Category Archives: Creativity

Buckminister Fuller – Serendipity

Source:  Nautilus, Jan 2017

the inventor’s conviction that people learn through serendipity. His bewitching inventions, books, and lectures were designed to spur serendipitous thinking in others. Fuller knew, Keats writes, that “new ideas might emerge from the chance meeting of disparate information in a curious mind.” 

In his own life Fuller courted the lucky discovery. “He was an autodidact and a generalist, meaning that ideas from many realms could intermix freely in his mind,” Keats says. “Society needs generalists, who can bring essential creativity to the world’s problems.”

Playing with Blocks & Puzzles can Improve Children Spatial Skills

Source: Psychological Science, Jan 2015

Data from a nationally representative study show that children who play frequently with puzzles, blocks, and board games tend to have better spatial reasoning ability.

Being able to reason about space, and how to manipulate objects in space, is a critical part of everyday life, helping us to navigate a busy street, put together a piece of “some assembly required” furniture, even load the dishwasher. And these skills are especially important for success in particular academic and professional domains, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Children who played with puzzles, blocks, and board games often (more than six times per week) had higher block design scores than did children who played with them sometimes (three to five times per week), or rarely/never.

In line with previous findings, parents reported that boys engaged in spatial play — playing with puzzles, blocks, and board games — more often than girls, even after spatial ability was taken into account.

Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?

Source: Marginal Resolution, Dec 2016
<original source: Stanford  University, date indeterminate)

research effort has risen by a factor of 25 since 1970. This massive increase occurs while the growth rate of chip density is more or less stable: the constant exponential growth implied by Moore’s Law has been achieved only by a staggering increase in the amount of resources devoted to pushing the frontier forward.

…the economy has to double its research efforts every 13 years just to maintain the same overall rate of economic growth.

To maximize growth we need to draw on all the world’s brain power and that means we need a world of peace, trade and the free flow of ideas.

Breakthroughs in ideas for improving idea production could raise growth rates. Genetic engineering to increase IQ could radically increase growth. Artificial intelligence or brain emulations could greatly increase ideas and growth, especially as we can create AIs or EMs faster at far lower cost than we can create more natural intelligences. That sounds great but if computers and the Internet haven’t already had such an effect one wonders how long we will have to wait to break the slump.

3 Problem Situations

Source: Creativity Post, Dec 2016

Einstein spoke much about the importance of forming problems (i.e., being curious enough to ask questions).  Jacob Getzels, a former psychology professor at the University of Chicago, conducted foundational research on this topic in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.  Getzels (1982) identified three main types of problem situations:

  1.    presented problem situations
    (the problem exists, is given to the student, and has a known answer/way to solve it)
     
  2.    discovered problem situations
    (the problem exists but is discovered by a student rather than given to him; there may or may not be a known solution or way of solving)
     
  3.    created problem situations
    (the problem does not exist until someone creates it or asks the question)

Usually students are asked to solve presented problems, those with known outcomes and specific ways they are to be solved.  Some students are content with solving this type of problem.  

Wrote Getzels, “Put in terms of our taxonomy, the production of discovered or created problems is often a more significant accomplishment than the production of solutions to presented problems.”

Openness to Experience

Source: Creativity Post, Dec 2016

a recent meta-analysis looked through over 9,000 relevant publications and identified studies that included measures of deliberate practice and measures of skill. What it found was that for certain types of skill, accumulated hours of deliberate practice mattered more and for other types it mattered less, but it never accounted for nothing and it certainly never accounted for everything. It usually accounted for somewhere between a medium-low and medium-high amount of skill difference, to put it colloquially.

I think this gets to one of the essential differences between scientists and normal people. Scientists can’t just say “it’s not nature or nurture.” Numbers matter. It has to be “how much does each matter and what’s the interplay of each in every different situation?” It’s not just, does this matter? Scientists have to care about magnitude and numbers as they test their theories.

one of the most important characteristics was the extent to which kids fell in love with a future image of themselves. That has passion, but it also has an imagination component to it. Openness to experience, for instance, we’ve found is the best predictor of publicly recognized creative achievement, even better than conscientiousness.

 Angela Duckworth’s research—she’s a friend and colleague of mine and I respect her work immensely—showing that stick-to-it-ness and not giving up or having the right mindset are immensely important. I think that a full, comprehensive understanding of the development of greatness is going to require more of a “yes and” approach than a, “It’s this or it’s that” approach. That’s really what I’m calling for, more of “yes it’s grit, but it’s also imagination, it’s also curiosity, it’s also all these things that make you unique as a human being in this world.” I think that way of looking at things is actually more hopeful and exciting because it recognizes the importance of individuality.

Preventing Work Burnout

Source: Creativity Post, Dec 2016

1. Detach When You’re Not Working

First, detaching from work can actually make us more productive. Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim in Germany, has found that people who do not know how to detach from work during their downtime experienced increased exhaustion over the course of one year and became less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions. By contrast, gaining some emotional distance from highly demanding work tends to help people recover from stress faster and leads to increased productivity.  

Recommended activities include exercise, walks in nature, and total absorption in a hobby that’s unrelated to work …

Positively reflecting about your job after work hours can also help replenish you, according to research by Sonnentag and Wharton Professor Adam Grant. In other words, thinking about the good sides of your work at the end of your workday – in particular about the ways in which you are benefitting others – results in higher well-being and happiness.

2. Calm Down Rather than Amping Up

Our addiction to caffeine and other stimulants is another big issue. In the name of productivity, we have learned to keep our adrenaline levels high with copious amounts of coffee. Caffeine is a drug – albeit a socially accepted one. It is a stimulant. When we drink coffee, it raises cortisol (the “stress” hormone) above its natural levels.  Cortisol is naturally occurring in our body – it helps us wake up in the morning and have energy to start the day. However, raising it to unusual levels through coffee is the reason we sometimes feel so jittery after consuming caffeine.

This means we wind up depending on anxiety to fuel ourselves to get through our overscheduled days. Other people may rely on stimulants like sugar, energy drinks and even potentially addictive drugs like Adderall to help themselves stay up and focus for long hours.

Then, over-stimulated and unable to calm down when we come home, we turn to depressants like alcohol, sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medication to achieve balance. The constant back-and-forth between stimulant-induced anxiety and depressant-induced drowsiness places an enormous burden on our already exhausted nervous system.  

Cutting back on stimulants and cultivating calmness in your life – through yoga, walks in nature, and tech-fasts, for example – can help you turn down the dial on your adrenaline-filled life. By balancing these calming activities with the more high-intensity demands of your life, you will end up managing your energy better, having more emotional intelligence and making better decisions.

3 Foolproof Ways to Prevent Work Burnout, Backed by Science

 6

 0 Share

Synopsis

Over-working leads to burnout, here’s a better way to get things done.

Our culture is obsessed with productivity. But research shows that stressing ourselves out over an ever-expanding to-do list actually works against us—no matter how “productive” we may feel. After all, we’re seeing 50% burnout rates across industries.

Not only does workaholism double the risk of depression and anxiety, it actually lowers productivity and decreases work performance, according to research by Steven Sussman at the University of Southern California. It also leads to sleep problems and shortened attention spans, both of conspire to get in the way of our ability to do good work. Workaholism is bad for employers as well: it leads to stress-related accidents, absenteeism, higher employee turnover, lower productivity and higher medical costs.  

So why have we gotten caught up in a frantic approach to productivity? As a Stanford University research psychologist who has spent years looking into this literature, I believe the problem lies in our constant focus on the future – we believe we always have to look ahead in order to succeed and be happy. This belief leads us to forego personal happiness in the present and spend our days hunched over our computers, grinding our teeth and reassuring ourselves that the eventual payoff will be worth it.

But the truth is that nonstop focus on our work leads to the opposite of what we want: we are stressed, tired and never satisfied because there’s always something more to be done. Two simple changes could make us much better off.

1. Detach When You’re Not Working

First, detaching from work can actually make us more productive. Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim in Germany, has found that people who do not know how to detach from work during their downtime experienced increased exhaustion over the course of one year and became less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions. By contrast, gaining some emotional distance from highly demanding work tends to help people recover from stress faster and leads to increased productivity.  

“From our research, one can conclude that it is good to schedule time for recovery and to use this time in an optimal way,” Sonnentag shared with me. Recommended activities include exercise, walks in nature, and total absorption in a hobby that’s unrelated to work—whether that’s shooting hoops with friends, doing some woodcarving in the garage or learning to make dim sum. Positively reflecting about your job after work hours can also help replenish you, according to research by Sonnentag and Wharton Professor Adam Grant. In other words, thinking about the good sides of your work at the end of your workday – in particular about the ways in which you are benefitting others – results in higher well-being and happiness. If your work directly benefits others (e.g. you are a firefighter or a nurse), this exercise will be straightforward. If, however, you don’t feel that your work product benefits others substantially, you can still think about how your work is impacting others in a positive way. For example, it is benefitting your family. Or your attitude at work is benefitting your colleagues. Research shows that, when we are engaged in any kind of prosocial or kind action, we become happier.

Blake Richard Verdoorn/Unsplash

Blake Richard Verdoorn/Unsplash

Source: Blake Richard Verdoorn/Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

2. Calm Down Rather than Amping Up

Our addiction to caffeine and other stimulants is another big issue. In the name of productivity, we have learned to keep our adrenaline levels high with copious amounts of coffee. Caffeine is a drug – albeit a socially accepted one. It is a stimulant. When we drink coffee, it raises cortisol (the “stress” hormone) above its natural levels.  Cortisol is naturally occurring in our body – it helps us wake up in the morning and have energy to start the day. However, raising it to unusual levels through coffee is the reason we sometimes feel so jittery after consuming caffeine.

This means we wind up depending on anxiety to fuel ourselves to get through our overscheduled days. Other people may rely on stimulants like sugar, energy drinks and even potentially addictive drugs like Adderall to help themselves stay up and focus for long hours.

Then, over-stimulated and unable to calm down when we come home, we turn to depressants like alcohol, sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medication to achieve balance. The constant back-and-forth between stimulant-induced anxiety and depressant-induced drowsiness places an enormous burden on our already exhausted nervous system.  

Cutting back on stimulants and cultivating calmness in your life – through yoga, walks in nature, and tech-fasts, for example – can help you turn down the dial on your adrenaline-filled life. By balancing these calming activities with the more high-intensity demands of your life, you will end up managing your energy better, having more emotional intelligence and making better decisions.

3. Breathe

Research that I led with veterans (arguably some of the most stressed individuals in our society when they return from war) shows that learning conscious breathing (sudarshan kriya yoga) can help significantly reduce our stress and anxiety levels—sometimes in minutes. Breathing is among the most neglected solutions to stress, since it mostly happens on its own while we’re not paying attention to it.

But research suggests that you can change how you feel using your breath. By taking deep breaths into your abdomen and lengthening your exhales so they are longer than your inhales helps your nervous system relax – your heart rate and blood pressure may even decrease. Having a more relaxed nervous system will actually help provide you with more energy. Instead of wearing yourself out quickly with adrenaline, by remaining calm and engaging your parasympathetic nervous system, you will be able to restore yourself and manage your energy throughout the day without crashing. 

2% of Work Tasks: Creativity

Source: McKinsey, Jan 2017

fullscreen-capture-1152017-85314-am-bmp

fullscreen-capture-1152017-35335-pm-bmp