Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Creativity: What Is It? - Creativity Networking Series to Launch in January 2010

... with educator Steven Dahlberg
SUNDAY, JANUARY 10, 2010, 2:00-3:30 P.M.
The Silo at Hunt Hill Farm, 44 Upland Road, New Milford, Connecticut 06776. $10; open to all. RSVP to 860.355.0300 or

Creativity matters in all aspects of society. If you want to reconnect with your inherent creativity and explore new ways of expressing it, don't miss this series, which will be held at 2 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month at The Silo at Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford, Connecticut. The series will cover topics about creativity in all forms (including, but not limited to, arts) -- creative thinking, creative communities, creativity and education, creativity in organizations, creative persons, the creative process, creative aging, creativity and movement, creativity and spirituality, and more. In the first session on January 10, come and explore the general topic of "what is creativity?" -- plus, who has it, and how one can tap into more creativity both personally and professionally. Steven Dahlberg, who will host the series, also will lead the kick-off session in January. Dahlberg is the head of the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination and teaches "Creativity + Social Change" at the University of Connecticut.

Please print and post this flyer to spread the word about the series:

The Creativity Networking Series is presented by The Silo at Hunt Hill Farm and the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, both based in New Milford, Conn. The series provides a forum for exploring the many facets of creativity and for discovering other people interested in creativity.

Steven Dahlberg is head of the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, which is dedicated to applying creativity to improve the well-being of individuals, organizations and communities. He works with the Public and Community Engagement program at the University of Connecticut, where he teaches the "Creativity + Social Change" course. Dahlberg collaborates with artists, scientists, business people, educators, nonprofit and government professionals, and others to help people develop and apply their creativity. His work includes directing international creativity and training conferences, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in creativity, helping toy inventors launch a creativity consulting business, collaborating on participatory public art projects, serving as an adviser to the Guggenheim Museum, and
teaching creativity to incarcerated men. He regularly contributes to various media (including WNPR), edits the Applied Imagination blog, and authored the foreword to Education is Everybody's Business.

Custom cooking classes, shopping, tasting, museum tours, slide shows, and gallery talks are among the offerings for groups and tours visiting Hunt Hill Farm. Located in the Litchfield Hills of western Connecticut, Hunt Hill Farm has been the location of the Silo since 1972 -- a combination cooking school, art gallery, and gourmet kitchenware/food store. Now operating under the auspices of the Hunt Hill Farm Trust as a nonprofit organization for preservation, the farm is also host to the Skitch Henderson Museum and Hunt Hill Farm Land Preserve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Officer and a Creative Man

I found similar mindsets ...
[19 December 2009 - New York Times - Op-Ed by Mark Moyar - h/t Dan Pink] ... The American corporals and privates who traverse the Afghan countryside today are not at issue. They risk life and limb every day, with little self-pity. Despite the strains of successive combat deployments, they keep re-enlisting at high rates. The problems lie, rather, in the leadership ranks. Although many Army and Marine officers in Afghanistan are performing well, a significant portion are not demonstrating the vital leadership attributes of creativity, flexibility and initiative. In 2008, to better pinpoint these deficits, I surveyed 131 Army and Marine officers who had served in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, asking them each 42 questions about leadership in their services. The results were striking. More
... in a group of individuals working on graduate degrees in homeland security. Many of them come from, or currently work in, the military or law enforcement. Most of them were strong, hands-on implementers -- doers, who like to try things out and get things done. These, indeed, are necessary skills for doing such work.

However, there were very few individuals in that group with strengths in identifying problems to solve and seeing new opportunities to pursue. Nor were there many in the group with strengths in defining problems in new ways, seeing the big picture and putting ideas together in new combinations. (There is a shortage of these people in many types of organizations, by the way.)

The good thing about such insights, and those mentioned in the New York Times op-ed above, is that by identifying the mindsets of work teams we can intentionally improve how these groups work together. This can include hiring people with complementary strengths and skills, or being deliberate in the existing group to address gaps in thinking. If we want more-creative, more-risk-taking, more-flexible, more-adaptable, more-open people in schools, the military, the government, and business, then we need to be teaching the art of creative thinking in schools and organizations. These are skills that we can both teach and learn, as has been demonstrated starting in the 1950s by people such as educator E. Paul Torrance.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Living Your Purpose Through Creativity - Listen Live Thursday

[7 December 2009 - The Intuitive Path with Anja Weiland] Anja's topic for this episode will be "Living Your Purpose Through Creativity" with Steven Dahlberg, head of the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination. Steven is dedicated to helping others develop and apply their creativity for their overall well-being. He works with individuals, organizations, businesses, and educational institutions. We will speak about the relevance of creative thinking in uncovering and realizing our purpose in life and career. Steven will give us an insight into the creative thinking process and share useful tips and resources that we can implement in our lives instantly. More
Thursday, December 10, 2009
12:30pm - 1:00pm EST
Listen live or streamed online:
Or live via call-in by phone at:
+1 646 721 9435

Monday, November 30, 2009

Top Global Thinkers of 2009 ... Who's on your list?

Who's on your list of important thinkers from 2009?
[December 2009 - Foreign Policy] The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers: From the brains behind Iran's Green Revolution to the economic Cassandra who actually did have a crystal ball, they had the big ideas that shaped our world in 2009. Read on to see the 100 minds that mattered most in the year that was. More (The List)

Monday, November 23, 2009

New, Free Book - Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain

[23 November 2009 - Dana Foundation] Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, the culmination of a summit sponsored by The Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Neuro-Education Initiative, focuses on the convergence of neuroscientific research and teaching and learning, with an emphasis on the arts. This free publication features a prolegomenon by the late Dana Chairman William Safire and full text of the keynote address given by Jerome Kagan, Ph.D., Harvard University, at the Hopkins summit. Highlights of the symposium are featured in an executive summary, edited transcripts of panel presentations, and a synthesis of roundtable discussions. Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain is available free by written request on institutional letterhead. Please make certain your request contains a complete telephone number-including area code-and a full street address. (We cannot ship to P.O. Boxes). Requests should be mailed or faxed to:
Johanna Goldberg
Dana Foundation
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 900
New York, NY 10151
Fax: (212) 317-8721
You may also e-mail your request to: Please include your institutional and mailing information. More

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creative Aging Field Loses One of Its Key Leaders: In Memory of Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D.

[10 November 2009 - National Center for Creative Aging] Last Saturday night, we lost one of our key leaders in the field of creative aging – more so our very dear friend. NCCA was blessed to have been closely associated with Dr. Cohen not only as one of the founding members of the Board of Directors but as our faculty host at George Washington University, where both NCCA and his Center on Aging, Health and Humanities are housed within the Health Sciences Department. NCCA came into this partnership to bring Dr. Cohen’s and other outstanding researchers work into practice. It has been a great honor to work closely with Dr. Cohen and his brilliant work. On the behalf of the National Center for Creative Aging, we look forward to building upon Dr. Cohen’s legacy with you to move the paradigm of aging from problem to potential. In association with the Gerontological Society of America, where Dr. Cohen served as President in1997, NCCA will announce next week the formation of the Gene D. Cohen Research Award in Creative Aging at the GSA Annual conference in Atlanta . We will be releasing further details as plans progress and ask for your support in continuing Dr. Cohen’s research through promoting this award opportunity and other tributes that will be developing within our field in honor of him. We have included the family’s obituary and a photograph for your further information and distribution. Gene touched so many lives and leaves us with such a rich legacy on which to continue his work to improve the quality of life for older people. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Cohen’s family. We are also working with George Washington University as caretakers for the Center for Aging, Health and Humanities which will continue in a robust form to advance Dr. Cohen’s scholarship. With sympathy, Gay Hanna, Executive Director, National Center for Creative Aging - More

Making of Me: Creativity is vital in shaping our futures ... families are fundamental in developing it

[2 November 2009 - DEMOS (UK) - By Jen Lexmond and Shelagh Wright] Creativity and cultural engagement are essential ingredients in making our individual and collective lives rich. They are both key to developing and dependent on the social capital that is so vital in mobility and life chances. The terms creativity and culture are acknowledged as tricky to define, but the domains they describe, however disputed, are widely recognized as crucial to our futures. The Oxford English Dictionary defines creativity as ‘involving the use of the imagination or original ideas in order to create something’ and culture as ‘one, the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. Two, a refined understanding or appreciation of this. Three, the customs, institutions and achievements of a particular nation, people or group’. Many commentators and researchers have argued that creativity and culture make more prosperous and cohesive societies.They provide accounts of how talent flows and grows. What we have been less good at is understanding how to nurture that talent and potential in the first place. The role of families is fundamental. This paper looks at how families could be better supported and how we might get more from our existing investments in this area. We ask questions about what should be done as a stimulant for the kinds of ideas we need. More


[10 November 2009 - Discovery Channel] ... Psychologists like Freud and Jung have long cashed in on the potency of dreams and how they may reflect our inner emotional lives. But new research suggests dreams may simply be the brain, well, taking a jog. Just as a morning run can help tune up the body, dreaming may be the brain's way of tuning up the mind while conscious thoughts aren’t dominating the circuits. More

Monday, November 02, 2009

Art and Its Cultural Contradictions

This essay raises questions about the role of the artist/creative engaging in neighborhoods, communities and cities. How do they participate and involve? How much time in the community "counts"? How can artists/creatives have the most meaningful impact?
[Autumn/Winter 2009 - "Art and Its Cultural Contradictions" in Afterall] PREAMBLE: A FLOOD OF QUESTIONS: What is at stake when artists, architects, curators, organisers and other cultural producers facilitate bricks-and-mortar change, on the ground in cities, with citizens, communities and institutions? How do we test the interrelationships between the practices of artists and urban policy makers? What is the metric that we might utilise to determine effectiveness? And what do we mean by effectiveness? Critical effect? (Or, for that matter, critical affect?) The putatively emancipatory outcome generated by some kind of new situational knowledge? Or, is it a question of generating ambiguity, per se, as a means of problematising hegemonic political, economic and cultural formations?

Is it conceivable to imagine that the cultural and intellectual capital of artistic labour can generate sustained, and sustainable, responsiveness to urban crises that would offer palpable functionality (or applicability) for people's lives - contra to the useful uselessness of the aesthetic condition that is supposedly ennobling of mind and spirit, or generative of disinterestedness as a prerequisite for absorption and contemplation? Have we taken into consideration that as art critics, art historians, curators and art theorists we might be misapplying criteria of aesthetic evaluation in relation to the evaluation of art projects that arise from sometimes uncomfortable, difficult circumstances? Is it perhaps just a question of re-calibrating our criteria of evaluation or, at the very least, how we communicate to others our experience of a specific work within a particular situation, so that criteria remain sufficiently fluid and tactical? What does it mean to encounter a work of art in the midst of economic and social ruination?

This essay seeks to raise such questions on the occasion of and in relation to a new biennial (Prospect.1) and a new cultural initiative (Transforma Projects), both of which emerged in New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina disaster that in 2005 flooded 80 per cent of the city, and killed nearly 2,000 people, as efforts claiming to engage in the regeneration, rebuilding and revitalisation of various aspects of that city's cultural, economic and social life. Prospect.1 and Transforma Projects are distinct from each other in terms of ideological and organisational strategies and infrastructures: the former presenting itself as the first international biennial in New Orleans (i.e. event-oriented), with official support from local and state government and major art world benefactors, and a more conventional 'top-down' hierarchical curatorial/exhibition process; the latter operating as a small cultural initiative on an emphatically grass roots level, involving 'bottom-up' socially participatory processes (i.e. rethinking normative institutional hierarchies) to generate and utilise art projects as a means of facilitating social rebuilding within economically and socially disenfranchised communities in the city, yet also supported by major art foundations.

Authentic education is always experimental

An old blog post from "The Speed of Creativity" blog, but an important one worth revisiting. What examples of authentic education and learning are you leading? Participating in? Creating?
[8 April 2006 - The Speed of Creativity] In the educational, classroom environment, authentic education is always experimental. This is because teaching is an art, not a science. Many, many people sadly mistake the purpose of the educational enterprise as mere content transmission. Much of the curriculum standards which dominate the educational landscape today [...] are based on this faulty assumption. Like E.D. Hirsh, I agree there are some common things with which people should be acquainted in order to be “culturally literate.” I do not agree, however, that schools should take those “laundry lists” of names and events and seek to make kids memorize and regurgitate those facts on multiple choice examinations. I do not think an understanding of the need for “cultural literacy” should lead to a shallowing of the curriculum, which remains a mile wide and an inch deep. To the contrary, authentic teaching and learning should be ALL ABOUT learning in depth through engaging conversations and activities. To create this type of teaching and learning environment, it is implicit that teachers must experiment. Authentic teaching and learning are experimental activities because the environment of the classroom is inherently dynamical and chaotic, like global weather patterns. More

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is the U.S. Killing Its Innovation Machine?

What does innovation require ... in your company? in your community? in your state? in your country? Are you seeing evidence of decisions and behaviors to support sustainable, ethical innovation?

Is "innovation machine" the right metaphor, the right frame, for helping us innovate better?
[November 2009 - Harvard Business Review - Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief] Can the U.S. continue to thrive as a center of innovation if it can’t manufacture the products it invents? In "Restoring American Competitiveness," a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih, contend that that answer is no and warn that outsourcing has undermined the country’s high tech sector. Is high tech in trouble? Does it matter if R&D and manufacturing capabilities have migrated to Asia? What should business and government leaders do to ensure that the U.S. retains its competitive edge? As the U.S. tries to remake its auto companies, become a player in emerging industries, and revive its ailing economy, few issues are more important. For the next several weeks, an impressive roster of experts will discuss these questions in the HBR online symposium: “Is the U.S. Killing Its Innovation Machine?” I encourage you to read what they have to say and to offer your own ideas.

Tai Chi exercise reduces knee osteoarthritis pain in the elderly, research shows

[29 October 2009 - EurekAlert!/Arthritis Care & Research] Regular sessions improve physical function, depression and overall health. ... Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine have determined that patients over 65 years of age with knee osteoarthritis (OA) who engage in regular Tai Chi exercise improve physical function and experience less pain. Tai Chi (Chuan) is a traditional style of Chinese martial arts that features slow, rhythmic movements to induce mental relaxation and enhance balance, strength, flexibility, and self-efficacy. Full findings of the study are published in the November issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology. More

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creating Cognitive Dissonance in the Classroom

In Ben Johnson's blog at Edutopia, he writes (17 September 2009): "Cognitive dissonance is created by a dedicated teacher who challenges the students' beliefs about their own capacity to learn." In the Creative Community Building program at the University of Connecticut, we seek to create such experiences in the undergraduate classroom (face-to-face and online). Consider signing up for any of three Spring 2010 courses to be offered in Storrs and Hartford, Connecticut, as well as online:
  • Creativity + Social Change - Tuesdays in Hartford, Connecticut
  • Community Organizing and Social Movements - Mondays in Storrs, Connecticut
  • Introduction to the Co-Operative Movement: History, Philosophy and Prospects for the Future - Online

Creative Workers as "The New Untouchables"

What examples do you see in your community's schools, where creative thinking is being encouraged, taught and applied? Where are your kids most creative -- in school or out of school? What opportunities for being creative do you provide to your kids at home?

Before we can teach for more creativity in school -- which we absolutely should be doing -- we need to help teachers, administrators and parents rediscover their own creativity so that they can recognize and encourage it in others.
[20 October 2009 - New York Times - By Tom Friedman] That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education. As the Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz explains it: “If you think about the labor market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.” ... So our schools have a doubly hard task now — not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity. More | Public Responses to This Column: "To Promote Creativity, Let’s Start in the Schools"

Public Space ... For Ads or Art?

Who controls public space? Should it be filled with ads? Or art? Or both? What examples exist in your community where commercial signs and messages have been banned?
[25 October 2009 - New York Times] A Battle, on Billboards, of Ads vs. Art ... It was a bizarre cat-and-mouse game, played on Sunday across scores of makeshift billboards in New York. One group of artists and activists spread across Lower Manhattan, transforming innumerous wheat-pasted posters — the ones that readily sprout over scaffolding -- into their own canvas. They would whitewash the posters and then create their own work, or allow anti-advertising advocates to spread their own messages. But just as quickly as they whitewashed and put up art, workers arrived to put up new posters where the artists had obscured the old ones. More

Monday, October 19, 2009

Neuroscience 2009 highlights new research on exercise, music and the brain

[19 October 2009 - EurekAlert! / Society for Neuroscience] Research presented today at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, provides a better understanding of the brain, nervous system, and related disorders. Specific research released today shows:
  • The benefits of exercise on both the brain and body, and, more specifically, underscores the positive influence of regular physical activity on Parkinson's disease, depression, premenstrual syndrome, and memory.
  • New tools are enabling researchers to identify neural similarities and differences between species. The findings may help to explain faculties, like language, and diseases, like Parkinson's, that are unique to humans.
  • New insights into male behavior support the idea that many gender differences lie in the brain and are influenced by both genes and environment.
  • Scientists are developing novel ways to bypass the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels that prevents more than 95 percent of all chemicals from entering the brain from the bloodstream. Researchers describe new methods for transporting drugs across the BBB as well as ways to enhance the brain's own immune response, which is separated from the body's immune system by the BBB.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Center At Yale Will Explore What Makes The Human Brain Unique

[15 October 2009 - Medical News Today] Leveraging more than $25 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Yale School of Medicine has created a new research center to study how our brain evolved uniquely human traits. Its founders hope that the center will identify new treatment options for many forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disease. More

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Be happy and extend your lifespan

[5 October 2009 - Telegraph - UK] Scientists have proved that being happy can help you to lower the risk of disease and live longer. And the good news for pessimists is that you can learn to think positively. ... The good news for those not of a Pollyanna disposition is that happiness can be learnt. "There are wonderful programmes around to teach positive attitudes and resilience," says Prof Felicia Huppert, director of Cambridge University's Well-being Institute. "As early as the Seventies, scientists developed a programme called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which has so far been applied to many thousands of patients and found to have significant effects on medical conditions. "Wellbeing is being promoted in schools and at work, where enlightened employers are carrying out wellbeing audits to make sure people are feeling appreciated and fulfilled." More

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Learning Revolution - Enhancing Informal Adult Learning for Older People in Care Settings

[28 September 2009 - The Learning Revolution - UK] As part of the discussion on enhancing informal adult learning for older people in care settings, an online discussion area within the "learning revolution" collaborative site has been set up by Becta.  You are now invited to join this group, which will host debate, ideas and issues around this topic. More ... Plus, check out the main Learning Revolution site, designed to gather views from interested people and to share progress to develop a culture of learning for all adults.

NYT: South African Children Push for Better Schools

[24 September 2009 - New York Times] Children are taking into their own hands responsibility for trying to reform the education system. ... Thousands of children marched to City Hall this week in sensible black shoes, a stream of boys and girls from township schools across this seaside city that extended for blocks, passing in a blur of pleated skirts, blazers and rep ties. Their polite demand: Give us libraries and librarians. “We want more information and knowledge,” said a ninth grader, Abongile Ndesi. In the 15 years since white supremacist rule ended in South Africa, the governing party, the African National Congress, has put in place numerous policies to transform schools into engines of opportunity. But many of its leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, now acknowledge that those efforts have too often failed. More

Artists can be prophets

[28 September 2009 - Lincoln Star Journal - Nebraska] For two decades, Enrique Martinez Celaya has been thinking and writing about his life and work as an artist, examining his practice through philosophy, literature and science. What he has discovered is a provocative, sure-to-be-controversial view that stands in opposition to the way artists have been seen in the world since the dawn of modernism more than 100 years ago. Put simply, Martinez Celaya proposes that artists can function as prophets. "The Prophet" is the title of the lecture Martinez Celaya, the University of Nebraska Visiting Presidential Professor, will deliver at Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum on Friday. "To be a prophet an artist doesn't need God but clarity of purpose, character and attention," Martinez Celaya writes in the lecture. Later, he states, "Joseph Beuys, Herman Melville, Marcel Broodthaers, Ayn Rand and Albert Pinkham Ryder were prophets not because they sat around theorizing but because they showed us something of the future and of ourselves."... "Is this too much to expect from artists?" he asks in the lecture. "Probably. It is likely we will all break our backs trying to be artists-prophets, but this is a better fate than letting our backs calcify from lack of action or hunch over in shame. Artists are not needed for anything else. Most artists will not be great prophets, but even very minor ones will make a difference. Maybe a difference in the art world, but certainly, and more importantly, in themselves and in the world." More

$25,000 PRIZE FOR ART AND SOCIAL CHANGE - To be awarded Oct. 23

[29 September 2009 - Creative Time] Creative Time is pleased to announce the inception of a new, annual, $25,000 award: The Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change, presented by Creative Time to an artist who has committed her/his life’s work to social change in powerful and productive ways. The first recipient of the prize is The Yes Men, and it will be bestowed during the opening ceremony for The Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice, on October 23 from 6 to 8pm in the historic Stephen A. Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library. The ceremony will feature an introduction by Amy Goodman, the host of the award-winning program Democracy Now!. The award is generously supported by The Annenberg Foundation. More

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The 2009 MacArthur "Genius" Fellows

[22 September 2009 The MacArthur Foundation] The MacArthur Foundation today named 24 new MacArthur Fellows who work across a broad spectrum of endeavors. They include an infectious disease physician, an ornithologist, a realist painter, a photojournalist, a bridge engineer, a climate scientist, an economist, a papermaker, a mental health lawyer, and a poet. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. Recipients learned by a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. "For nearly three decades, the MacArthur Fellows Program has highlighted the importance of creativity and risk-taking in addressing pressing needs and challenges around the globe," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. "Through these Fellowships, we celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all." More

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Healthy Brain Aging: Why We Need to Retool "Use It Or Lose It"

[July/August 2009 - The Journal of Active Aging] By now you have probably heard about brain plasticity, the lifelong capacity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stimulation of learning and experience. The latest scientific research shows that specific lifestyles and actions can improve the health and level of functioning of our brains, no matter our age. Of particular importance to maintaining cognitive functioning through life are the hippocampus (deep inside the brain, part of what is called the limbic system), which plays a role in learning and memory; and the frontal lobes (behind your forehead), which are key to maintaining decision-making and autonomy. Is there a way to physically protect these parts of the aging brain? Yes. But the right answer is far from "do one more crossword puzzle" or "do more X" (whatever X is). The key is to add significantly different activities to ensure a flow of novelty, variety and challenge, combining physical and mental exercise while not ignoring factors such as stress management and balanced nutrition. We need, in other words, to retool our
understanding and practice of “Use it or lose it.” We must focus on the importance of getting out of our physical and mental routines and activities to get the
benefits of real exercise -- physical and mental." More

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Food and Creative Community

Micheal Pollan signing books right now at the West Cornwall, Connecticut, farmers' market before his lecture at 1...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Set for TED

At 4 p.m. this afternoon, the TED conference people will tape four 18-minute presentations at Chautauqua about compassion .. from Karen Armstrong, James Forbes, Robert Thurman and Swami Dayananda. The cameras and lights are set and the count-down clock for 18 minutes each awaits ...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Boston #1 for Innovation

[August 2009 - 2thinknow] Boston has been rated the best US city for innovation, tying scores with previous winner Vienna in Europe. Boston also edged past Amsterdam, Paris,  San Francisco, which rounded out the top five cities in the annual 2thinknow Innovation Cities Index. European cities dominated the top Innovation Cities, with 61% of the top 75 in the European Union. US Cities were mainly from coastal states or the Great Lakes area. London rose unexpectedly, followed by Hamburg, New York, Tokyo and Lyon in France. Toronto in Canada came in 19th, as Melbourne fell from 8th to 20th followed by Sydney in 22nd place. Vancouver placed 48th followed by Montréal. More

Friday, July 31, 2009

Can Do - A Visual Exploration of Benjamin Franklin's Inventions

[30 July 2009 - New York Times] How Benjamin Franklin turned America into the land of invention. More

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Artistic tendencies linked to 'schizophrenia gene'

[16 July 2009 - New Scientist] We're all familiar with the stereotype of the tortured artist. Salvador Dali's various disorders and Sylvia Plath's depression spring to mind. Now new research seems to show why: a genetic mutation linked to psychosis and schizophrenia also influences creativity. The finding could help to explain why mutations that increase a person's risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar syndrome have been preserved, even preferred, during human evolution, says Szabolcs Kéri, a researcher at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, who carried out the study. Kéri examined a gene involved in brain development called neuregulin 1, which previous studies have linked to a slightly increased risk of schizophrenia. Moreover, a single DNA letter mutation that affects how much of the neuregulin 1 protein is made in the brain has been linked to psychosis, poor memory and sensitivity to criticism. About 50 per cent of healthy Europeans have one copy of this mutation, while 15 per cent possess two copies. More

People do not 'learn from their mistakes'

[30 July 2009 - Telegraph (UK)] The old adage that we "learn more from our mistakes" could be wrong, with new research showing our brain only learns from experience when we do something right. ... Using monkeys, scientists gave the animals the task of looking at two alternating images on a computer screen. For one picture, the monkey was rewarded when it shifted its gaze to the right; for another it was similarly rewarded for looking the other way. The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that the monkeys' brain cell neural activity responded more positively to a correct answer. When they failed to get the right image however, there was little or no change in the brain, or any improvement in behaviour. They found that when an action was rewarded or not, neural activity in regions of the brains, the prefronal cortex and basal ganglia, long associated with learning and memory, lasted for several seconds, until the next trial. Response was stronger on a given trial if the previous one had been rewarded and weaker if the previous trial was an error. More

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Creativity and Peace: Teens Collaborate in Peace it Together

[29 June 2009 - Advertising Age] Fleming Creative Group, a Vancouver-based print/digital design agency, discovers how creativity and peace-building go hand in hand. Catherine Winckler, partner and creative director, explains. ... Can creative exploration contribute to peace? Can filmmaking become a mechanism to break the cycle of hate? Can a camp on Canada's West Coast effect change among youth in the turbulent Middle East? Like many who learned of Peace It Together's unique peace-building program of dialogue through art, we were intrigued by the possibilities. Since 2004, the not-for-profit has been bringing together Palestinian, Israeli and Canadian teens to collaborate in small, mixed-cultural groups, assisted by renowned volunteer filmmakers, editors and writers. In an idyllic camp setting, away from conflict yet still very much in the face of each other's preconceptions and prejudices, the youth produce short films about personally relevant issues. The result: a body of work that finds its way into their home communities and around the world, casting light on the conflict and educating in the process. More

Microsoft's Ballmer on Innovation

[18 June 2009 - The Executives' Club of Chicago] On June 18, 2009, Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation, provided a dynamic and engaging presentation on "The Role of Innovation in Changing Economic Times" at the final Global Leaders Luncheon of the season. He spoke to over 1,400 members and guests in attendance. More (read and listen to speech)

Sir Ken Robinson: the creative thinker

[29 June 2009 - Personnel Today - UK] Author and creativity guru Sir Ken Robinson has been described as 'one of America's finest imports'. The Liverpool-born Los Angeles resident shares his thoughts on HR and its role in workplace creativity. [Q] Is there a place for creativity in HR? [A] That's the prime place for it. I've heard people say that the trouble is that you can't define creativity, but I define it as the process of having original ideas that have value. All three parts of that are important. There are three misconceptions about creativity ... More

Friday, June 26, 2009

Can governments till the fields of innovation?

[20 June 2009 - New York Times via Innovator Insights] This New York Times article briefly surveys the emergence of innovation agendas in government, aimed at addressing fields like energy, the environment, and healthcare as well as tackling issues in economic development and industrial policies. The United States, for example, is using the Bureau of Economic Analysis to develop statistics that "uniquely measure the role of innovation." Additional indications of national interest in innovation policy include Great Britain's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and Finland’s plan to become a major competitor in developing software and services, relating in particular to medical monitoring and preventive health. More

Monday, June 01, 2009

Are the Dynamics of Innovation Changing?

[28 May 2009 - MIT Sloan Management Review] Some argue that many of today’s biggest problems are in complex fields such as energy and  the environment — and that solutions will need to be multidisciplinary rather than the work of entrepreneurial inventors. More

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting scientific about arts education: Education, arts and neuroscience

[24 May 2009 - Los Angeles Times] A new interdisciplinary field researches the effects of learning fine arts on a student's brain. ... For years, school systems across the nation dropped classes in the fine arts to concentrate on getting students to pass tests in reading and mathematics. Now, a growing body of brain research suggests that teaching the arts may be good for students across all disciplines. Scientists are looking at, for instance, whether students at an arts high school who study music or drawing have brains that allow them to focus more intensely or do better in the classroom. Brain research in the last several years has uncovered startling ideas about how students learn. First came proof, some years ago, that our brains do not lose brain cells as we get older, but are always capable of growing. Now neuroscientists are investigating how training students in the arts may change the structure of their brains and the way they think. Does putting a violin in the hands of an elementary school student help the child do math better? Will learning to dance or paint improve a student's spatial ability or ability to learn to read? Research in those areas, Harvard University psychologist Jerome Kagan said, is "as deserving of a clinical trial as a drug for cancer that has not yet been shown to be effective." There aren't many conclusions yet that can be translated into the classroom, but an interdisciplinary field is emerging between education and neuroscience. More

Benefits of Creative Classrooms: 10 Years After Ken Robinson Report in UK

[23 May 2009 - BBC - UK] Creativity benefits results in other areas, research suggests. ... Ten years ago this month a 243-page report on the importance of promoting creativity and culture in schools landed on ministers' desks. It had been commissioned in the heady early days of the Blair government to recommend ways to make progress in the "creative and cultural development of young people" both in and out of school. The review was led by Sir Ken Robinson and included leading scientists, business leaders, and key figures from the arts world. It was widely acclaimed. It argued that creativity was a skill that could be taught. It was not about progressive teaching or loose discipline. Nor was it in any way an alternative to the essential skills of numeracy and literacy. Rather it was about encouraging pupils to be innovative and to develop the ability to problem-solve in all areas of the curriculum, from maths to technology. It argued that such skills were essential to individuals, employers and the whole economy. But what has happened since? More

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Power of Imagination is More Than Just a Metaphor

[15 April 2009 - ScienceDaily] We've heard it before: "Imagine yourself passing the exam or scoring a goal and it will happen." We may roll our eyes and think that's easier said than done, but in a new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychologists Christopher Davoli and Richard Abrams from Washington University suggest that the imagination may be more effective than we think in helping us reach our goals. More

Monday, May 18, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Retirement ... Creative Post-Careers and New Retirement

[17 May 2009 - CBS] Aging baby boomers aren't content spending their post-career years idle and are finding new ways to retire. ... Mountain air is not enough for a generation determined to ban boredom in retirement. Martha Teichner visited Asheville, N.C., to explore how some are designing more creative retirements:
John Bauer was a high school teacher in Michigan before retiring to Asheville, and getting a part-time job as a tour guide at the Biltmore Estate. "Why do I wanna keep on teaching when I can retire financially and I can try something completely different?" he asked. Americans just aren't retiring the way they used to ... "We don't want to just sit down and vegetate," said Jim Wyatt. And you don't have to go very far from the Biltmore Estate to see how they're redesigning the whole notion. Nancy Long spent her career writing for newspapers and magazines. Now she's a volunteer docent at the Asheville Art Museum. Long and her husband, Al, were attracted to Asheville, N.C., because for a small city, it has a lot going on culturally. But the big selling point was the fact that they could live right downtown and walk everywhere, a growing trend among retirees. The Longs live in a compact loft in an old commercial building, but here's the kicker: When they retired, they actually lived in Florida … and moved away. Why? "We thought it'd be boring," Martha told Teichner. "Boring," Al agreed. Ron Manheimer, who heads the Center for Creative Retirement at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, said, "People are saying, 'Well maybe Florida isn't the place to go. "What I see is very high expectations that something special should happen in and around this time of life, and I think I see people searching for what that would be." More

Arts appear to play role in brain development

[18 May 2009 - Baltimore Sun] For years, school systems across the nation dropped the arts to concentrate on getting struggling students to pass tests in reading and math. Yet now, a growing body of brain research suggests that teaching the arts may be good for students across all disciplines. Scientists are now looking at, for instance, whether students at an arts high school who study music or drawing have brains that allow them to focus more intensely or do better in the classroom. Washington County schools Superintendent Betty Morgan would have liked to have had some of that basic research in her hands when she began building a coalition for an arts high school in Hagerstown. The business community and school principals worked together, and the school will open this summer, but even at its groundbreaking a man objecting to the money spent on the school held up a sign of protest reading "Big Note$ Wrong Music." More

Friday, May 15, 2009

Creating Positive Community

Check out the Playing for Change Web site, CD and DVD of musicians collaborating around the world to promote positive change and peace.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How learning shapes successful decision making in the human brain

[13 May 2009 - Cell Press via EurekAlert!] New research significantly advances our understanding of the brain mechanisms that link learning with flexible decision making. The study, published by Cell Press in the May 14 issue of the journal Neuron, demonstrates that the brain does not just learn the structure of the physical world but, through learning, encodes rules that regulate how we interpret future sensory information. More and More

On Art, Science, Creativity and Dancing Bees

[12 May 2009 - Science Blogs - The World's Fair - By David Ng] Tonight, I'll be heading out to the Vancouver Cafe Scientifique, where noted bee biologist, Dr. Mark Winston, will be giving a talk about science and dance (May 12th, 7:30pm at the Railway Club). Now, although the linkage between dancing, science, and bees would be normally fairly straight forward, I've been told that tonight's presentation would be more an exploration about dancing as an art form and as a way of creatively expressing science. I'm pretty keen to check it out myself since my own lab does a fair bit of art + science endeavours (although admittedly, I'm a little niave when it comes to the whole dancing scene). More

Former Foes Unite to Bridge the K-12 Achievement Gap

[May 2009 - Stanford Knowledgebase] Liberal and conservative groups are forming unprecedented alliances to improve K-12 education in the United States, sparked by a study from McKinsey & Co. that put a $700 billion price tag on the education achievement gap, Jonathan Schorr told the 2009 Stanford Business of Education Symposium. (Includes Video) More

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brain's Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream

[11 May 2009 - Science Daily] Our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought. Activity in numerous brain regions increases when our minds wander, according to new research. Psychologists found that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving -- previously thought to go dormant when we daydream -- are in fact highly active during these episodes. More

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cheerful music 'can make everyone around you look happy'

[10 May 2009 - The Telegraph (UK) "Results showed that happy music 'significantly enhanced the perceived happiness of a face.' Further studies of the volunteers' brain waves revealed that the effect of the music was almost instantaneous. It took just 50 milliseconds for changes to take place - too fast to be under our conscious control." More (h/t Arts Journal)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Building an Innovation Zone

[4 May 2009 - 1TO1 VIDEO] Thomas Koulopoulos, author of "The Innovation Zone: How Great Companies Reinnovate for Amazing Success," talks about the systemic changes companies have to make to innovate and survive during economic uncertainty. More

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Single Neuron Can Change the Activity of the Whole Brain

[1 May 2009 -] The pulsing of a single neuron can switch a brain’s waves from the equivalent of a big ocean swell to ripples on a pond, according to new research from Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Yang Dan of the University of California, Berkeley. More

Friday, May 01, 2009

Demography and Lifelong Learning: New strategy needed for the over-50s

[1 May 2009 - Independent Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, sponsored by NIACE - Report by Professor Stephen McNair] Older people need more opportunities to learn if they are to actively contribute - rather than be a cost to society - during the twenty or more years they spend in 'retirement', a new study of learning and population changes reveals. The report - commissioned by the Independent Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, sponsored by NIACE - argues that the current narrow focus on skills for work and on younger people is inadequate to meet the challenges of demographic change.  These challenges include:
  • Most people can expect to spend one third of their lives in ‘retirement'.
  • There are now more people over 59 than under 16.
  • 11.3 million people are over state pension age.
  • Life expectancy for a 65 year old today is now 85 for men and 88 for women.
Read "Demography and Lifelong Learning" (PDF)

Genius: The Modern View

[30 April 2009 - New York Times - Opinion by David Brooks] The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It's not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it's deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft. The recent research has been conducted by people like K. Anders Ericsson, the late Benjamin Bloom and others. It's been summarized in two enjoyable new books: "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle; and "Talent Is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin. More

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Sustainability and Collective Intelligence

[23 April 2009 - All Together Now (or, Can Collective Intelligence Save the Planet?) - MIT Sloan Management Review] Interview with Thomas Malone: "'Sustainability' as a concept doesn’t take into account that sometimes things are sustainable but aren’t good, and sometimes things are good but not sustainable. ...  Radically open computer modeling will be a key way to harness collective intelligence toward bigger picture goals." More

Innovating During a Downturn

[30 April 2009 - MIT Sloan Management Review] In the last 12 months, “innovation has become more important, not less,” according to Vijay Govindarajan. More

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Multiple-intelligences theory helps charter teach children to learn

[April 2009 - Edutopia] A charter elementary school in Georgia is helping children better understand their learning styles, strengths and weaknesses under the multiple-intelligence approach. "In order to motivate and teach a child, you have to find out where their strengths are and what they're passionate about, and use that to move them in the direction of learning new skills," said Sally Meadors, the school's former principal. More

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Visual Journals

[22 April 2009 - HOW blog] Designer Ken Carbone explains the importance of keeping a personal, visual journal in this video for Fast Company Magazine.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The five ages of the brain

[April 2009 - The New Scientist] Throughout life our brains undergo more changes than any other part of the body. These can be broadly divided into five stages, each profoundly affecting our abilities and behaviour. But we are not just passengers in this process, so how can we get the best out of our brains at every stage and pass the best possible organ on to the next? New Scientist investigate. More

Friday, April 03, 2009

Scientists show how a neuron gets its shape

[3 April 2009 - Rockefeller University via EurekAlert!] For the brain to work, neurons have to be connected in the right places. Now, new research shows that rather than growing like the branches of a tree -- extending outward -- certain neurons work backward from their destination, dropping anchor and stretching their dendrites behind them as they crawl away. More

Managing innovation: Pages from Alessi’s handbook

[3 April 2009 - McKinsey Quarterly] In February, we published an interview with Alberto Alessi, head of the iconic houseware design firm in Italy. Alessi talked with the Quarterly about how the firm manages to sustain innovation over decades. The multimedia interactive featured here offers a behind-the-scenes look at the design and operational processes of one of the world's best-known design firms. The feature showcases Alessi's formula for evaluating the risks and rewards of new product designs. It also includes video commentary by Alberto Alessi and a narrated slide show on the design firm's roots in open innovation. More

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Author: Educated girls are key to peace

[14 March 2009 - Inservice, ASCD Blog] Author and activist Greg Mortenson says he places high value in educating girls around the world, pointing to statistics showing that in countries where girls are educated, infant mortality is lower, population growth is more sustainable and the overall quality of life is improved. Mortenson says education is a conduit to peace because ignorance fosters only hate. More

A practical guide to managing innovation

[24 March 2009 - INSEAD Knowledge] What does innovation mean? It used to relate mainly to products and that's still important. But over the last decade or so, businesses have been putting more and more emphasis on innovating new services and business models as well. In light of this, it's time companies take another look at how they manage innovation. More

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Key to Job Creation: New Ideas

[12 March 2009 - CNBC via FastTrac Highlights] Carl Schramm appeared on CNBC's Street Signs with Erin Burnett yesterday. The segment featured the message that entrepreneurs are the key to the economic recovery and told the story of Daniel Kivatinos, a laid off information technology worker who took a FastTrac program offered by ITAC in New York with a college buddy: Michael Nusimow. They are now both working full-time on their company: Dr. Chrono, which provides online appointment and billing services to doctors' offices. More

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Review: Chasing the Dance of Life

[17 March 2009 - Book Review by Connie Tyler (via Facebook)] Chasing the Dance of Life, by Cynthia Winton-Henry -- A review by Connie Tyler

Want to laugh and cry, and say, "Oh, my?"

And then, "Oh, yes, oh, yes?"

Read Cynthia Winton-Henry's new book, Chasing the Dance of Life – a faith journey.

Cynthia, co-founder of InterPlay, speaks with candor and honesty about her struggle to find a place in the world for her dancing spirituality. She says of herself, "What do you do if you hear voices or see things? ... You should shut up. However, if there are voices that prod you to quench the thirst for big human needs like Love, Justice, and Freedom, you might become a blabbermouth performance artist like me." (p. 9) Like a ballerina doing tour jette's in a china shop, Cynthia plunges into confrontation with church officials and august parishioners, while we stand with our mouths open in admiration and fear.

She starts with her struggles as a child, teenager, and college student to pull her love of dance and her spiritual inclinations together. Her joy at finding Carla DeSola, Doug Adams, Pacific School of Religion, Judith Rock, and the Sacred Dance Guild is tempered by the struggle as an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to carry dance into the church. When, eventually, she finds she needs to renounce her ordination she doesn't just slip away from the church, she demands the right to have a ceremony of de-ordination to counter the ordination ceremony.

She wrote this memoir specifically to show why she eventually renounced her ordination, but her struggles go beyond just the struggle with this particular denomination or even with "the church" in its larger sense. She is struggling with the way of life she grew up with, finding new ways to approach people who are different, new ways to live in a material world, new ways to see our world, our life.

When subtle acts of humming birds and eagles speak to her, she dares to see them as prophecy. She analyzes marriage and comes up with new metaphors that better fit reality than the older ones that don't seem to work. She jumps dancing feet first into life and discovers, "For young or old, the universe loves a dancer." (p. 216)

And the message? She says:
Stubborn standers, beware.
Planted on twin pillars
Of righteousness
And self-righteousness
Your footing stiffens
In that precarious pose.
Resist -- you stand against.
Consist -- you stand with.
Persist -- you stand through.
Insist -- you stand in.
All stands degrade.
Want peace?
Release your footing.
Dance life's stubborn dance

(Winton-Henry, Cynthia, Chasing the Dance of Life – a faith journey, Berkeley, CA, the apocryphile press, 2009, 255 pp)

On Hope

"Hope doesn't come from calculating whether the good news is winning over the bad. It's simply a choice to take action." -- Anne Lappé

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why Bad Times Nurture New Inventions

[13 March 2009 - New York Times - Opinion] With consumer confidence plunging, the jobless rate rising and the gross domestic product falling at a rate second only to the decline seen in the 1982 recession, there's little hope of good economic news anytime soon. But some economists and historians point out that such fallow ground can make a fertile bed for seeds of innovation and invention. What kinds of businesses thrive in recessionary times? How do entrepreneurs get a running start in a recession? More

Friday, March 13, 2009

Help Support Strong Arts in Connecticut -- a Budget Issue

Please read the following letter written by artist Mark Patnode to Connceticut Gov. Rell. And then consider sending your own letters to the governor and your Connecticut legislators.

Steve Dahlberg
International Centre for Creativity and Imagination
Willimantic, Connecticut


Governor M. Jodi Rell March 8, 2009
Executive Office of the Governor
State Capitol
210 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, Connecticut 06106

Dear Governor Rell,

As the focus of much of government turns to the financial sector and the word "crisis" is foremost in the media's dialogue, it is important to remember the fundamental contribution The Arts make in our culture and to our cultural stability. Yet, in Connecticut the artistic endeavor is
being undermined.

For example, the proposed incorporation of the Commission on Culture and Tourism (CCT) into the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) is not a hallmark of efficiency; but rather it is a damaging consolidation. Keep in mind, of the 50 state arts agencies; CCT is the only state arts agency to not define itself as arts-centric. No other state is making arts as inaccessible, or proposing such consolidations. Should Connecticut have the dubious distinction of taking a lead role in arts exposure reduction?

Often the arts are considered frivolous and non-essential to education. I would contend that society is measured by its art, architecture and literature. Furthermore, science and art are not mutually exclusive. You may be aware that the Mars space rover unfolded from its transport ship because the NASA engineers were familiar with origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. This is a wonderful example of the confluence of art and science. Children learn in different ways and the language of art makes that learning more accessible.

As The Constitution State, Connecticut has a distinction of leadership. As Governor, your exemplary contributions can help ensure Connecticut arts programs continue to lead. Respectfully, I suggest the following:

1. Assure the arts division will maintain staffing and funding to carry out their work.
2. Ensure the right staff are in place and available to meet the challenges.
3. Creation of a Volunteer Arts Advocacy organization, similar to Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, to maintain Connecticut Arts posture and integration.
4. Convene a forum to assess the status and needs of CCT arts programs.

Through CCT, I have been featured on the cover of the CCT Teaching Artist Directory (left), my work is displayed in Senator Lieberman's Washington, DC office as part of CCT's Art in Public Spaces program, and Senator Lieberman selected me as Connecticut's 2008 White House
Christmas Ornament Artist. I mention this, not out of self-interest or self-promotion, but to establish credibility.


Mark Patnode

Making the Sale: How to Pitch Your Ideas

[ March 2009 - Leading Effectively - Center for Creative Leadership] In the best of times, it can be a fight to get your ideas implemented at work. In today's organizations -- where resources are under siege and uncertainty abounds -- advocating for your approach, idea or product is tougher than ever. The time is right to take a more disciplined approach to pitching your ideas, says CCL's Harold Scharlatt, author of Selling Your Ideas to Your Organization. "If you don't have a strategy for selling your idea, you put yourself, your group and potentially your organization at risk," says Scharlatt. "If you have a project that you believe will improve the organization, you've got to find the best approach for getting it implemented. You can't afford a false start," says Scharlatt. To be successful in getting other people to consider and adopt your ideas, you need to consider two important things: the environment and your tactics. More

Can Fearful Memories Be Erased?

[13 March 2009 - Talk of the Nation - NPR] Scientists studying how the brain forms memories have found that by targeting brain cells expressing a certain gene in mice, they can erase a fearful memory association days after the event. Steven Kushner and colleagues describe the research in the journal Science. More

Isolating creativity in the brain - On improv, music, the brain and creativity

[5 March 2009 - The Harvard University Gazette] How -- exactly -- does improvisation happen? What's involved when a musician sits down at the piano and plays flurries of notes in a free fall, without a score, without knowing much about what will happen moment to moment? Is it possible to find the sources of a creative process? Aaron Berkowitz, a graduate student in ethnomusicology at Harvard, and Daniel Ansari, a professor in the psychology department of the University of Western Ontario, recently collaborated on an experiment designed to study brain activity during musical improvisation in order to get closer to answering these questions. The Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative awarded the collaborators a grant to look at musical improvisation in trained musicians, utilizing brain scans done with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology. Their paper, Generation of Novel Motor Sequences: The Neural Correlates of Musical Improvisation," was published in the journal NeuroImage, and received the journal's 2008 Editor's Choice Award in Systems Neuroscience. More

Thursday, March 12, 2009

'Mind-reading' experiment highlights how brain records memories

[12 March 2009 - EurekAlert! / Wellcome Trust] It may be possible to "read" a person's memories just by looking at brain activity, according to research carried out by Wellcome Trust scientists. In a study published today in the journal Current Biology, they show that our memories are recorded in regular patterns, a finding which challenges current scientific thinking. Demis Hassabis and Professor Eleanor Maguire at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) have previously studied the role of a small area of the brain known as the hippocampus which is crucial for navigation, memory recall and imagining future events. Now, the researchers have shown how the hippocampus records memory. When we move around, nerve cells (neurons) known as "place cells", which are located in the hippocampus, activate to tell us where we are. Hassabis, Maguire and colleagues used an fMRI scanner, which measures changes in blood flow within the brain, to examine the activity of these places cells as a volunteer navigated around a virtual reality environment. The data were then analysed by a computer algorithm developed by Demis Hassabis. "We asked whether we could see any interesting patterns in the neural activity that could tell us what the participants were thinking, or in this case where they were," explains Professor Maguire, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. "Surprisingly, just by looking at the brain data we could predict exactly where they were in the virtual reality environment. In other words, we could 'read' their spatial memories." More

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Undaunted Soul

They think of me as a scholar, an intellectual, a pen-pusher.
And I am none of them.
When I write, my fingers
get covered not in ink, but in blood.
I think I am nothing more than this:
an undaunted soul.

-- Words Nikos Kazantzakis used to describe himself in 1950

Sunday, March 08, 2009

On the Creative Life

"Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives ... most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity ... when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life." -- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (h/t: aestheticflow)

Friday, March 06, 2009

On the Creativity of Young People

"Our future depends on the creativity of young people. And how to do you stimulate young people? By getting them to ask questions of themselves. This work is a battery of ideas, as Joseph Beuys would say, which can recharge and fire the batteries of young people." -- Anthony d'Offay (More)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Special People Deal with the Unknown and Unknowable and Make Things Up

[5 March 2009 - The Guardian (UK)] Facts are tedious. People who put great store by them even more so. Who wants to be stuck with the club bore or local know-it-all? Yet last week the country went weak at the knees before members of Oxford University's Corpus Christi quiz team, winners (and now, losers) of a TV panel show. Why? Just because they were able to chime back some speedy answers to some fairly arcane questions. Now they are being told they are special. They are not. Special people don't deal with facts; they deal with the unknown and the unknowable. Special people like to make things up. More

[Plus, read more in this same article about German artist Joseph Beuys -- "My life in art: How Joseph Beuys convinced me of the power of conceptual art" ... Beuys's strange work changes the status quo into a world where facts and fiction are indistinguishable]

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Developing entrepreneurship among the world’s poorest

[McKinsey Quarterly - March 2009 Newsletter] In this video interview with Jacqueline Novogratz, posted alongside an excerpt from her new book, The Blue Sweater, she shares her experiences, from encouraging entrepreneurs in Africa to founding and running a "venture" philanthropy. More

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Everyone an Artist

Global voices calling for the development of "every human being (as) an artist" (Joseph Beuys). Shot by Steven Dahlberg at Weimar Sommerkurse 2007 in Weimar, Germany.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Valentine Peace Project

[11 February 2009 - Ode Magazine - Blog - By Susan Corso] The Valentine Peace Project was created to expand the vision of Valentine's Day to include public participation in creative peace action. On February 14 poems surrounding the themes of peace, love and community, will be wrapped around thousands of different flowers in various cities to give away. The mission is to rediscover some of the mystery and magic of love and how that relates to peace. What does Valentine's Day mean to you? More

Loneliness as Harmful as Smoking - Loneliness Affects Brain

[16 February 2009 - Psych Central News] A new study finds that social isolation affects not only how people behave, but also how their brains operate. University of Chicago scientists presented their research, "Social Emotion and the Brain," at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The work is the first to use fMRI scans to study the connections between perceived social isolation (or loneliness) and activity in the brain. Combining fMRI scans with data relevant to social behavior is part of an emerging field examining brain mechanisms. Researchers found that the ventral striatum -- a region of the brain associated with rewards -- is much more activated in non-lonely people than in the lonely when they view pictures of people in pleasant settings. In contrast, the temporoparietal junction -- a region associated with taking the perspective of another person -- is much less activated among lonely than in the non-lonely when viewing pictures of people in unpleasant settings. ... John Cacioppo, one of the nation's leading scholars on loneliness, has shown that loneliness undermines health and can be as detrimental as smoking. About one in five Americans experience loneliness, he said. Decety is one of the nation's leading researchers to use fMRI scans to explore empathy. More

Selling Culture as an Economic Force ... Saving Federal Arts Funds

[15 February 2009 - New York Times] The challenge for culture boosters in Congress was to convince a House-Senate conference committee that the arts provide jobs as other industries do, while also encouraging tourism and spending in general. "We had the facts on our side," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a New York Democrat who is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Arts Caucus. "If we’re trying to stimulate the economy, and get money into the Treasury, nothing does that better than art." ... As the details of the final bill were being hammered out, tens of thousands of arts advocates around the country were calling and e-mailing legislators. Arts groups also organized an advertising blitz arguing that culture contributes 6 million jobs and $30 billion in tax revenue and $166 billion in annual economic impact. The tide turned. In addition to preserving the $50 million allocation, the final bill eliminated part of the Senate amendment that would have excluded museums, theaters and arts centers from any recovery money. "It’s a huge victory for the arts in America," said Robert L. Lynch, the president of Americans for the Arts, a lobbying group. "It's a signal that maybe there is after all more understanding of the value of creativity in the 21st-century economy." That Senate amendment, proposed by Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, had grouped museums, theaters and arts centers with implied frivolities like casinos and golf courses. More

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Education - Our Greatest National Shame

[15 February 2009 - New York Times - By Nicholas Kristof] So maybe I was wrong. I used to consider health care our greatest national shame, considering that we spend twice as much on medical care as many European nations, yet American children are twice as likely to die before the age of 5 as Czech children -- and American women are 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as Irish women. Yet I'm coming to think that our No. 1 priority actually must be education. That makes the new fiscal stimulus package a landmark, for it takes a few wobbly steps toward reform and allocates more than $100 billion toward education. ... So for those who oppose education spending in the stimulus, a question: Do you really believe that slashing half a million teaching jobs would be fine for the economy, for our children and for our future? More

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Richard Florida on How the Crash Will Reshape America

[March 2009 - The Atlantic - By Richard Florida] The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide -- destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all? More

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How to fix the innovation gap: A conversation with Judy Estrin

[15 January 2009 - The McKinsey Quarterly] In this video interview, the author of Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy says we are living off the previous generation's research investments and thus failing to make the basic research investments needed to seed innovation in the future. Estrin taps her years of experience in nurturing Silicon Valley companies to describe what’s necessary to help new ideas thrive. She also offers some advice to the incoming administration on how to begin reinvesting in fruitful research. More

Ken Robinson Encourages Creativity, Passion and Talents

[15 January 2009 - Applied Imagination - By Steven Dahlberg, International Centre for Creativity and Imagination] Creativity writer and consultant Ken Robinson launched his new book, "The Element," last night at the Ridgefield Play House in Connecticut at an event sponsored by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

Robinson began by reminding the audience of the power of the imagination. "All cities owe their existence to imagination," he said. "It's this power of imagination will take us into the future -- or not. And it's this kind of imagination that's most at risk. I think we squander it. Not only squander it -- but suppress it ruthlessly."

Robinson went on to talk about his concept of "the element," which includes:
  1. Discovering what one's talents are. Doing something for which one has a natural aptitude. Doing something with which one resonates. "Many people have never discovered their real, natural talents."
  2. Doing something one loves to do. "People achieve their best when they do what they love."
"Aptitude has to meet passion," he said. "And you'll never 'work' again."

He said finding one's element(s) is not only essential to finding personal fulfillment, purpose and meaning, but it's essential to the balance of our communities. Plus, he said it has a bottom-line economic implication. "We are living in times of absolute revolution," he told the audience of more than 500 people. "Revolution demands that we think differently."

He urged people to pay attention to what assumptions they make and what they take for granted. "Things we take for granted turn out not to be true," he said.

Robinson suggested this country has a "crisis of human resources" in which people area unaware of what they are good at, what talents they have, and how to do what they love to do. "Human resources are often buried deep," he said. "You have to go looking for them."

He said the conditions need to be right for these resources to reveal themselves -- and then one has to be ready to do something with them when they appear. He used the example of the flowering of the normally barren Death Valley in 2005 as an example how deeply buried seeds can lay dormant for scores of years waiting for the conditions to be right to sprout and flower. "Death Valley is dormant, not dead," he said.

Photo taken in the Ashford Mill and Jubilee Pass area by Ranger Alan Vanvalkenburg

As always, Robinson critiqued education's overemphasis on particular kinds of thinking and learning (a la his TED presentation on "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" which has been viewed online by a couple of million people).

"Education was devised to develop a particular type of talents," he said, adding that people think they are not smart because of the hierarchy of what kind of thinking is taught and shown importance.

Robinson shared what the three founders of The Blue Man Group are doing to address the lack of creativity in education. They have founded The Blue School. This will be something to watch -- if not participate in.

His final message came from the tag line of his book:
"Finding your passion changes everything."


I was honored to also participate in a pre-lecture Roundtable on "Innovation in Our Schools" with colleagues from education, arts, business and government. The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum hosted the Roundtable as a means of bringing together creativity advocates from different fields to move forward creativity and education topics. The question the Aldrich organizers asked was:
"What does it look like, feel like and sound like when all of the partners in a student's learning community (i.e. peers, teachers, administrators, parents, coaches, community organizations, businesses, etc.) model creativity and innovation in a way that serves the student?"
A brief summary of responses included suggestions to focus on:
  • What "success" looks like and how it is defined -- and to include such components as passion, talents and creativity, as described above by Ken Robinson.
  • Mentoring.
  • The power of process.
  • Communicating creative and critical thinking processes.
  • The "making" of things.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mead on Diverse Unity

[12 January 2009 - Higher Awareness] "If we are to achieve a rich culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place." -- Margaret Mead

Friday, January 09, 2009

Urban Education Commentary

[8 January 2009 - Annenberg Institute for School Reform] Annenberg Institute Executive Director Warren Simmons speaks out to president-elect Barack Obama, on ways to improve urban education. ... In this inaugural "speak out" message, Simmons suggests three areas the new administration can address:
  • Building "smart education systems.”
  • Changing the nature of teaching as a profession.
  • Redefining the role of parents and communities in education.
These three proposals are far from the only areas of federal policy that affect education in urban communities. Our work, though, shows that they are high-leverage ideas that, if enacted, could substantially improve outcomes among urban youths. The Annenberg Institute stands ready to provide you and your staff any additional information you might need about these or any other ideas, and we will do whatever we can to help put these ideas into practice, if you so choose. More

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

WindhamARTS Hosts Creativity Networking With New York Composer/Violinist Roumain

[6 January 2008 - International Centre for Creativity and Imagination - By Steven Dahlberg] New York-based composer, performer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain will be featured at the WindhamARTS Collaborative’s Creativity Networking event, which will explore “Threads of Creativity in Art and Science.” It will be held Wednesday, January 7, 2009, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Annex at WindhamARTS, 866 Main Street, Willimantic, CT, 06226. The event is $5 and open to all; RSVP to 860-450-1287.

Roumain will be joined by artist Imna Arroyo, scientists Hedley Freake and Christian Brueckner, creativity educator Steven Dahlberg, and the public to explore the intersection of creativity, art and science. This event is in collaboration with the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Connecticut's "Year of Science 2009” project.

The monthly Creativity Networking Series is sponsored by the WindhamARTS Collaborative and the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination. It provides a regular forum for people to explore the many facets of creativity and to discover other people interested in creativity. Additional support comes from the Willimantic Brewing Company.

Roumain will return to Connecticut for a bicentennial celebration and performance of his composition, "Darwin's Meditation for The People of Lincoln," on February 12, 2009, celebrating that auspicious day of February 12, 1809, when Darwin and Lincoln were born within hours of one another. This performance launches the University of Connecticut’s "Year of Science 2009." More information about the performance is available here. Ticket information is available online.

Known for fusing his classical music roots with a myriad of soundscapes, Haitian-American artist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) has carved a reputation for himself as a passionately innovative composer, performer, violinist and band leader. His exploration of musical rhythms and classically-driven sounds is peppered by his own cultural references and vibrant musical imagination. As a composer, his dramatic soul-inspiring pieces range from orchestral scores and energetic chamber works to rock songs and electronica. According to the New York Times, his "eclecticism was wide-ranging as ever" in One Loss Plus, DBR's evening-length, multimedia work for electric/acoustic violin, prepared/amplified piano, electronics, and video which debuted at BAM's 2007 Next Wave Festival. The second commission, which premiered at BAM's 2008 Next Wave Festival is "Darwin's Meditation for the People of Lincoln," a musical setting of a new pocket play by Daniel Beaty exploring an imagined conversation between Darwin and Lincoln featuring the chamber orchestra SymphoNYC, and internationally renowned Haitian recording artist Emeline Michel.

Artist Imna Arroyo was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Her work is in numerous collections including the Museum of Modern Art Library/Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection, Yale Art Gallery and Schomberg Center for Research and Black Culture. She is a professor of art at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she has chaired the Visual Arts Department.

Hedley Freake is a professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, with a joint appointment in molecular and cell biology. He holds a Ph.D. in physiology from the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London. His research has been funded by National Institutes of Health and United States Department of Agriculture. His laboratory uses molecular approaches to address questions of nutritional significance.

Christian Brueckner is a professor of bioinorganic and inorganic chemistry at the University of Connecticut, where he runs a lab that specializes in the synthesis of molecules with designed properties -- or, creating molecules.

Steven Dahlberg heads the Willimantic, Connecticut-based International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, which is dedicated to applying creativity to improve the well-being of individuals, organizations and communities. He is a faculty member and associate director of the Creative Community Building Program at the University of Connecticut. Dahlberg authored the foreword to the book, "Education is Everybody’s Business: A Wake-Up Call to Advocates of Educational Change."

The WindhamARTS Collaborative is comprised of member arts organizations and individuals who came together in 2001 to foster and promote the arts and cultural life of the Windham region. Its goal is to maintain a multicultural, multidisciplinary, and multifaceted arts center where artists and artisans can interact with the public by sharing their creative endeavors.

Harvard Business School Discusses Future of the MBA

[24 November 2008 - Harvard Business School Bulletin] The MBA industry is in turmoil. Many business schools are revisiting their offerings to see if they still have relevance in the 21st century. And HBS is using its centennial year to convene worldwide experts on business education and plot its directions for the next 100 years. Key concepts include: Critics claim MBA programs put too much emphasis on theory and not enough on leadership in a global environment. A number of top MBA programs have retooled their offerings. HBS is looking at several change proposals, including the development in students of "soft skills." Whatever curriculum changes HBS ultimately adopts, the School will remain committed to the case method. More

Monday, January 05, 2009

Having Happy Friends Can Make You Happy

[5 December 2008 - Harvard Medical School] If you're happy and you know it, thank your friends -- and their friends. And while you're at it, their friends' friends. But if you're sad, hold the blame. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, have found that "happiness" is not the result solely of a cloistered journey filled with individually tailored self-help techniques. Happiness is also a collective phenomenon that spreads through social networks like an emotional contagion. In a study that looked at the happiness of nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years, researchers found that when an individual becomes happy, the network effect can be measured up to three degrees. One person's happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only their friends, but their friends' friends, and their friends' friends' friends. The effect lasts for up to one year. The flip side, interestingly, is not the case: Sadness does not spread through social networks as robustly as happiness. Happiness appears to love company more so than misery. More

On Creative Leadership

[5 January 2008 - The Writer's Almanac] Journalist Herbert Bayard Swope
said: "I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the
formula for failure -- which is: Try to please everybody."

Friday, January 02, 2009

On Writing and Community

[31 December 2008 - The Writer's Almanac] Junot Díaz said about writers:
"What we do might be done in solitude and with great desperation, but it
tends to produce exactly the opposite. It tends to produce community and
in many people hope and joy."