Don’t Look Now, Our Creativity is Leaking

Portions of this post are based on excerpts from the book by Michael Easter, The Comfort Crisis. We spend an awful lot of time consuming digital media, lest we get easily bored. A recent study looked at what happens to a bored mind without easy access to media?

The Canadian neuroscientist James Danckert recruited some volunteers and put them into a neuroimaging scanner, and induced them into a mood of being bored They had them watch two guys hanging laundry for eight minutes. You could say they were bored out of their gords!

While bored, a part of their brains called the “default mode network” fired on. It’s a network of brain regions that activates when we’re unfocused, when our mind is off and wandering. Mind wandering is a rest state that restores and rebuilds the resources needed to work better and more efficiently when we’re focused on the outside world.

Mind wandering is also a key driver of creativity, which is why other studies have found that bored people score significantly higher on creativity tests. Research dating back to the 1950s may explain why we’re now facing a “creativity crisis.”

If I didn’t already know this was a 1950’s Classroom, I would have guessed it. Has that look and feel – BTW, where are the little girls?

Ellis Paul Torrance was an American psychologist. In the 1950s he noticed something off target about American classrooms. Teachers tended to prefer the subdued, book-smart kids. They didn’t much care for the kids who had tons of energy and big ideas. Kids who’d think up odd interpretations of readings, inventive excuses for why they didn’t do their homework, and morph into mad scientists every lab day.

The system deemed these kids “bad.” But Torrance felt they were misunderstood. Because if a problem comes up in the real world, all the book-smart kids look for an answer in … a book. But what if the answer isn’t in a book? Then a person needs to get creative.

He thus devoted his life to studying creativity and its uses for good. In 1958 he developed the “Torrance Test.” It’s since become the gold standard for gauging creativity. The TTCT (Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking) assess how creatively a child’s mind works and are often given to children to determine advanced placement or as part of an entrance examination. Instead of traditionally taught subjects such as reading or math, these tests assess creativity. Children are scored on a number of aspects, including:

  • Creative titles for pictures
  • Expressions
  • Imagery
  • and Humor

He had a large group of children in the Minnesota public school system take the exam. It includes exercises like showing a kid a toy and asking her, “how would you improve this toy to make it more fun?”

Torrance analyzed all the kids’ scores. He then tracked every accomplishment the kids earned across their lives, until he died in 2003, when his colleagues took on the job. If one of the kids wrote a book, he’d mark it; if a kid founded a business, he’d mark it; if a kid submitted a patent, he’d mark it. Every achievement was logged. What he found raises big questions about how we judge intelligence.

The kids who came up with more, better ideas in the initial tests were the ones who became the most accomplished adults. They were successful inventors and architects, CEOs and college presidents, authors and diplomats, etc.

Torrance testing, in fact, bests IQ testing so much so that a recent study of Torrance’s Kids found that creativity was a threefold better predictor of much of the students’ accomplishment compared to their IQ scores.

Now, according to Easter, we’ve killed off one of the main drivers of creativity: mind wandering. The result? A researcher at the University of William and Mary analyzed 300,000 Torrance Test scores since the 50s. She found that creativity scores began to nosedive in 1990.

She concluded that we’re now facing a “creativity crisis.” The scientist blames our hurried, over-scheduled lives and “ever increasing amounts of time interacting with electronic entertainment devices.”

And that’s bad news. Particularly when we consider that creativity is a critical skill in today’s economy, where most of us work with our brains rather than brawn.

Despite what productivity gurus will have us believe, the key to improving creativity might be to occasionally do nothing at all. Or, at least, not dive into a screen. We’ll think distinctly, in a way that delivers more original ideas.

Yet, ironically, society’s tech giants still deliver more advanced software to supposedly aid us in our creativity, while holding us increasingly captive. A proper balance has yet to be realized. And may not ever.

While it may sound silly, occasionally doing nothing works. At least for me, it does. Of course, my body may not be doing anything but my mind is usually traveling at warp speed. It’s usually during these times that I let my mental forces do what they’ll do. More times than not, they produce . . . an idea . . . several ideas . . . a partial script . . . something to which I can apply time-in-the-future to develop.

Boredom is just one evolutionary discomfort we’ve lost from our lives. Easter’s book, The Comfort Crisis, investigates nine others, covering what happens to our bodies, minds, and sense of self without them—and the benefits we can reap by reintroducing these evolutionary discomforts into our lives.

Seth Godin on Creativity

“To count, it needs to ship,” Seth Godin.

Whatever you end up creating, for it to count, it needs to ship. Ship in the sense that it needs to be published, displayed, lectured, drawn, invented, etc. Whatever you create needs exposure.

If you’re not that familiar with Seth or his myriad of work, go explore Seth’s site. You’ll be glad you did.

I’ve been following Seth’s podcast, Akimbo, for several years now and find it quite nourishing. I also subscribe to his emails. How he does this 365 days of the year, I’ll never know.

But, I’m glad he does.

So take a listen below to Seth’s take on Creativity if you haven’t already. Once done, choose to create something.

Then ship it!

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Special Edition: Creativity Mastermind, Father of Lateral Thinking Edward de Bono Has Died

I couldn’t let the week go by without a Tip-o-the (Six) Hats to the truly creative wizard I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2005 at an international creativity conference.

Creative thinker Edward de Bono has died less than a month after celebrating his 88th birthday. De Bono died last Wednesday morning and the news of his passing was announced by his family. 

I really didn’t know anything about him before I met him at this conference in Austin, Texas. He was one of the featured panelists at the conference and, one could argue, probably the most famous. He was also unassuming as he sat there on the panel giving out advice and counsel based on his many books, especially Six Hats.

Edward de Bono photo: Roy Zhao

That’s one of several he autographed for me as we visited for a brief bit following his presentation.

Born in Malta, De Bono graduated as a doctor but went on to study psychology and physiology from where he developed an interest in thinking processes.

He fathered the phrase lateral thinking, which has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, and developed multiple thinking strategies, including the Six Thinking Hats method.

In a statement, his family described de Bono as a global citizen, who returned to Malta in his final years.

“This has always been his home. He lived an extraordinary life, inspiring, encouraging and enabling all of us to be better and more creative thinkers. He wrote in his book The Mechanism of Mind: ‘A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.’ May the memory of Edward live on and inspire many future generations,” the family said.

De Bono received his initial education at St Edward’s College and the Royal University of Malta, where he achieved a degree in medicine. Then as a Rhodes Scholar at Christchurch, Oxford, where he gained a degree in psychology and physiology and a D.Phil. in medicine.

He holds a PhD from Cambridge, a DDes from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and a LLD from Dundee. He has had faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard. 

Thanks to the World Creativity and Innovation Week/Day

He has written over 60 books and programs, with translations into 43 languages, has been invited to lecture in 58 countries and has made three television series. Included among these 60 books are Serious Creativity, Creativity Workout, and Handbook for the Positive Revolution, all now displayed in my library with his autograph.

His ideas have been sought by governments, not for profit organizations and many of the leading corporations in the world, such as IBM, Boeing, Nokia, Siemens, 3M, GM, Kraft, Nestle, Du Pont, Prudential, Shell, Bosch, Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young and others.

The global consultancy, Accenture, chose him as one of the fifty most influential business thinkers. In a 2004 interview with MaltaToday, de Bono even proposed a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as he launched his thinking centre in Malta.

In 1994, de Bono was made an officer of the National Order of Merit by the President of Malta.

Thanks to Kurt Sanson of MaltaToday for material upon which this blog is based.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

They’re Baaaaaaaaaaackkkkkk! Quotes, That Is!

I think Calvin’s been watching The Twilight Zone.

It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover. To know how to criticize is good, to know how to create is better. – Poincaré

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. – Marie Curie

Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things. – Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I have learned that trying to guess what the boss or the client wants is the most debilitating of all influences in the creation of good advertising. – Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make. – William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Fun without sell gets nowhere, but sell without fun tends to become obnoxious. – Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will. – George Bernard Shaw

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

A Few Last Quotes for Awhile

Well, as with any blog post, one tends to change one’s mind once in awhile. I had planned to begin a series of posts dealing with depression, among other topics, as it pertains to creativity. As I find myself not ready to do that yet, I went back to my vault of various quotes. Since I have only enough for one more post at this point in time, that’s what I’m posting this time out. Stay tuned.

Apparently on screen I look tall, ageless, close to  omniscient-delivering jeopardy-laden warnings through gritted teeth, but when people see me on the street, they say ‘this kid is 5 foot 5, he’s got a broken nose, and looks  as foreboding as a bank teller…’ Rod Serling.

The place to start in advertising is the basic selling appeal. An appeal that fulfills some existing need in the prospect’s mind, an appeal that can be readily understood and believed. – Morris Hite, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew. Marshall McLuhan, philosopher 

I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one. Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been. – Alan Alda

It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow. – Robert H. Goddard

Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. – William Palmer

Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.  Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

It’s kind of a strange, backslapping ritual that we go through in this town where you get awards for almost everything. For surviving the day you’re going to get awards. So I can’t suggest that those things represent any pinnacle of achievement. – Serling from #Oscars #AcademyAwards

Curious, Memorable, Unsettling, Quirky, Quixotic and Quotable Quotes

My Quotes blog posts have proven quite popular and, thus, I offer up another version. I also offer up a side note to say that some future posts will cover some rather serious posts on psychological aspects of creativity and where the industry may be heading amidst the pandemic in which we still are engaged. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow often says, “watch this space.”

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud.  Alex Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Stabbing little thoughts gouge my brain. Ugly, frightened thoughts. Projections of tomorrow and the next day. Twilight Zone’s “The Hitch-Hiker” by Rod Serling stars Inger Stevens

Rules are for people who don’t know what to do. Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I don’t like closed doors. Creativity flourishes best in an environment of open doors and open minds. Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is. Fairfax Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

We don’t grow unless we take risks. Any successful company is riddled with failures. James E. Burke, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people — and he won’t do very well in advertising. Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Most writers, you go up to them and say you’ve got an idea, they reply, ‘You do the acting, kid, and we’ll do the writing.’ Not Rod. You go up to him with a suggestion, he gets the pencil out and starts writing.  — Earl Holliman, star of Twilight Zone’s “Where is Everybody?”

Quotes From The Twilight Zone and Other Time Portals

Back again with a number of different quotes but this time, unintentionally, I’ve included several from Rod Serling. These even include a submission by his daughter, Anne. Interestingly, some reflect our current times and are not, simply, torn from a script of The Twilight Zone, though they could be quite applicable.

Offered up for contemplation and reminding, that some things never change. However, it’s still up to us to bring about that change no matter how painful and uncomfortable the process is.

Creative imagination — the lamp that lit the world — can light our lives. – Alex F. Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic. – William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

When we are too timid to risk failure, we reduce the opportunities to succeed. And we eliminate the chance to learn. – Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

A sickness known as hate. Not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in #TheTwilightZone, look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether. – Rod Serling (March 27, 1964)

Imagination leads to curiosity leads to creativity leads to innovation. In everything you write, write something that is brave enough to be hopeful. – Amanda Gorman, poet, first National Youth Poet Laureate 

Human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings. This, I submit to you, is not a political thesis at all. It is simply an expression of what I would hope might be ultimately a simple humanity for humanity’s sake. ― Rod Serling

Variety of Quotes, Variety of Thought.

Just when you thought I had run out of quotes, I found some more. I tend to come across these every week from a variety of different sources, some of which are quite surprising as are the quotes. In any case, enjoy, and don’t be surprised when you’re surprised.

There are two kinds of men who don’t amount to much: those who can’t do what they are told and those who can do nothing else.  Cyrus H. K. Curtis, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.  Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance. Bruce Barton, Advertising Hall of Fame

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud.  Alex Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone.  Fairfax M. Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.  William Bernbach, Advertising Hall of Fame

It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.  Alex Osborne, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic. Rod Serling

Quotes: Historic and Otherwise

Here lies before you a variety of quotes from various historical people, some of whom you may know, some of whom you may not. Either way, each quote is a foundation of knowledge in and of itself. Get nurtured, my friends. Enjoy!

On taking charge of your life:

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. — Henry David Thoreau

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. — Marcus Aurelius

We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful. — Warren Buffett

It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking. — Julius Caesar

Knowledge is the antidote to fear. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. –William James

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. — Anaïs Nin

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. — Teddy Roosevelt

When you are through changing, you are through. Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

When you’re green, your growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.  Ray Kroc, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Quotes, Quotes and More Quotes

A bit of a continuation from last week but, nevertheless, intriguing. The authors come from all walks of life and some, you’ve probably never heard of. The quotes themselves tug at your soul as if to say, “Remember!”

On persevering through adversity:

You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated. — Maya Angelou

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’ — Audrey Hepburn

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. — Gandhi

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. — Ayn Rand

Fall seven times and stand up eight. — Japanese proverb

On following your instinct:

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. — Ray Bradbury

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be. — Bruce Lee

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. — Søren Kierkegaard

The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

We become what we think about all day long. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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