideas
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Aug
16

Making Ideas Happen

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One of the things that I appreciate most about my career peers is the level of creativity they possess. Think about what the average pastor has to produce over the course of a year. There are sermons to be researched, written and then orally communicated to attendees that possess on average a seven minute attention span. There are services for special occasions ranging from holidays to weddings and funerals. There is program administration, which requires a pastor to take a concept and lead volunteers to action. And in addition to all of this is the routine writing of letters, articles, and in my instance, a blog where I make about four posts per week. All of that to say that over a lifetime, a pastor creates volumes and volumes of material, beginning often with nothing more than a Bible, a pen, and a legal pad. Many ideas get implemented. But I suspect many are left to wither and die on the corner of a napkin that is tucked in a desk drawer.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky is one of the best reads I’ve picked up in 2010. While it is clearly written for a business audience, I think it is very applicable to the pastors and clergy of our communities of faith. The title was compelling because I’m one who typically spends most of his time with the right half of the brain. Getting the plethora of ideas turned into reality has always been a sticking point for me. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed in my ministry career to be partnered with people who are excellent at gaming out those annoying nuts and bolts. Belsky’s book is helpful because through it I have discovered that I need to assume the responsibility for turning those wonderful ideas into action plans.

I think it’s important to note that Making Ideas Happen is not a book about how to become creative or how to increase creativity. By and large, the author assumes that the reader’s primary challenge is not the absence of creativity. The book is about how to take your ideas and turn them into something tangible. Any idea, regardless of good it may be, is nothing more than an idea unless it is executed. In fact, according to Belsky, an average idea with a plan of implementation is always better than a great idea with no plan of implementation.

The book is written in three broad sections. The first section deals with how to organize and execute ideas. Beginning with a bias toward action, the author walks the reader through basic steps of how to organize and structure an idea so that the idea can transition from concept into something that is concrete. The best basic advice he provides is that once the idea is conceived it must immediately be viewed as a project. Treating the idea as a project aids the creative mind in the actual implementation of the idea as well as fending off any distractions that might rear their heads.

Section two deals with “othering.” Ideas need members of the community to speak to them in order to help shape and refine them. I found this section intriguing because Belsky advocates vulnerability and transparency over and against vanity and narcissism. Anyone who has had an idea faces the temptation to become protective and possessive. Vanity can prevent the honest evaluation from others that is often necessary to put the concept in motion. As I read this I thought of artists, musicians and entertainers who have split up or sued over “creative control.” Belsky goes 180 degrees against that line of thought and encourages creative people to expose their ideas to feedback and evaluation. He makes it simple, asking the reader to consider whether creative control is the goal versus implementation. Great question!

In the concluding section, Belsky discusses the implications of creativity upon leadership styles. This section is helpful because Belsky addresses issues such as how creative people express leadership and how creative people prefer to be led. This section may have been worth the price of the book.

For too long people have polarized themselves around labels such as abstract and analytical. The author demonstrates that through discipline the creative person can have the best of both worlds. Making Ideas Happen was helpful on many levels, and I whole heartedly commend it to you for your reading pleasure. I believe you will find it beneficial.

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