Kevin Carroll is an inspirational speaker promoting creativity and social change. He’s got a great message and stage presence. Check out his TED Talk, from a while back. He’ll be speaking at SCAD this week. What really impresses me about him is that he’s promoting action over talk. We need to start doing what we are talking about. Additionally, he’s pushes the concepts of play and curiosity as motivators. His web site is here.
Creativity is valued in businesses these days because creative problem solving leads to larger solutions that can drive innovation. Since many of the problems facing companies are ambiguous with many potential solutions—some good, some not so good—creativity is necessary in developing solutions for larger scale issues.
Creative people are broad, conceptual thinkers visualizing the world through metaphor. They tend to see the forest over the trees. The use of metaphor is an effective strategy for seeing the world differently. Visualizing problems through metaphors assist in the process of finding creative solutions.
Take a moment to visualize what you think a corporation looks like. Is it big, or is it small? Is it run by nice people or mean people? How does your idea of a corporation change when you visualize it as a machine? See how changing that metaphor can change how you begin solving problems. Now change your corporate metaphor to a prison, a carnival, a brain, or an organism. With those in mind, how would you increase productivity for each of those metaphorical visualizations? See how the metaphor changes the way in which you choose to solve problems.
This post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, A Curious Path: Creativity in an Age of Abundance.
Creativity starts with a problem. As one who teaches creativity, I advise starting with an interesting problem. It’s seems logical that interesting solutions come from interesting problems. But when you think about it, are there any boring problems?
Often times, the determining factor of a boring or interesting problem is in the way you look at it. If you think a certain topic is of little interest, problems associated with that topic are likely to seem that way too. But if you put your brain to work, seemingly dull topics can become interesting. Like many things, once you identify hindrances to clear thinking, it becomes easier to view problems more objectively. Here are some barriers to clear thinking that get in our way.
Egocentrism – we have a self-serving bias when viewing topics. So if we don’t like it, we may think it’s boring.
Sociocentrism – this is defined by group centered thinking. If the group doesn’t think it’s interesting, it isn’t.
Unwarranted assumptions and stereotypes – we often take things for granted. The topic of accounting might not interest a lot of people. But there may be a lot of interesting problems within accounting where innovation could take place.
Relativistic thinking – this is when we believe that truth is a matter of opinion. Last year, I had students describe simple tools in depth to prepare for a pitch. One of the students said, “Why are we describing a screwdriver? Everyone knows how to use one.” Then a student next to him chimed in and said she didn’t.
Wishful thinking – sometimes we believe things to be true because we wish them to be. Maybe that accounting problem seems boring because we don’t want to work on accounting problems to begin with.
It’s hard to be impartial on all accounts. But if we give problems a chance, they can all be interesting. Sometimes by just focusing on the topic, it becomes interesting in itself. Take for instance, numbers deemed uninteresting. These are numbers that don’t fall in any type of loaded sequence like primes, squares or Fibonacci. To view these in these as uninteresting is actually a mistake, because the mere fact that they don’t fall in a sequence can make them interesting. See how in this video from Numberphile on uninteresting numbers.
It’s interesting to see the daily routines of some of the most creative people in history. Here’s an infographic by R.J. Andrews on the habits of some of them. What It tells us, I don’t really know. You can draw your own conclusion. The related article, INFOGRAPHIC: SEE THE DAILY ROUTINES OF THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS CREATIVE PEOPLE, was written by Jennifer Miller.
As we continue forth into an economy based more and more on market principles, interesting questions arise. Part of the issue is technology. Technological innovations have enabled the market to invade every part of our lives like never before. But another part of the issue is that many believe the market to be amoral. True market interactions are between two consulting parties. But is that really true?
In my mind, the creative people moving the market and technology forward should be asking the big, philosophical questions shaping our society as we advance into a more market based morality.
A couple of years back, Michael Sandel wrote, What Markets Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. It’s a fascinating look into what can actually be bought and sold today. As a consequence of market based pressures, many of the morays of old seem to be fading into the past. Thusly, a lot of interesting ethical questions arise. Here are a few.
- Should we teach our children to break in line? The market believes line-breaking is moral. First class flyers go straight to the front of the line at airports, past all the poor folk. Most amusement parks offer fastpass tickets.
- Should we profit from the deaths of others? The market believes yes and no on this one. Companies now carry life insurance on low level employees. Essentially, they think blue collar workers won’t live that long. Oh, the beneficiary is the company, not the employee’s families. In a failed attempt, the defense department once proposed a website to for gambling on which world leaders would be killed first. Dubbed the “terrorism futures market,” it would have essentially crowdsourced certain analytics pertaining to world stability. This could have saved money and improved global insight.
- Should justice be equal for the rich and poor? We all know that has never been the case.
And how invasive should we allow our technology to become? According to Clark Howard, Microsoft’s Bing app agreement allows the following.
- Record audio from your phone at any time without your prior knowledge
- Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without your knowledge
- Add, remove, or change events
- Read stuff that’s on your phone in many different ways
So as we look to the future, we should have this conversation. And those creating the innovations of tomorrow should be thinking about how invasive we want market mechanisms and technology. What should we monitor and what is off limits. I’d bet nothing will be off limits in the future.
So when does technology make a person not themselves—after a heart transplant, arm transplant, brain transplant, or head transplant? Do cyborgs have rights, and what about robots? I’ve shown this video of the Big Dog robot to a lot of people. Often times they express empathy for the robot, especially when it is kicked.
The matrix always seemed like a Sci-Fi fantasy. But really, it’s not that far away. Ask the big questions now.
The article I wrote on Alfredo Jaar, A Model of Thinking, is now accessible here on the ArtPulse Magazine website. I’d like to drive some traffic to that article. If you have the opportunity, please click on the article. To leave a comment you have to be logged into their site, or go here to the contact page.
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I’m changing directions a little with my upcoming book, A Curious Path: Creativity in an Age of Abundance. If you know any publishers or editors looking for projects related to creativity and how it applies to all domains, please let me know or have them contact me. The book is fully written and edited. I uploaded the intro for the book on my blog for a taste.
If you live in the Southeastern part of the U.S., The Ocean Exchange Event is a great place to see novel solutions to help our environment. I was one of the preliminary judges narrowing the field to ten finalists. The entries ranged from high-tech bio fuel products to ocean cleanup inventions. The event is from Oct. 5 – 7, in Savannah, GA. Two winners will be chosen at the end of the event with $100,000 going to each. For more, visit the Ocean Exchange website, or here to see the list of registered solutions.