Friday, April 25, 2014

Creativity: Music to my ears

I have worked hard, and been successful I think, at being a positive person while taking the Standford creativity class.  The class has been fun and I have learned a few things.  More than that, I have used the skills needed to be creative.
However, my cynical, snarky side has questions.
From Dr. Seelig's book.
"B.F. Skinner found that intermittent, or random, rewards lead to more robust behavior....gamblers play on the slot machines for hours, waiting for random payouts.  This principle can be sued to enhance creativity by giving intermittent recognition for creative work.  Consider using surprise rewards for creative contributions, or randomly giving special perks for particularly innovative ideas.  Knowing that at any time there could be a wonderful surprise as a reward leads to enhanced creative work." (P123, location 1414 of 2717)
I don't know Skinner's work but the example of slot machines suggests one is rewarded for simply being there, rather than performing novel work.

Last week's project was to brainstorm 100 ideas for how music could help solve a problem.  Our problem was "How can we encourage people to buy or read more books and be more literate?"  The last ten or twenty ideas were very good and that was expected (the first ideas are commonplace and obvious) in the brainstorming homework for the creativity class - is it specifically because of the brainstorming or because I/we have thought about the subject deeply and nearly continuously for more than a day?
Perhaps the official graders at the Stanford Creativity class are all superstars!  Maybe, I am learning, just by seeing their suggestions, how wildly creative people can be.  After finishing our own 100 ideas brainstorm, it is now up for evaluation by classmates. Each student needs to evaluate 8 other brainstorming lists, with the first three having been previously looked at by Stanford TAs.  After we submit our evaluations, we can see how we match or differ from the Stanford people.  In many ways my own commentary matches what the TAs except in the 'suggestions' category.  I have been noncommittal in my suggestions - not much invested in them, after all - but the TAs have suggested imagining the events happen on the moon or that Superman become involved.  Is this wild, valuable creativity or attempting to appear creative by throwing wild ideas in the air?  As one gets more chaotic, the actual value goes down - Astronomers might fret over the signal to noise ratio.
"Consider using some prompts that really stretch the imagination... How would superman solve this problem? How might you solve this problem 100 years ago?
Come up with really wild ideas... How might you do this on the moon, for example. "

Perhaps to get crazy enough, you need to get super crazy then dial it back.
As with many projects I have worked on, I think ours lacked polishing at the end.  We had more than a hundred ideas and the mindmap format worked but the results could have been displayed a little more clearly.  Other groups had their lists numbered (as ours should have been) and broken into several images for each category of idea.  The mindmap does a great job of displaying categories but takes effort to pan and zoom to see them all.
It was great to see in the book and on the class video, some rules for brainstorming.  i will repeat them here soon.  Everyone knows the basics, but there are important fine points, we are told.
I am really happy to read about people eating well.  Ah, I hope all the people writing about "branstorming" were talking about eating and not the effects of all that roughage.

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