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."