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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Connections, Effort, and Creativity

In my last post I said that creativity is based on connections and that you need to be able to pull expertise from one area and combine it with new knowledge in another area.

For example, it is widely known that the Wright Brothers were successful in building a rudimentary airplane, even though one had never been built before. They applied their knowledge of bicycle building and forward motion to the new concept of enough forward motion to create lift. Using concepts you already know and applying them to something you don't know is how a lot of products are developed.

The concept of moving outside of your areas of interest and expertise is uncomfortable and requires effort. Who wants to read a physics book when you really want to go and paint a landscape? (Maybe you can tell this is a personal whine?) What I am saying is that you do not have to become an expert in physics. Start with an introductory book or maybe find grade school level texts that present concepts in a basic manner, (and this is not as embarrassing as it sounds!) which will make it easier for you to understand the subject.

It has never been easier to learn something new and who knows, you might find a new interest.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Connections and the Case for Life Long Education

Making connections between different areas is the backbone of creative thinking. So if you spend all your time watching football on television, reading about football online or in sports magazines and generally ignoring anything that isn't football based, then you aren't going to know anything except football.

You aren't going to make the connections that the football can be used as weapon, or that it's trajectory when it's thrown (or kicked if you are anywhere other than the United States) is an arc impacted by gravity, or any laws of physics regarding mass and motion, as in linebacker vs quarterback.

A creative person is one that reads widely outside his/her own area of expertise. A creative person is one that asks questions about subjects that they don't know about. A creative person is someone that can realizes that education is a lifelong experience and it is not necessarily gleaned from traditional sources.

How, then, can you go about expanding your knowledge?

One of the advantages of living in the age of the Internet is that you can learn online easily, that is, if you don't take everything you read online as the truth. Be discriminatory about your sources. You can take classes online for free courtesy of trusted institutions like MIT or you can search YouTube for short informational videos.

Here's a few places to start:

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT's subjects available on the Web, free of charge. With more than 2,000 courses available, OCW is delivering on the promise of open sharing of knowledge.

Open Culture
Free online courses from the world’s leading universities. This collection includes over 700 free courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Download these audio & video courses straight to your computer or mp3 player. Note: you can find a new collection of certificate-bearing courses  here.

Classes offered on Coursera are designed to help master new concepts quickly and effectively. Courses in a wide range of topics, spanning the Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, Computer Science, and many others.