Friday, November 30, 2012

TED talks on creativity

Adding another item to the "storage of great information" list -- here's the 10 TED talks on creativity that are worth taking the time to watch.

I'm slowly making my way through these, and will add on as I do.

Julie Burstein, 4 Lessons in Creativity
The biggest nugget for me out of this one was remembering not to take the world and our everyday experiences for granted. How might we appreciate what happens to us daily? How might we learn from those experiences that we'd rather not have, like loss or disappointment, and grow from them?

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
A great storyteller (yes, she's a writer!), Gilbert's main focus is on not getting hung up in the psyche or pressures of needing to deliver the best work, all the time, every single time. She talks about the creative genius as something that happens to you, or passes through you -- of course you have to bring your own hard work, too, and keep working even if you don't succeed every time, but the burden isn't necessarily always on you as a person. Sometimes it's dependent on everything else around you, and you just have to be aware enough to catch it.

David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence
I strongly believe in IDEO's approach to design thinking, and David Kelley is a great spokesperson for it. Understanding that so many people are driven by a fear of judgement is crucial to understanding why people are motivated to do the things they do. Kelley's points here are really around how we can get past that fear and allow divergent thinking, and he rounds it out with the idea that once you've overcome your fears, you start to focus on the more important things in life and have a stronger feeling of self-efficacy (that you can do what you set out to do).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Frog's Collective Action Toolkit

FastCompany wrote an article about Frog's Creative Action Toolkit that was very focused on empowering communities to solve problems via design thinking. Frog's own page about this toolkit also uses language focused around these communities, but it's not a far leap to see how this can apply to business. (Not that business is a more "worthy" recipient of these tools -- not by any means -- but by their very nature, businesses are able to affect change for the better beyond themselves.)

A quick aside -- I noticed that in business, we tend to skip over the "Build" activities to go straight to "Seek," "Imagine," or "Plan" -- but it was a good reminder that sometimes, we don't know who or what we have at the table. How might we leverage each unique skill or perspective to broaden our thinking? What do we leave behind when we assume we know what we can or can't do?

Download the toolkit at Frog's page for it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

TED Talk: Shawn Achor, The Happy Secret to Better Work

I watched this TED talk this morning, and it really resonated with me in how we might help ourselves lead more fulfilling lives.

Here's the transcript toward the end of his talk, where I think he talks about the psychology behind our happiness, and how we might re-wire our brains to have a happier outlook (bolding from me):
And what I found is that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I'll be more successful. And if I'm more successful, then I'll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting styles, our managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.
And the problem is it's scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. First, every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better school, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we're going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we've done is we've pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. And that's because we think we have to be successful, then we'll be happier.
But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we've found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You're 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.
What we need to be able to do is to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you're positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.
We've found that there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We've done these things in research now in every single company that I've worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they're grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world, not for the negative, but for the positive first.
Journaling about one positive experience you've had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we've been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand. And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their social support network.
And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we've found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but create a real revolution. 
A quick search brought up the 21-day, 5-step "regimen" to happiness, here:
    1. Write Down What You're Grateful For. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.
    2. Focus On The Positive. Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.
    3. Exercise. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.
    4. Meditate. Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.
    5. Send A Positive Email. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team (or social support group). This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students.

    I think I'm going to try this.