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.