Thursday, September 27, 2007

Continental Creative President: European Leader Calls for Culture, Diversity and Openness to Solve Global Problems

[25 September 2007 - Applied Imagination - By Steven Dahlberg, Editor, Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit, New York] The Global Creative Leadership Summit, hosted by the Louise T. Blouin Foundation, wrapped up today in New York. Among the Nobel Prize winners, global CEOs, neuroscientists and artists who participated in dialogues about global issues were several enlightened political leaders -- including the president of Iceland, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana and the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

In the United States, advocates of creative community and economic development are hard pressed to find leadership at the federal level of government -- starting with the omission of creativity and arts in most of education. Yet at the state level, leaders such as Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu are spearheading projects like Louisiana's Cultural Economy Initiative to help put the state's culture and arts sector at the center of development -- including rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

I was particularly pleased that President Barroso's closing keynote of the three-day summit made a strong case for the role of creativity, innovation and diversity for addressing global problems such as climate change and fighting poverty. "Those are the two main tasks of leadership in the 21st century," he said. The other global issue linked with solving climate change and poverty is culture. "Culture is a solution."

Though President Barroso's call for creativity was somewhat aimed at the role that Europe can play in addressing global problems, it also is relevant to the rest of the world for engaging people, organizations and communities in creative problem solving.

I will let President Barroso's final words speak for themselves:
Because it is with a paradigm of openness, of acceptance of the difference ... almost the love of difference, to like the difference ... and to see the difference not as a problem, but as something that increases the variety. It is with this attitude that we can face those challenges we have today.

We are now in the position of moving from a parochial system to a real open paradigm where we accept the difference -- not tolerate, but to accept the difference (I don't like the word "tolerance") -- as something that increases the variety and the richness of our world.

We have some common rules, of course, and those common rules have to be based in the old principles of freedom and democracy ... but that sees differences, including multi-culturalism, as something that is positive, not as a challenge. So the increased plurism in our society, as a multi-cultural society, is being something good, the cross-fertilization being something good for mankind, for the economy, for the culture, in general.

And this is the change, the evolution, of the paradigm that we need today, where no regional diversity should be pushed out, no culture should be destroyed, that individual identities are strengthened in order to play on the new global stage.

Some days ago I was in Kassel at Documenta, the most important contemporary art event in the world. It was amazing there! It was the best school of globalization I've seen recently because African culture, Latin American culture, Asian culture were not treated as folkloric as (they were) before, but at the same level of respect with European or American culture.

So what's going on in the field of culture, of art, is really amazing. And we should find there the inspiration also for many of the political problems we are now facing.

What we should now do and work (toward as) political leaders, as creative people, from the sciences, is precisely:
  • Proposing, not imposing, solutions.
  • Not imposing results, but proposing solutions.
  • Asking questions where we try to establish the links and the connectivities between creativity and innovation.
We need at the same time, all the benefits of the innovation that is now brought by technological discoveries; but (also) the creativity making, very often, the links with the old humanities.

This is where we bring the idea of connection -- using knowledge effectively from science AND culture (when I say "culture" I include the poetry, I include the arts) -- bringing together those aspects, not just technological innovation, but creativity of spirit.

And this is the kind of leadership we need -- leadership that brings humanism back into (the) question. In the European Union, we can give a contribution to this because we are trying to promote an open, outward-looking, engaged society. That is why I believe we have to do that with others (around) the world. Not with the old idea of sovereign states that try to rule the world, but precisely working with the member states, with the idea of a "community of interest" with an ethic of a global responsibility. In Europe we are well-placed to do that and we want to do that with our good friends around the world.
In the United States, we need to start advocating for a similar approach and taking deliberate steps to make policies that both support and apply creativity in our cities, states and nation. Perhaps we will begin to hear more specifics about "creative communities" from the U.S. presidential candidates (are we moving that direction?). Indeed, such a position might even help that candidate differentiate himself or herself from the other candidates -- and make an important contribution to 21st century challenges at home and abroad.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Huckabee: God designed kids to be creative

[25 September 2007 - Baptist Press] Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stressed the importance of music and art in education as he delivered a lecture at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., Sept. 24, noting that students made by a creative God should be encouraged in their own creativity. "I tend to think that one of the greatest mistakes in education over the past generation has been that many school districts have cut their budgets in music and art programs," said Huckabee, a 1976 graduate of Ouachita. "And in doing so, they've done one of the dumbest things that could ever be done that really is harmful to students in this country." ... Some would think CEOs are looking for technical talents, but actually they're looking for creativity, he said. "It's not simply people who know something but people who have imagination in knowing what to do with what they know," Huckabee said. A former Ouachita trustee, Huckabee recommended that students read a book by Richard Florida, "The Rise of the Creative Class," in which the author predicts that the future economy will be driven not by those who are strong in technology, agriculture or manufacturing but those who are creative. "The accommodation of the creative class really is the foundation for the future of our nation's economic strength," Huckabee said. More

Exhibition Review: Jane Jacobs, Foe of Plans and Friend of City Life

[25 September 2007 - New York Times] Nearly a half century ago, at the dawn of an era renowned for its utopian dreams and dystopian diagnoses, a journalist who loved the American city wrote an attack on all the professional planners and idealists who believed they could design the perfect urban habitat, the city beautiful, a metropolitan Eden. Forget it, was the message Jane Jacobs elegantly hammered home in that 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” There is no utopia to be found. And every fantasy of such a paradise — the Modernist towers of Le Corbusier, the Garden Cities of Ebenezer Howard, the cleared slums and ribboned roadways of Robert Moses — has led to urban desolation and ruin. At the time she wrote her book, cities were beginning to totter like drunken derelicts seeking lampposts for support. As an exhibition opening today at the Municipal Art Society reminds us, Jane Jacobs did not believe that planners could ever restore life to American cities. Instead she put her faith in the chaos of urban life, in diversity, in people — the grocery store owner, the young mother, the child playing in the street, the watchful busybodies leaning out of windows. Cities were at their best, she wrote, when the “ballet of the sidewalks” was evident, a dance that was intrinsically “spontaneous and untidy.” Her prescription was simply not to get in its way. ... As a demonstration of some of Jacobs’s most important ideas, such displays are excellent; they focus on “four key qualities of healthy, vibrant cities”: 1) Streets should have mixed use, with retail and residences mingled. 2) Streets should be frequent, without too many long blocks, thus encouraging interaction and exploration. 3) Buildings should be varied in purpose and design and, ideally, date from different eras. And 4) urban concentration is important and encourages diversity. More

“Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” continues through Jan. 5 at the Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue, at 51st Street; (212) 935-3960.

Robert Whitcomb: Aging with the arts

[14 September 2007 - Providence Journal] With the aging of the U.S. population, the specter of Alzheimer’s looms ever larger. After all, the fastest-growing cohort of the population is 85 and older. But we should not consider Alzheimer’s a problem only for people in their 60s and older. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 250,000 to 600,000 people in America have early onset of the disease. There are devastating cases affecting people in their 50s, 40s and even late 30s. This needs more attention from medical researchers. As often happens in medicine, treatment can come from strange places. For instance, a current study in the journal Neurology suggests that statin drugs, taken to ward off heart attacks in people with high cholesterol, can help to at least slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Consuming coffee, believe it or not, may also be helpful. New medications to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s are being investigated at Boston University (; [617] 414-1078) and elsewhere. While we await medical breakthroughs, there are lifestyle actions that we can take to fend off dementia as long as we can and to help make patients’ lives comfortable. ... Another strategy is using the arts to retain, or reawaken, our core identities. In her book, I Remember Better When I Paint, Berna Huebner movingly describes, through the case of one patient, how some demented elderly people can be reconnected to themselves and their pasts with the help of art students who work with them in creating art. More

Creative Economy Conference Report Now Available

[26 September 2007 - Vermont Council on Rural Development] The Vermont Council on Rural Development's summer conference, Advancing Vermont's Creative Economy, drew over 250 participants from across the state. They were eager to share their stories, strategies and questions about growing a vibrant economy rooted in creativity, entrepreneurship and Vermont values. The State House event celebrated successes to date. It also provided a framework that allowed attendees to focus on current challenges and recommend specific policies to advance this work in Vermont. Eight working groups looked at different aspects of this emerging sector, covering topics such as agricultural innovation, incubating creative new businesses, using the web as a creative tool, and developing downtown activity. The conference report, including priority recommendations, notes from each working group, a summary of the panel discussion and texts of key speakers is now available. Full Report (PDF)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vision Problems

[March/April 2006 - Your Church - Christianity Today] ... As futile as it is to depend on past successes, adopting the current methods of others can be equally impotent. Mimicking the successful strategies of others is enticing to some leaders because it eliminates the need to think. Martin Luther King Jr. lamented the shortage of leaders willing to pay the price of prolonged, creative, problem-solving thinking. He concluded: "There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." ... A painfully common motivation behind many leaders is vanity. People cast a vision for their organization based on what will bring them the most personal success or praise. The growth of the organization merely feeds the leader's pride. Countless businesses have crumbled under leaders with self-serving motives. Churches have been saddled with crippling debts as they sought to repay bills incurred by former pastors looking to make a name for themselves. More

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Brain study shows a sharp political divide

[10 September 2007 - Baltimore Sub] Research finds conservatives are firm in their ideas, liberals more open to ambiguity ... Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work. Scientists at New York University and the University of California, Los Angeles showed through a simple experiment to be reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information. Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments, whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions. More

Smarts require teamwork in the brain

[11 September 2007 - MSNBC] Like memory, human intelligence is probably not confined to a single area in the brain, but is instead the result of multiple brain areas working in concert, a new review of research suggests. The review by Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine, and Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico proposes a new theory that identifies areas in the brain that work together to determine a person's intelligence. More

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

User Innovation in the Catholic Church: Dioceses of Cologne launches idea competition platform

[10 September 2007 - Mass Customization & Open Innovation News] This is the last sign that there is something behind user & open innovation: The Catholic Church has started an online open innovation idea competition (well, one could say that the entire church IS a lead user invention anyway). KJG, the Catholic youth organization of Cologne, one of Germany’s largest dioceses, just launched a web site where young people are encouraged to submit ideas what they want to change at the Catholic Church. The website (German for „Make a change“) broadly asks for ideas and suggestions. You can either submit a short idea or comment, or upload a long suggestion (perhaps for a real innovative interior design of a Church that you would like to see; or the tunes of a song you would like to sing …). Interestingly, they also ask one of the easiest but often neglected questions: If you don’t go to church, why? More