Learn to be Creative

Source: HBR, Feb 2015

our creativity levels are hard to change. They come down to personality traits such as intellectual curiosity, openness to experience, and unconventionality, which are largely set by the time we reach early adulthood. Creative individuals have also been found to have higher IQs and lower latent inhibition – that is, an “inability” to suppress irrelevant or inappropriate thoughts, which provide the raw materials for their creative ideas.

the key ingredients for creative performance are somewhat field-dependent:

  • in the arts, IQ is irrelevant but the desire to seek beauty, a tendency toward fantasy, and a vivid imagination are all critical;
  • in science, thinking, reasoning, and a drive for truth are essential, even more so than IQ;
  • in business, EQ and extraversion help, not least because innovation depends on successfully selling your creative ideas to others.

Genetic studies suggest that genes determine only 10% of the variability in creative potential, so there is a lot of room for development.

  1. Give lots of feedback.
    Feedback is essential to help people close the gap between their confidence and their competence. Employees who seek more feedback have been shown to perform more creatively than their counterparts.
  2. Provide training in creative thinking.
    teaching people to detect novel ideas, take on challenging tasks, retrieve knowledge outside their main area of expertise, or combine unrelated things or ideas can all boost creativity.
  3. Assign people to tasks they love.
    One of the most effective methods for enhancing creative performance is to increase individuals’ motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation (their task-related enjoyment, interest, and involvement).
  4. Help employees develop expertise.
    For any subject matter, creative performance is a function not just of potential, thinking skills, and motivation, but also of expertise.

though individual creativity matters, team creativity is far more important. … three basic suggestions managers …  boost the creative output of their teams:

  1. Balance differences and similarities
  2. Avoid having too many “creatives”
  3. Embrace failure

Asian Americans have a Higher Test Bar

Source: LA Times, Feb 2015

Lee’s next slide shows three columns of numbers from a Princeton University study that tried to measure how race and ethnicity affect admissions by using SAT scores as a benchmark. It uses the term “bonus” to describe how many extra SAT points an applicant’s race is worth. She points to the first column.

African Americans received a “bonus” of 230 points, Lee says.

She points to the second column.

“Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points.”

The last column draws gasps.

Asian Americans, Lee says, are penalized by 50 points — in other words, they had to do that much better to win admission.

“Do Asians need higher test scores? Is it harder for Asians to get into college? The answer is yes,” Lee says.

Zenme keyi,” one mother hisses in Chinese. How can this be possible?

For immigrant parents raised in Asia’s all-or-nothing test cultures, a good education is not just a measure of success — it’s a matter of survival. They see academic achievement as a moral virtue, and families organize their lives around their child’s education, moving to the best school districts and paying for tutoring and tennis lessons. An acceptance letter from a prestigious college is often the only acceptable return on an investment that stretches over decades.

Touching is Pleasurable

Source: Business Insider, Feb 2015

A caress feels best when it is delivered with a small amount of force and a speed of about 1 inch per second. Stroke slower, and it feels like an unwelcome crawling bug; faster, and it feels perfunctory.

Move your hand at about 1 inch per second, exert moderate force, don’t clutch a cold drink immediately beforehand, and you will optimally activate your partner’s caress-sensing fibers and then strongly excite the posterior insular region of your sweetheart’s brain. And for a moment, all will be right with the world.

Chingay Johor Bahru – A Religious Celebration

Source: Wikipedia, date indeterminate

The Johor Bahru Chingay Parade has a 140-year history. To begin with the word Chingay must be explained. The two characters Ching and Gay (庄艺) is the Min Nan dialect (including Teochew) for ‘the Art of Decorating (or Make-up). Johor Bahru residents have rarely referred to their annual parade of the deities as Chingay Parade. This name is mostly used by the non-Chinese speaking public; probably due to the non-religious fancy parades in Penang and later in Singapore.

Although the decorated floats and painted Chinese folk-characters are part and parcel of this annual parade, the main theme actually is the procession of the Five Deities from the five main dialect-groups of Johor Bahru. Thus for a JB resident, especially the Chinese-educated, this annual parade is always termed ‘YOU-SHEN’ (游神) or ‘Parade of the Deities’. As the principal deity in the Johor Bahru Old Temple is Yuan Tian Shang Di which the Teochews call Tua Lau Ya, this festival is still referred to by the Teochews as ‘Yia Lau Ya’ (in Mandarin Yin Lao Ye—营老爷) which in Teachew patois means ‘carrying and parading the Lau Ya’. This sets it apart from the non-religious ‘Chingays’ of Singapore and Penang which are annual parades of a festival nature to cater for tourists and to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The entire journey is about 10 kilometres and due to its snaky and winding route and stoppages at pivotal points such as the town centre and the Royal Dais, the parade will only grind to a halt back at the Depot in the wee hour of the morning, usually around 1 a.m. when the tired young men will call it a night.

Lots of Pictures at this Blog Posting


Un/Homeschooling: The Techie Approach

Source: Wired, Feb 2015

“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha says.

“The whole paradigm has shifted. It’s no longer about how to access information, it’s about how to use the information, how to sift through it to determine how to apply it to your life. That’s incredibly empowering, and schools are not doing that.”

“Pretty much everything you want to learn, you’ll be able to find out there. So that puts a premium on, Is this something you care about? Is this something you want to learn?”

Unschoolers believe that children are natural learners; with a little support, they will explore and experiment and learn about the world in a way that is appropriate to their abilities and interests. Problems arise, the thinking goes, when kids are pushed into an educational model that treats everyone the same—gives them the same lessons and homework, sets the same expectations, and covers the same subjects. The solution, then, is to come up with exercises and activities that will help each kid flesh out the themes and subjects to which they are naturally drawn.

… this is where technologists see a great opportunity—to provide differentiated, individualized education in a classroom setting. There’s a lot of excitement around Khan Academy because it steps in to handle a teacher’s least personalized duties—delivering lectures, administering and grading quizzes—freeing up time for one-on-one tutoring.

Last year, Khan Academy launched the Khan Lab School, an offshoot that will create “a working model of Khan Academy’s philosophy of learning in a physical school environment.” AltSchool, a startup created by a former Googler, has launched a series of “micro-schools” in which teachers help students create their own individualized lesson plans.

Randomness Matters!

Source: Psychology Today, Apr 2010

does creativity really benefit from randomness? … In the research world, it is agreed that creativity requires novel AND appropriate responses. Thus it seems a combination of randomness and lack of it (focus?) might be necessary.

both random and non-random processes were involved. Specifically, being random was predictive of creative fluency, which is simply generating as many responses to a given task as possible. Randomness was also related to creative flexibility, or the ability to switch between categories. However, being LESS random was predictive of creative originality, or the number of responses that are unique, as well as of actual creative achievement.

creativity does not only involve looser association, defocused or focused attention, lack of fixedness, etc. (suggested in literature), but most likely it is about being flexible, and knowing (either consciously and/or subconsciously) what is functional and when.

Creativity is Sexy, or so I hope :)

Source: Scientific American, Dec 2014

People all over the world rank creativity as a highly desirable quality in a partner, and people who are creative across a variety of fields report more sexual partners (similar results have been found in specific fields such as visual artmusic, and humor).

According to evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller, creative displays in humans are analogous to the peacock’s tail: they serve the function of attracting mates by serving as indicators of mental fitness (cognitive functioning and personality).Extending this argument, personality psychologist Gregory Feist made a key distinction between applied/technological displays of creativity (seen in modern domains of technology, science, and engineering), and ornamental/aesthetic displays of creativity (seen in modern domains of art, music, and other aesthetic domains). 

According to Feist, ornamental/aesthetic forms of creativity– which play on our evolved perceptual functions and evoke strong emotions in the perceiver– were shaped primarily by sexual selection pressures and are therefore more likely to receive a sexual response than applied/technological forms of creativity.

For both males and females on average, ornamental/aesthetic forms of creativity were considered more sexually attractive than applied/technological forms of creativity.

On average, here are the top 10 sexiest creative behaviors:

  1.  Playing sports
  2.  Taking a date on a spontaneous road trip
  3.  Recording music
  4.  Making a clever remark
  5.  Writing music
  6.  Performing in a band
  7.  The taking of artistic photographs
  8.  Performing in comedy
  9.  Dressing in a unique style
  10.  Writing poetry
People who scored higher in intellectual curiosity, enjoyment of cognitively complex reasoning, and who reported more creative achievements in the sciences tended to find applied/technological forms of creativity incredibly sexy in a potential partner.
In contrast, the best predictor of a preference for ornamental/aesthetic forms of creativity among both males and females was openness to experience: a preference for engagement with sensory, aesthetic, fantasy, and emotional information.