Creativity – Making It More

September 7, 2010

Just read an article from mid-July’s Newsweek called The Creativity Crisis.  (Yes, I know, I’m a little lagging behind.)  It’s quite exciting, even though it is reflecting a decline in creativity in children in the US, because it recognizes that there is at least one way that children learn, exercise their ability to be creative, and value what they learn: project-based learning.

We all recognize the feeling, yes?  Why do I have to learn this?  I’ll never use it.  This is stupid.  When we feel that way, remembering things is hard, and making use of them is harder.  This is true – at least in my experience – of adults as well as children.  Have you ever gone to a work-related seminar or training session?  Was it useful?  Or did it leave you with a certificate of completion but not much else?

If the latter, how much different would it have been if you went into it with a pressing question related to the topic – a project?  One which the seminar didn’t quite answer, but gave you substantial information about – enough to engender more questions?  The prospect sends shivers of excitement up my spine, because it offers a path from the known to the unknown: our questions (when accompanied by desire and determination to find or create answers) are the real and imagined road from the one to the other.

Here are 2 other hints the article throws out:

  • have multiple creative tasks going at the same time, and switch between them when you get stuck on one
  • try 30 minutes of aerobic exercise – it improves “almost every dimension of cognition, ” including creativity.  This only works for the physically fit (others may be exhausted by the exercise) – but if you keep taking your 30-minute exercise breaks, soon you will be fit, and will get the added benefit of the boost in creativity!  Now, that’s efficiency. 

Predicting the Future, Part II

January 13, 2010

I love statistics.  I love gathering information, making it understandable, examining how one bit of data relates to another.  I love how it helps me understand where I’ve been, how it illuminates a way forward.

I’ve recently participated in two shooting matches, and my overall score in each of them was pretty similar and it seemed like not much had changed.  But when I looked at the data (my scores on each of the stages, and the order I shot the stages in) I learned two key things:

  • I’m consistently shooting better in the first half of the competition.  Likely, I get tired after that.
  • My scores in 7 of the 8 stages where significantly better the second time – it was one not so good stage that increased my second score significantly so that the overall score was similar to the first time.

Data in hand, I’m now predicting that I’ll continue to improve in the next competition.

But data is not the only basis for prediction.  The first competition was pretty overwhelming; the second one a lot less so.  I talked more with people who knew what they were doing, and I’m learning to recognize where the significant challenges are in each of the stages.  Gaining familiarity and resources makes it easier to be in the feeling of the experience, to align with it.  Even if the second experience had brought no change in performance, I’d be predicting improvement from here just on the basis of establishing relationship to the people and the environment.

But wait!  There’s more!  Getting my gun out of the holster more smoothly, gaining speed in my trigger pull, developing more autonomic body memory of proper position – these are things I’ll be practicing between now and the next match.  And bringing a good lunch to the match (since forgetting to eat may have contributed to poorer scores in the second half).  My intent is to shoot better, and I’m committing actions to making that happen – and therein lies a third basis for prediction.

Data, relationship, action.  Each of these tells us about the past and the present in a manner that helps us prepare for the future.  The mystery is still there, but now we’re dancing with it.

Predicting the Future

January 8, 2010

My habitual pattern is to drop my car keys on the kitchen counter.  That means it’s a pretty good prediction most days that the kitchen counter is where my car keys will be.

But that’s not true every day.

What if I arrived home last night really really really needing to pee?  The kitchen counter might not have been my first stop.  (Hopefully not, really.)

If I’m not paying attention at that point, those keys might be harder to find today.  But just the thought, “I better put these keys in the kitchen,” (followed by doing so) would restore the pattern, making today’s prediction of keys on counter a pretty darn accurate one.

Alternately, I might arrive home, keys in hand, enter the kitchen and think, “I’m tired of having things strewn on the counter – I need a new system.”  So, I find a basket or a hook or suddenly the potted plant by the door looks like just the right home for them.  Now the prediction of keys on the counter becomes a pretty bad prediction.

Knowing the future relies on these three things:  seeing the pattern that has come before, assessing the degree to which that pattern is in place in the present, and realizing how human awareness is operating in relationship to this pattern – either deliberately restoring a pattern that’s been disrupted, or intentionally instigating a change in pattern.

The future is easy to predict if it’s easy to see the pattern in the past, not much has changed in the present, and there’s little human awareness affecting how this pattern will move forward in the future.  But shift any of those and the future just grows in its mystery.

How to Hire a Consultant

January 4, 2010

Hiring a consultant is a big decision and a significant commitment of organizational resources – of course, you want to make the most of it!  Here are a few tips for putting that time and money to good use.

  1. Say yes to the goals at the beginning of the project. Hiring a consultant means you as an organization have already committed to doing something new.  Too often, organizations wait until the end product – the report, the final presentation, the recommendations – as if that is the decision-making moment.  In fact, the decision was made at the beginning when the resources were committed.
  2. Work with the consultant as an ally and collaborator. No consultant can “do something” or “fix something” for an organization.  A consultant brings in perspective, resources and expertise, but only the organization can put them to use.  At every step the organization needs to be asking “what does this means for us?” and “how can we put this to use?”
  3. Invest at least as much organizational time and consideration as you ask the consultant to invest. A good consultant provides information, strategies and possibilities designed to catalyze change in your organization – but only the organization can enact that change.  Read everything produced by the consultant, go over it with a fine tooth comb, ask questions to be sure you understand all the data. Then use those materials to initiate conversations and actions within the organization.
  4. Create the circumstances for a new kind of conversation. How can your organization open up to the new possibilities presented by your consultant?  It won’t happen by continuing on in the familiar day-to-day routines.  Plan a retreat, empower a committee, set aside special time on an on-going basis in the regular meeting schedule.  Your day-to-day routines are set up to support the status quo.  You need a different routine to support change.

Hiring a consultant can be an exciting moment for your organization – or an exercise in frustration.  Be a full participant in the change you are seeking. The frustrations will be fewer, and the excitement will be palpable.

What’s the Rage in a Raging Magma Life?

January 2, 2010

Rage is our natural response to injustice. It’s a clear, direct illumination of the truth.  It demands our response.

Rage is what we deny and suppress when we just go along to get along, trying to blend in, afraid of taking risks.

Rage will not make you comfortable.  Rage is the guardian of beauty.  It teaches us our true needs, our actual desires.

Rage requires that we protect what matters.

To put it another way, rage is what we need to deal with the likes of the Board of MisDirectors, those insidious internal voices that give us every reasons in the book to not live the lives we’re capable of living.

The Meaning of Destiny

January 1, 2010

They say it is important that we do what we have come here to do, to live our life’s purpose.

So much of my life I have worried that I would never figure that out—never find the written instructions that spell out exactly the work, the accomplishment, the contribution that is MINE to make.

But really, there is no one thing.  There is no roster with names in one column and destinies in the next, all spelled out.  There is nothing to be checked off.

And what a good thing that is.  How antithetical that would be to the nature of being human, to the nature of life itself.

We are not born only to accomplish a task, and then once that is complete return to the throbbing unformed miasma to repeat the process again.  We exist for the more, for living each moment explicitly for the stunning opportunity to discover it, to create it, to leap with abandon into the adventure of breathing and seeing and knowing and loving and dancing and struggling and…

There is no one thing to be or do.  There are only the acts of being and doing.  Being me.  Doing it my way.  Each moment, each nuance, each look, each task and test, each elegant spot of grace.

That is the meaning of destiny.

Mapping the Unknown

December 22, 2009

Our work focuses on the space between what is currently true and what is desired.  Two key challenges emerge.  1) These two points are knowable,  but they are often not clearly defined or understood.  2) The space between them is unknowable:  if it were possible to simply plan a known route across this space, it would already be done.

This is not the typical viewpoint of our clients.  Most assume they are clear about their current and intended realities, and refer to  some failing as an explanation of why they have not traversed the territory in between – laziness, the poor performance of employees, just not trying hard enough, and the like.  The transformative aspect of our work together lies in stepping outside doubt and blame and into the adventure of mapping the unknown.

To meet the first challenge (mapping what is unknown amidst the knowable) requires a clear assessment of current resources and challenges and the courage to put this assessment to work.  Where are current resources being squandered?  How are challenges or weaknesses being ignored or dealt with ineffectually?

For example, an alternative health practitioner was dismayed at the lack of response to her advertising efforts. Together, we identified a key barrier in her advertising: the assumption that her audience already understood the problems for which she was offering a solution.  Learning to educate through her outreach efforts was a crucial component to her success.

A non-profit client was frustrated by its lack of growth in membership and revenue.  This current reality made sense however, as the organization realized that both staffing and volunteer labor were being utilized at maximum capacity, thus creating a necessary and understandable limit on growth.

Once the key problem has been identified most clients think that all that remains is to apply the solution.  What is lost in this assumption is an awareness of the chaotic nature of change.  The identified solution is not simply a new way to get to a destination already attained.

Rather, it is a catalyst into territory never before explored.  This can be the most interesting, satisfying and creative aspect of the process, activating what is centrally true and valuable in the current system.

Our health practitioner realized her own interest and desire to be a teacher, to bring all that she had learned to those who would benefit from this knowledge.  The non-profit organization realized the significance of current staff and volunteer efforts, and took new efforts to invest in the coordination and recognition of these resources – thus investing in  the heart and strength of the organization itself.

Through mapping the unknown in the current reality and creating a map into the unknown territory of movement forward, a third map is created:  a map of what is desired.  While the destination was in some ways known from the start, the true nature of that destination reveals itself only as it is achieved.  In both cases, they discovered the path by walking it.

As the health practitioner created her maps, she became an author and speaker devoted to promoting the ability of individuals to heal themselves.  As the non-profit engaged in its journey, it became a strong community of people working together to make a difference.  In both cases, this is who and what these clients were from the start.  The difference was in their ability to strongly actualize this gift in their world.

Maps abound detailing how to get from one place to another – and every one of them describes what is currently known.  To actualize the potential of who and what we are, we must map the unknown.  What a fabulous journey that can be.