Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Ted Videos - Play and motivation

I watched five videos today, mostly focused on creativity, but at the end, going where the suggestions took me.

Creativity and Play and Surprising Science of Motivation were great. Gilbert was interesting but, for me, insubstantial. Tan was a waste of time. Behar was interesting, but more product oriented - good, but not my focus.

As Ken Robinson said, kids aren't embarrassed by making mistakes. Adults are.

Security to take risks.

Playfulness helps us get to better creative solutions

Kids ask "what is it?" + "What can I do with it?"

Test or skill or exercise:
30 circles test. 6 circles across by 5 deep. Adapt as many circles as you can into objects (give example) Quantity is important: One minute.
Who used variations on a theme? - Smiley face, angry face, sad face…
Who followed the examples given?
The goal is to break self-editing. The first stage of brainstorming is to not edit or censor yourself.

I feel, as did the audience when asked to draw their neighbor, I should apologize or defend the small number (and low quality) of my drawings. If you couldn't tell, there are three faces, two fruit (and you probably couldn't tell. They are an orange and a watermelon) and a globe.

Purdue Creativity test. - find out what it is. It seems to be related to the 30 circles. Find many uses for a paperclip.

Brainstorming rules on wall of Ideo (Brown's company) of conference room - defer judgement, go for quantity,
Rules for creativity - break the old rules and norms. Better brainstorming and outcomes from following the rules.

Building: Average western first grader - 50% of their time in construction play. Classic learn by doing.

Mentions 'post it notes' the only creative tool in cubicle-land - one of my favorite tools for ESL class.
If you care, my Post-it in-the-classroom suggestion is to use them
and a blank page to make a board game. Different coloured tiles
can have different meanings in the game. Trivia games work well, as do
Snakes-and-ladders type games and combinations - come on, be creative about it!

Creativity and role-play. Test for flaws in design.

When children role play, they actually follow social scripts closely that they learn from us adults.

Play is not anarchy. Play has rules. When kids play 'cops and robbers', they have an agreed script.

Good teachers spend a lot of time thinking about how to move kids in and out of play.

Generative mode, then development - divergent, then convergent. A serious, professional adult and be playful.

summary: We need trust to play and trust to be creative.
Exploration - go for quantity
building - thinking with your hands
role play


"…advertising is the price companies pay for being unoriginal."


A little boring to me. Funny, but not informative.

After her bestseller book, people would ask her about fear: "Aren't you afraid that you will never write a book to top this one?", "Aren't you afraid that you are keep writing all your life and you're never going to write another book that anyone cares about?"

The candle problem: candle, a box of thumbtacks and matches: Your job is to attach the candle to the wall so it doesn't drip on the wall.
Most people take a lot of time to do it. Use the box (holding the thumbtack) to hold the candle.

More from Lifehacker - also discussing Dan Pink's TED talk.

Motivation and creativity

I will time you on how fast you can solve the problem

one group was told, "You are the control group I am timing you to find an average time, the normal time, the typical time."

Second group was offered rewards: top 25% = $5. The fastest = $20

Second group took 3:30 longer than the first group.

Motivator is meant to enhance creativity but actually blocks or inhibits creativity. Many motivators don't work or do harm.

"There's a mismatch between what science knows and what business does."

extrinsic motivators - carrot and stick - often don't work and do harm.

Rewards narrow our focus, concentrate the mind, that's what they are meant to do.

Pink shows how the candle problem can be much easier and extrinsically motivated: Move the tacks out of the box. Now, rewards enhance the speed greatly -- because the solution is much clearer when the box is there empty. Obviously, use the box.

Old job descriptions were like the easy candle problem, but new job descriptions are like the hard candle problem.

Computers and mechanical solutions can solve the easy problems, people are needed to do the creative stuff.

researchers (Areily, Gneezy, Lowenstein and Mazar) had subjects play games and offered 1) low rewards, 2) medium rewards and 3) large rewards)
"As long as the task involved only mechanical skills, bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance."
"But once the task called for "even rudimentary cognitive skill", a larger reward led to poorer performance."
"…higher incentives led to worse performance."

Autonomy: Management is great if what you want is compliance. If you want engagement, self-direction is better.
Pay people honestly and fairly -get the issue of pay right off the table.

Examples: an Australian software company gives engineers one day every few months off of regular work and orders the engineers to work on something personal and individual. Google does the same thing with it's 20% plan - spend 20% of your time on personal projects.
Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) - autonomy on schedule and workplace, but deliver content. How, when, where is up to the staff.
Encarta (Microsoft encyclopedia) vs Wikipedia - Encarta had well-paid staff and managers, Wikipedians work for free, for fun. Which is more famous and used now?
Hey, I should check out Wikipedia on creativity!

Other parts of performance but not covered in this TED Talk: Mastery & Purpose


This one is next for me. I am not sure how or if it will relate to creativity, but it does sound interesting.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

more resources for use creatively, if you aren't distracted

This blog seems to have become merely a place for my store interesting websites and ideas until... well, I get around to them.

Today is no different.  I present to you 40 writing, music and art resources!  A sample:

  • ScriptFrenzy-Another social contest like NanoWrimo, except you have to complete 100 pages of a script during April. You may write any type of screenplay, stage play, TV show, short film, comic book, graphic novel, or adaptations of novels. You also have the option of doing this with your students and borrowing  Alpha Smart Neos if you register by February 28th.
  • One Word- You are given one word and sixty seconds to write about it. When you are finished, you have the option to publish this to your blog or on Facebook.
  • Write Rhymesstudents who are writing poetry can find more words that rhyme! Check out Kelly Tenkely’s blog post for creative ways to integrate this tool into a lesson!
  • Word Magnets- Mix text up and create new stories, poems, and more. You have a variety of backgrounds and graphic organizers to choose from. Visit Nik Peachey’s post for more ways to use this amazing tool!
  • Penzu- A free place to keep a journal or your writings. You can choose to make them public or keep them private with encryption codes.
  • Character Chart- This chart will help your students flesh out their characters.
  • Seventh Sanctum- This website provides 100s of generators for helping with creating Anime characters to finding plots for your movie or story.
  • Cliche Finder- Are you searching for a cliche but only remember a word? Try this search engine.

Oh, I do plan to be more active here.  I am currently looking for work and have a few personal problems to work out.  Expect more here by March at the latest. Expect it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

midway through 'Cracking Creativity'

Cracking Creativity describes a teachable process to become (or become more) creative.  I'm finding it interesting, and the steps and instructions feel right.  Still, I have two concerns.

First, I haven't actually used any of the steps, only passively read (two-thirds so far) the book.  The books specifically states that creative people are prolific, although that sounds a bit like a truism.  Anyway, I definitely need to dig in and perform the tasks described.  There are a few techniques given but all start with a problem statement or a focus phrase or idea.

Now, "problem statement" makes it sound like a part of the scientific method.  And that brings up my second concern.  Michalko (the author) goes a long way to demystify how creativity works.  He is not completely successful and I'll visit that point soon, but lets look at where he has succeeded.  The steps he gives are clear and pragmatic.  I am currently reading about how to properly brainstorm.

Here is a short summary.  Start with a problem or focus for your brainstorming, then starting writing down whatever you think of.  It is not exactly stream-of-consciousness but you definitely need to not hold back - this is not the sorting or selecting phase.  It can be hard to start thinking of ideas so setting a goal and a time limit is recommended: 20 ideas in five minutes, for example.  After creating the ideas, it is time to sort.  Typically, one needs to throw away the first few ideas as they are the most cliche'ed or stereotyped.  They tend to be the result of reproduction rather than production, you are repeating things and ideas you have already learned rather than created anything.

I think this would work (again, I have not tried it yet), but I am concerned about my reaction.  The process has been demystified and I feel let down.  This is strange and irrational, I know.  I deliberately chose the book and spent money to get it so that I could understand creativity better.  Now I am complaining that I don't like it?  What did I expect?

Well, that last doesn't have to be a rhetorical question.  I expected or hoped for tricks and easy routes to creativity.   Here is an example:
A study in the scientific journal Brain and Cognition suggests that increasing the "crosstalk" between the brain's left and right hemispheres can increase creativity. Researchers from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ran an experiment on 62 people to gauge creative thinking. After a first try at the task, some of the participants were told to shift their eyes horizontally back and forth for 30 seconds, an exercise that boosts the communication between the hemispheres.

Now, I know the value of hard work and I have experimented somewhat with meditation (another discipline that appears to be easy, but requires, almost by definition, fierce and tiring concentration) but I guess I wanted a magical answer.

Earlier, I wrote that I would return to the point that creativity is still mysterious. As I have described on this blog, the actual ideas still appear seemingly from nowhere. When I wrote my story about Russell's teapot, which didn't win the contest, by the way, the focus of the idea sprang nearly complete in my mind.  The sudden appearance of these ideas is still wonderfully unexpected for me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

a short update

I received 'Cracking Creativity" by Michael Michalko and am slowly getting into it.  I am busy with other things right now and can't give it the time I want to.
Fun with lateral thinking and movie titles.
Learn something novel every decade. A blog post about research into brain research and learning new things.