Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Arts Mean Business

[26 June 2007 - Arts & Business Council of Rhode Island] Having a rich tradition in the arts isn't old fashioned, it's cutting edge. American cities are finally realizing the economic impact that the arts have on the economy and quality of life and Providence has proven itself to be the leader of the pack. Mayor Ciccillini recently hosted a breakfast to announce the findings of a study conducted by Americans for the Arts. More (PDF)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

National Religious Gathering Explores Faith, Science, Creativity and Society

[24 June 2007 - By Steven Dahlberg - From the United Church of Christ General Synod, Hartford, Connecticut] Yesterday, I attended the "Synod in the City" as part of the United Church of Christ's General Synod. The Synod is taking place in Hartford, Connecticut, for several days and has drawn more than 10,000 people from around the country. The UCC is celebrating is fiftieth anniversary during this General Synod.

The "Synod in the City" was designed to engage the broader community with the UCC members and delegates in learning, playing and worshiping together throughout downtown Hartford. Several keynote presenters spoke throughout the day and I offer some brief summaries below (with more to come). The themes from these presentations not only touched on faith, religion and theology, but on creativity, purposeful life, science, culture, society and politics. The day opened with a presentation by journalist Bill Moyers (video), followed in the afternoon with a keynote from Senator Barack Obama (video) -- both UCC members.

Many of the presentations will eventually be available online. Monday will feature a keynote (2:30 p.m. EDT) by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund.


Walter Brueggemann: An Old Testament scholar and writer who has authored more than 58 books, hundreds of articles, and several commentaries on books of the Bible. His most recent book is Theology of the Old Testament.
  • Biblical stories help us explore "what is valued and who is valued."
  • It is the poets who help us imagine "that the world can be organized differently."
  • "The poets notice" -- not the ideologues, the moralists.
  • Talking about 9/11 -- "the poets go to the depth of crisis and reach into God's conflicted heart."
  • Jeremiah offers two triads for the church and society: one is the trajectory of death (wealth, might and wisdom) and the other is a trajectory of life (love, justice and righteousness). The latter adheres with the divine purpose for life -- and it's something "all of the church needs to be talking about."
  • Talking about differences in the church, he said, we need to "learn to care with dignity and respect" for those who do not sign on to this particular agenda.
  • "Anxiety is the main pathology in our society to which pastors must respond." This anxiety is generated by our focus on wealth, might and wisdom, as well as our focus on never being good enough. He said there is a "deliberate program of inadequate productivity that leaves everyone" ineffective and unproductive.
Ray Kurzweil: This author, inventor and futurist explores the relationship between humans and the machines we've created.
He began his remarks by sharing his faith background as a Unitarian, in which he developed a life-long desire to keep learning about truth, a thirst for knowledge, and a way of living informed by the Golden Rule.
  • He said fashioned himself an inventor at five years old, though he doesn't know exactly why. However, "the key to invention is timing." He said many inventors get their products to work, but the timing to bring them to market or to have an impact in society is sometimes off.
  • For many years, he has worked on predictions about technology and its impact. He said specifics are not predictable, but the overall impact of technology is. Yet people often don't pay attention to such predictions: "Exponential growth is seductive and surprising."
  • He demonstrated one of his inventions: a hand-held device that blind people can use on the move to read signs, books and other printed material. The device has camera imaging technology, software and a voice reader.
  • For Kurzweil, the connection between technology and faith has to do with our "quest for deeper meaning and to understand more of the world."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NCPR News Forum explores aging and creativity

[20 June 2007 - North Country Public Radio] Mercy Care of the Adirondacks and Paul Smiths College will host a forum on Tuesday, June 26th, on creativity and creating elder-friendly communities. The guest speaker will be Dr. Gene Cohen, Director of the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University. Mercy Care of the Adirondacks Executive Director Donna Beal says many communities in the region are seeing changes in health and long-term care, and people are living longer. She spoke with Todd Moe. More (includes audio)

Saudi Students Showcase Innovation at National Final of Software Design Tournament

[19 June 2007 - Al Bawaba - Saudi Arabia] The best and brightest young minds of the Kingdom were on show today as Microsoft Saudi Arabia proudly announced the winning team to represent the country at their international Imagine Cup finals due to take place in Seoul, South Korea in August. The Imagine Cup is one way in which Microsoft is encouraging young people to apply their imagination, passion, and creativity to develop technological innovations that can make a difference in the world today. Now in its fifth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to be a truly global competition, with close to 100,000 registered entrants from all around the world, striving for the unique opportunity to present their ideas to an international audience of millions. More

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Else Is New?

[14 May 2007 - The New Yorker - by Steven Shapin] How uses, not innovations, drive human technology. ... The way we think about technology tends to elide the older things, even though the texture of our lives would be unrecognizable without them. And when we do consider technology in historical terms we customarily see it as a driving force of progress: every so often, it seems, an innovation—the steam engine, electricity, computers—brings a new age into being. In “The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900” (Oxford; $26), David Edgerton, a well-known British historian of modern military and industrial technology, offers a vigorous assault on this narrative. He thinks that traditional ways of understanding technology, technological change, and the role of technology in our lives, have been severely distorted by what he calls “the innovation-centric account” of technology. The book is a provocative, concise, and elegant exercise in intellectual Protestantism, enthusiastically nailing its iconoclastic theses on the door of the Church of Technological Hype: no one is very good at predicting technological futures; new and old technologies coexist; and technological significance and technological novelty are rarely the same—indeed, a given technology’s grip on our awareness is often in inverse relationship to its significance in our lives. Above all, Edgerton says that we are wrong to associate technology solely with invention, and that we should think of it, rather, as evolving through use. A “history of technology-in-use,” he writes, yields “a radically different picture of technology, and indeed of invention and innovation.” More

Monday, June 18, 2007

Report: NCLB has changed teaching, not always for better

[15 June 2007 - Education Week] Educators are adjusting their teaching practices in response to No Child Left Behind, but not always in ways policymakers might want, according to a three-year RAND study. Sizable percentages of teachers in California, Georgia and Pennsylvania say they spend more time on test-taking strategies, focus more narrowly on tested topics and tailor teaching to students just below the proficiency cutoffs. More

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving

[11 June 2007 Harvard Business School Working Knowledge - by Karim R. Lakhani, Lars Bo Jeppesen, Peter A. Lohse, and Jill A. Panetta] Scientists are generally rewarded for discoveries they make as individuals or in small teams. While the sharing of information in science is an ideal, it is seldom practiced. In this research, Lakhani et al. used an approach common to open source software communities -- which rely intensely on collaboration -- and opened up a set of 166 scientific problems from the research laboratories of twenty-six firms to over 80,000 independent scientists. The outside scientists were able to solve one-third of the problems that the research laboratories were unable to solve internally. More

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Biology of the Imagination

[Summer/Fall 2007 - Entelechy - By Simon Baron-Cohen] In what sense might something as intrinsically human as the imagination be biological? How could the products of the imagination -- a novel, a painting, a sonata, a theory -- be thought of as the result of biological matter? After all, such artifacts are what culture is made of. So why invoke biology? In this essay, I will argue that the content of the imagination is of course determined more by culture than biology. But the capacity to imagine owes more to biology than culture. More

Monday, June 04, 2007

Local view: Now could be creative turning point for Duluth

[2 June 2007 - Duluth News Tribune - Opinion by Steven Dahlberg] There is a common perception that creativity is simply about art and artists. Yet it was an artist, Joseph Beuys, who said: “Everyone is an artist.”

As the Duluth-Superior area proceeds into the Knight Creative Communities Initiative, it’s important to consider how to engage everyone’s creativity — not just that of artists or the creative class — in community and economic development.

Creativity matters in business, education, nonprofits, government, arts and neighborhoods. It matters for children in school, for professionals in the workplace and for retirees in the community.

For more than 15 years, I’ve been working internationally in the field of creativity, advocating for the importance of creative thinking and helping people unleash and harness more of their inherent creative abilities.

Yet my creative endeavors began in Duluth as a teenage entrepreneur, a freelance writer and photographer and a political junkie. I am delighted to know that the Duluth-Superior area was among just three cities chosen by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to work with economist Richard Florida.

In my work, I’ve repeatedly seen people discover through creativity what gives them purpose and meaning and then begin to translate those desires into concrete realities. As a result of this insight, I’ve been exploring how we might be more intentional about helping people become better creative thinkers and do more of what gives them a sense of purpose.

This is engagement — doing what we love, what we are good at, what gives us meaning, what makes us happy and what uses our strengths. Tapping into this is what the KCCI is all about.

The Duluth-Superior area, like many regions, faces the challenge of engaging as many people as possible in creating a positive community. The risk of not doing this is creating a community with stagnant job growth, environmental losses, schools that resemble factories and people who flee the decay or stay because they don’t care.

Creativity is key to engaging people and can be pursued in many areas.

We can deliberately teach for creativity — helping students learn how to think in new ways, develop their strengths, imagine alternatives and generate ideas.

We can develop cultures of creativity in organizations, where everyone’s creativity is encouraged and valued and leads to transformational innovations in products and services.

We can link entrepreneurship, research and creativity so that people know how to translate great ideas into real businesses, producing more jobs and a flourishing community.

We can help pre-retirees and seniors use creativity to identify their purpose and ways in which to express this in their community. Many are living longer and healthier than ever before. “Checking out” of the community after full-time work isn’t an option.

We can get citizens involved in the democratic process by applying their creative thinking and problem-solving. Creativity provides a process for dialogue, better understanding and integrating diverse viewpoints.

We can shape economic development opportunities that are based on explicit creativity goals, along with traditional objectives. We need to learn to consciously talk about development in a creativity context.

We can use public art to beautify public space, and to involve community members in conceptualizing and creating the art itself.

We can engage nonprofits and faith communities not only in serving their communities, but actively imagining and creating them as well.

Any community in America can pursue these opportunities. Whether it’s cities like Duluth, the inner city of North Minneapolis or the former New England mill town where I live now, the challenge remains the same: How might we deliberately apply our creativity, engage in personally meaningful activities and improve the quality of life in our city or neighborhood?

My experience growing up in Duluth in the 1980s incorporated three of the “Ts” that Richard Florida describes: talent, tolerance and territory.

My talents of today were seeded in Duluth — in schools, at the public library, in small businesses, in political involvement and in volunteering. Plus, I benefited from mentors, teachers and parents who recognized and encouraged my strengths and talents.

In Duluth, I first learned to appreciate the value of immigrants and the importance of social justice. I became open to diverse ideas, arts, creativity and politics.

Duluth instills an authentic sense of place, blending its unmatched natural assets with built amenities — from hiking, skiing, picnics and the lake to more recently added amenities such as the Lakewalk, coffee shops and cool entrepreneurial businesses.

Hopefully, May 2007 will be a turning point for the Duluth Superior Area — where the creative capacity of each individual is recognized, the future is imagined together and the common good is enhanced through collective creative expression. The time is now to transform the raw materials of the past 20 years into the vibrant creative community waiting to be born.

Steven Dahlberg is a native of Duluth, a writer and principal of the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, a creativity consulting firm based in Willimantic, Conn.

Make Your Company a Talent Factory

[June 2007 - Harvard Business Review - by Douglas A. Ready and Jay A. Conger] Stop losing out on lucrative business opportunities because you don’t have the talent to develop them. ... Despite the great sums of money companies dedicate to talent management systems, many still struggle to fill key positions--limiting their potential for growth in the process. Virtually all the human resource executives in the authors' 2005 survey of 40 companies around the world said that their pipeline of high-potential employees was insufficient to fill strategic management roles. The survey revealed two primary reasons for this. First, the formal procedures for identifying and developing next-generation leaders have fallen out of sync with what companies need to grow or expand into new markets. To save money, for example, some firms have eliminated positions that would expose high-potential employees to a broad range of problems, thus sacrificing future development opportunities that would far outweigh any initial savings from the job cuts. Second, HR executives often have trouble keeping top leaders' attention on talent issues, despite those leaders' vigorous assertions that obtaining and keeping the best people is a major priority. If passion for that objective doesn't start at the top and infuse the culture, say the authors, talent management can easily deteriorate into the management of bureaucratic routines. Yet there are companies that can face the future with confidence. These firms don't just manage talent, they build talent factories. The authors describe the experiences of two such corporations--consumer products icon Procter & Gamble and financial services giant HSBC Group--that figured out how to develop and retain key employees and fill positions quickly to meet evolving business needs. Though each company approached talent management from a different direction, they both maintained a twin focus on functionality (rigorous talent processes that support strategic and cultural objectives) and vitality (management's emotional commitment, which is reflected in daily actions). More

At 3M, A Struggle Between Efficiency And Creativity: How CEO George Buckley is managing the yin and yang of discipline and imagination

[11 June 2007 - Business Week] Not too many years ago, the temple of management was General Electric (GE ). Former CEO Jack Welch was the high priest, and his disciples spread the word to executive suites throughout the land. One of his most highly regarded followers, James McNerney, was quickly snatched up by 3M after falling short in the closely watched race to succeed Welch. 3M's board considered McNerney a huge prize, and the company's stock jumped nearly 20% in the days after Dec. 5, 2000, when his selection as CEO was announced. The mere mention of his name made everyone richer. McNerney was the first outsider to lead the insular St. Paul (Minn.) company in its 100-year history. He had barely stepped off the plane before he announced he would change the DNA of the place. His playbook was vintage GE. McNerney axed 8,000 workers (about 11% of the workforce), intensified the performance-review process, and tightened the purse strings at a company that had become a profligate spender. He also imported GE's vaunted Six Sigma program—a series of management techniques designed to decrease production defects and increase efficiency. Thousands of staffers became trained as Six Sigma "black belts." The plan appeared to work: McNerney jolted 3M's moribund stock back to life and won accolades for bringing discipline to an organization that had become unwieldy, erratic, and sluggish. Then, four and a half years after arriving, McNerney abruptly left for a bigger opportunity, the top job at Boeing (BA ). Now his successors face a challenging question: whether the relentless emphasis on efficiency had made 3M a less creative company. That's a vitally important issue for a company whose very identity is built on innovation. More

3M's Battle Between Efficiency and Creativity: Inside Innovation Issue #5

[May 31, 2007- Business Week's NussbaumOnDesign - Bruce Nussbaum] You see it again and again: Six Sigma versus Innovation. The latest issue of IN tackles that issue with an indepth look by Brian Hindo at how 3M lost much of its creativity in search of process efficiency and how it got it back. Some companies--Bank of America, Starwood and others--appear to have found that balance between efficiency and creativity but it's rare and difficult to achieve. Sometimes they have to double-track the two processes and then link them up somewhere in the organization. More