Category Archives: Creativity

Becoming More Creative

Source: Fast Company. Apr 2017

If you want to become more creative, the answer may lie in becoming more courageous.

The Improvisational Leadership class is designed to expose students to new experiences, making them more creative by expanding their frames of reference. The class is 100% experiential, with no tests, textbook, or papers. Creativity can be learned, but not through lectures or reading, says Cook. “It has to be learned through doing,” he says.

And that can take a nudge. Each week, Cook, chairman of the global PR firm Golin and author of Improvise: Unorthodox Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO, challenges students to push their personal limits by trying new things.

“Trying new things gives you the courage you need to experiment with your life and not be worried about whether or not you fail,” says Cook.

In another exercise, students pulled a topic out of a hat and were given five minutes to prepare a presentation that positions them as an expert. “The idea is that you’re sometimes not given much time to prepare for something, and you have to sound knowledgeable and confident,” says Cook. “These real-life skills and experiences help you think on your feet.”

And in another, students must negotiate something. “They’re often very nervous about asking for something, but people respect you for negotiating,” says Cook. “They expect and respect it, especially when you’re standing up for your values.”

“What surprised me most was how much life opens up when you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone,” she says. “You never know where a door leads, and you can only find out if you go through it,” she says.


Becoming courageous and creative doesn’t happen overnight, says Cook. “It builds up a little at a time by doing new things and trying things you’ve never done before,” he says. “Every little step pushes you out of your comfort zone. I’ve seen students do things they never thought they could do before. They’re nervous, but they do it because it’s an assignment. The next time is easier. The goal is to become more creative, courageous leaders.”

Taking the Biggest Risk

Source: Scientific American, Dec 2013

… a stubborn sea of scientific possibilities will yield its secrets only to the one who casts her net the widest, takes the biggest risks, makes the most unlikely and indirect connections, pursues a path of discovery for the sheer pleasure of it. Even from a strictly practical viewpoint, you encourage pure research because you want to maximize the probability of a hit in the face of uncertainty about the landscape of facts.

the example of half a dozen scientists including Maxwell, Faraday, Gauss, Ehrlich and Einstein whose passionate tinkering with science and mathematics led to pioneering applications in industry, medicine and transportation. Each of these scientists was pursuing research for its own sake, free of concerns regarding future application.

Paul Ehrlich’s case is especially instructive. Ehrlich who is the father of both modern antibiotic research and drug discovery was asked by his supervisor, Wilhelm von Waldeyer, why he spent so much time tinkering aimlessly with bacterial broths and petri dishes; Ehrlich simply replied, “Ich probiere”, which can be loosely translated to “ I am just fooling around”. Waldeyer wisely left him to fool around, and Ehrlich ended up suggesting the function of protein receptors for drugs and discovering Salvarsan, the first remedy for the scourge of syphilis.

Abraham Flexner, the founding director of the Institute for Advanced Study and a passionate proponent of pure curiosity (Image: IAS)

Crazy Can Transform Lives

Source: The Verge, Oct 2013

“There’s often a long and tortured path to the final product, and it starts with theoretical thinking,” Dijkgraaf says. “But decades later, this work that can seem crazy has the potential to totally transform our lives.”

Doing the Non-Obvious

Source: Both Sides of the Table, Feb 2017

founders with a strong sense of purpose who are “mission driven” and not easily distracted by competition, praise or what others think. These tend to be the founders I back and in the first few years if the public is head scratching a bit — I usually think it’s more likely we’re heading in the right direction. No true innovation breakthroughs come from doing what’s obvious.

IAS: Fundamental Ideas

Source: IAS, date indeterminate


Learning Without Questioning –Why Asians do not win Nobel prizes

Source: James Thompson blog, Apr 2014

Asians (Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese) are supposed to have higher IQs (about 105 on average) than North Europeans (100), while sciences have been developed overwhelmingly by Europeans and their offshoots. Why Asians are lacking in scientific success might relate to two factors:

1. Low curiosity, which is expressed by lower Openness to experience (-.59 SD) as shown in various cross-cultural personality comparisons.

2.  Collectivism, which is captured by various individualism-collectivism indices such as the Hofstede individualism index (IDV), or Hofstede and Triandis individualism index (about -2 SD). The genetic underpinnings for these traits, such as DRD4, 5HTTLPR, and OPRM1 have also become increasingly apparent.

To integrate these psychological traits, a “q” factor is constructed by factor analysis on measures of Openness and Collectivism, which are then correlated with variables measuring academic achievements and also student assessments. It is found that IQ scores coupled with “q” factor scores neatly predict racial scientific achievements and also world-wide student assessments.  

Google DOC presentation: 

Patterns of Connectivity

Source: Farnham Street, Feb 2017

it’s not the size of our brains or the number of neurons, it’s about the patterns of connectivity.

our brain specializes and localizes. As Dr. Gazzaniga puts it, “Small local circuits, made of an interconnected group of neurons, are created to perform specific processing jobs and become automatic.” This is an important advance in our efforts to understand the mind.

Emergence, Gazzaniga goes on, is how to understand the brain. Sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, cells, neurons, modules, the mind, and a collection of minds (a society) are all different levels of organization, with their own laws that cannot necessarily be predicted from the properties of the level below.

The unified mind we feel present emerges from the thousands of lower-level processes operating in parallel. Most of it is so automatic that we have no idea it’s going on. (Not only does the mind work bottom-up but top down processes also influence it. In other words, what you think influences what you see and hear.)

This left-brain module is what we use to explain causality, seeking it for its own sake. The Interpreter, like all of our mental modules, is a wonderful adaption that’s led us to understand and explain causality and the world around us, to our great advantage, but as any good student of social psychology knows, we’ll simply make up a plausible story if we have nothing solid to go on — leading to a narrative fallacy.