There is an exciting new technology emerging at the moment which is 3D printing. If you haven't heard about it before, think of it as being similar to your typical laser printer but instead of printing ink it is printing in another material such as plastic, ceramic or metal, and instead of printing to a piece of paper, it is printing in layers to produce a physical object. There are several people making them at the moment such as Makerbot and RepRap. They are going to shake up the world and I think it can go down either of two distinct paths.
So the other day we got into a bit of a discussion on measuring creativity. I thought I'd outline my thoughts on the topic here and then get your opinions. It appears to be an area of interest (the Torrance Test being a famous example) and indeed one that I have thought quite a bit about before. It is my opinion that trying to measure creativity is a bad thing. Not only is doing it accurately almost impossible but the act of doing it can also have negative consequences. Here are my reasons for this.
Our world has a reasonable level of redundancy built into it. In fact, it has a lot of redundancy built in. This is actually a good thing as it gives us a great deal of flexibility. Predominantly it meaans that sinple mistakes will not hinder us but it also means we can tweak things to better suit us while still getting the intended outcomes. Creativity is largely possible due to this redundency though it's something we rarely appreciate.
This weeks post applies predominantly to education but is actually applicable in many areas. So even if you're not an educator it should still be some food for thought. The modern world is increasingly obsessed with assessment. There is a firm desire to increase the level of education of students and it is largely seen that we need to measure every aspect of their ability, to create a detailed picture of what works, what doesn't and where our students are at, such that we may then know what to change to make it better.
I like my watch. It doesn't have many features except for telling the time and the fact that it glows in the dark, and stuff that glows in the dark is always funky. I wouldn't change it for a digital watch at all. We live in a world that is increasingly becoming digital. Now this offers a multitude of benefits, most of them quite obvious. It also has some hidden disadvantages. Creativity is something that indirectly suffers from this constant push to implement everything in digital.
There has been a lot of debate recently around the Apple V Samsung court case and its outcome. I won't go into the details of it here, you can easily find about it on other sites. What I believe this case shows, and what most people are missing, is the difference between features and implementation. Implementation is the valuable part here but is largely missed as it is the intangible. So lets dive in and take a look.
If you think about it, you actually know an amazing amount of stuff about a diverse range of things. That knowledge generally will be either broad or deep. If it's broad knowledge then you know about a lot of different aspects of the topic. If your knowledge is deep then you are specialised in one specific aspect of the topic (or a select few). We tend to favor one type of knowledge over the other. It will affect the way you think and from that influence the way you tackle problems and come up with new ideas.
In the title of this article I'm obviously referring to a 4 letter word that many find offensive. The thing is, the word is just that, a word. It is only offensive if you choose to take offence to it. And that choice is entirely yours. But vulgar words like this actually are quite powerful, for instance they can improve your ability to cope with pain. I'm going to argue today that using 4 letter words, one of them in particular, is powerful in terms of directing creativity and allowing it to flow.
As a teacher/ manager/ leader etc, you often think about how you can inspire creativity in your team. What if we flip this? Have you ever wondered what your team can offer to inspire creative thinking in you? Think of what you could achieve, what everyone could achieve, if your creative ability was amplified. Consider also, that in you drawing inspiration from them, you are creating an environment in which they too can be more creative.
The world as we see it is exactly that. The world as WE see it. It is a unique interpretation based upon how our senses have been stimulated and how our mind has chosen to construct those signals into a model of what is out there. But this is a hard concept for many to grasp. Our own internal model of the world is all we have, we have nothing to compare it to and we have been experiencing it our entire lives. Understanding the models that others have created is a powerful way to seek creative inspiration. But how do we do it?
Something that has been big in business over the last few years has been viral marketing. Viral marketing is when you create something that people want to share. Contained within that thing is a message about your product or service. The more people share it, the more it spreads, and the more people share it. It has been used very successfully by business but I think it can be used even more successfully for the general benefit of society. I would like to propose Viral Creativity.
We have hit the pinnacle. It's all downhill from here. It may seem like we are on the verge of a creativity explosion what with technology allowing all manner of new freedoms of expression yet I predict it is going to go the other way, very quickly. It all has to do with entropy and the idea that all systems will eventually settle on an equilibrium. There is a huge push for creativity going on, but at the same time there is also a huge amount of greed in the world.
When you are being creative with the aim of solving a problem or finding a better way to do something, where do you look? Like most people, do you straight away start to think about what is currently wrong or broken? The weak spots that need work on them. This seems perfectly logical, and indeed we are programmed to generally focus on the negatives, but is this actually the best approach? I would like to propose another angle.
Our perceptions of things play a large part in our ability to draw inspiration from them. The problem is that what we see is not what we should ideally be seeing. When something is unknown to us, we have a tendency to believe that it's functioning must be complex and scary. This is the habit we need to break if we want to see more opportunity when we go looking for it. Most of the time, the complete opposite is the case if we get the right perspective.
You can't cross a gorge with a series of small jumps (unless you're Wile E. Coyote that is). You have to take a big leap, with enthusiasm and trust that you'll make it. Same goes if you want to be highly creative. Small increments can only get you so far. Eventually you either stagnate, and remain in mediocrity, or you have to jump and take a risk.
Edward deBono stipulates that a truly creative idea will be logical in hindsight but that logic may not be used alone to arrive at the idea in the first place. This is a rather interesting characteristic of creativity. The path cannot be discovered until the destination has been created. I'm toying with this idea and how it may be used to promote further creative thinking.
Motivation. This is a key concept in how well we do in many areas of our lives. The more motivated you are, the better you will learn. The more motivated you are, the better you will play sport. The more motivated you are, the more you will get done. The more motivated you are the more creative you will be. And this is not a secret. We know this. Social may be the hot topic at the moment but it is now fading. The next hot topic I predict will be motivation.
Recently there was a discussion on one of the email lists I'm on regarding the use of iPads in classes. An interesting topic in itself but another more interesting side topic arose which was whether we as educators should be experimenting with how we teach or not. It's an idea that has some compelling arguments on both sides of the coin so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.
The five W's and one lonely H. 6 Questions that allow you to form a better picture of what it is you are looking at. Questions that may give us a deeper understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Or that can encourage us to seek different perspectives. They can get us closer to seeing the underlying principle of the matter. 6 Questions that are not used often enough to spur our creative thinking.