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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Guidelines for a Creativity Training Program

Here are some guidelines for designing a creativity training program. The program should:
  • Be easy to disseminate to the creativity-challenged (e.g. inexpensive, any-time access)
  • Teach a collective group of skills beneficial across all fields (domain general). There could be components of a modified program that would be domain specific
  • Use divergent and convergent skills in conjunction with each other
  • Teach creative thinking heuristics
  • Teach problem-solving skills and tolerance for mistakes or unexpected results
  • Encourage the development of conditions where creative solutions can be achieved, for example, serendipity, a stimulating environment
  • Build support systems that do not emphasize extrinsic rewards
  • Use repetition of skills so that they become automatic and are incorporated into a normal daily routine

The Concept of MicroCreativity (TM)

The concept of MicroCreativity (TM) focuses first and foremost on the individual:
  • That the individual is the catalyst for creativity and subsequent innovations
  • That all individuals are capable of creative activity to some extent
  • That the individual is responsible for enhancing their own personal creativity
  • That the individual should have easy access to resources and training that will help them become more creative
  • That the individual should be informed of the benefits and rewards of creative practice, which include (but not limited to) improved brain activity, stress reduction, and increased economic opportunities

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boosting the Economy with Innovation Districts

I came across this paper on the Brookings Institute site. The title is "One Year After: Observations on the Rise of Innovation Districts" and is written by Bruce Katz, Jennifer S. Vey, and Julie Wagner.

The concept is a good one. Create an area in an urban district that brings together a diverse group of companies and individual businesses that feed off each other in terms of innovation and development. Brainstorming at the macro level, if you will. This collaboration self-perpetuates by growing new businesses and creating jobs. If people are encouraged to stay in the area after hours this produces more opportunities to network and invites the cross-pollination of ideas. If located in a depressed urban area there is a potential to develop the area economically and increase tax revenue. Extend this idea further and now we have new educational opportunities, increased knowledge and a more motivated work force.

This isn't a new idea. Artists and writers hanging out together in 19th and early 20th century Paris provided enough competition and motivation to create new ways of thinking. More recently, technology benefited greatly from the concentration of like-minded businesses in Silicon Valley.

If the use of Innovation Districts, Artist's Colonies or Technological Corporate Parks stimulates the rise of innovations and personal creativity, then that sounds like a good idea to me.

To read this paper in its entirety, see the post here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Using Your Hands to Improve Your Brain

What if there was an activity that can help mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, and chronic pain, which also makes you happy and protects your brain from aging? And which, by the way, is completely legal.

This is the psychological state known as flow, made known by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his 1990 book of the same name. Engaging in hand crafts such as painting, knitting, and woodworking can produce this condition. Briefly, when you're engrossed in an activity to the extent that you don't notice time or whatever else is going around you, that's flow. And according to researchers, flow produces the same benefits as meditation.

Doing an art or craft we enjoy stimulates the production of dopamine in our brains which makes us happy, and if we do it well, it also bolsters our sense of self-worth. Since doing something by hand involves many different areas of the brain, we are also bolstering brain connections which help fight aging.

With all the benefits of being involved with artistic pursuits, why not try a little painting after a tough day at work? It may just be the therapy you need.

This is an excellent article from CNN about creating handcrafted work and how your brain benefits.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Idea Generation Techniques Part of Creative Process

Anyone interested in creativity gets inundated with a few million or so page hits when they enter that term into their search engine. Try the scholarly searches and specialty databases and you can add a few million more. Many of the hits are the ubiquitous "10 ways to be more creative" or "how to be creative" if the author is really bad at title writing.

As a creative industries worker I often wondered if there was an easier way to get ideas. This usually happened as I tried yet again to write original and witty copy for home window replacement. Or technical specs for industrial ovens. And, like anyone else, this was usually within hours of a deadline.

So I read all the creativity books that suggested I needed a whack on the side of the head or that I needed to wear different hats, a total of six. This is not to say that authors Roger von Oech or Edward di Bono were wrong, I was able to pick up some pointers and struggle through many a writer's block. In the end and a library full of self-help books later I had quite a collection of ways to generate ideas.

The problem is, those methods don't exist in a vacuum, they are just part of a process. Factors like motivation, interest, and social support can impact your ability to generate the results you want. And as for impending deadlines, those that swear they do better work under penalty aren't being truthful. You may come up with something, but it isn't necessarily your best work. You may be able to get away with less than stellar results for a while but you aren't being creative.

Creativity doesn't work on a 9-5 schedule either, no matter what your boss thinks which is why I think naturally talented creative people need to find work that suits their personality, not their paycheck.

For the rest of us, learn those idea generation techniques, find out what is the optimum environment for the projects you do, and make sure to surround yourself with people who appreciate you for the creative person you are. Everyone has creative ability, it's just a matter of to what degree and how you train yourself to improve it.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sources of Funding for Your Business Product or Service

thinking man
Let's say you have a great idea and you want to bring it to market. You've drawn up the design, built a prototype, and have started to apply for the appropriate copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Now you need funding for production. Here's a quick overview of what you should consider:

  • Private or venture funding (think "Shark Tank")
  • Crowd funding
  • Grants
  • Family or friends
  • Banks
  • Corporate sponsorships
Venture capitalists will give you money in exchange for an investment in your company in the form of shares or an active role, providing you meet their criteria which can vary widely. If you go this route, you should be already into your start-up since they are going to want financials. Not for the complete beginner.

On the other hand, crowd funding isn't quite so demanding. True, you should have a kick-ass proposal and a good video. You should be willing to give something to your investors, such as a free product. Some crowd funding sites require you to meet your monetary goal before you will get the money.

Is your idea grant-worthy? Products backed by serious artistic scholarship, scientific research, or technological wonders may qualify you for a grant. Look for websites listing foundations that give out grants and see what they fund. You should tailor your request to match their criteria exactly. You may need to be a non-profit organization to get the grant, but not in all cases.

Most people start out with family and friends. If you decide to go this route, make sure you draw up a contract so that everyone knows what they are getting into. Don't think that you don't have to do this because, well, they are family! Nothing causes hard feelings more in families and friendships because they thought they were giving you a loan and you thought it was a gift. 

Do you have a relationship with your bank? It's worth nurturing one before you get into serious business. Your bank is more likely to give you what you want if they know you and you have a good financial record with them. A bank loan can be guaranteed by the Small Business Administration if you meet their criteria.

One of the less common methods of funding your enterprise is with corporate sponsorship. If you have a related product that a company may see as good public relations for them you might have a deal. An example of this may be a how-to book that you have written which uses a company's product. Think of how you might tie your product to a well-known company. Before you do this, make sure you have all your legal protection (copyrights, trademarks, patents) in place or have the company sign a non-disclosure agreement. The potential for abuse exists, so be careful.

In all of these cases, you must have defined your product, its potential market, and what is needed (financials, manufacturing plan, etc.) to get it into production. Do your homework.

A good place to start is the U.S. Small Business administration. To go to their site, click here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Photoshelter Creative Copywriting

From, some of the most creative copy I've ever seen. Well done!

I wanted to download their guide and they asked for my email address so that they could send it to me as a PDF file.

"We won't sell or distribute your email address," they said. With what must be the most creative reason I've seen in along time, they told me my address is safe:

"It's protected by a group of grumpy fire-breathing dragons."

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Creativity and the Spreadsheet

On first thought you might think that creativity and spreadsheets don't go together. Creativity is a dreamy, artistic pursuit, and spreadsheets seem like fun stuff for accountants and scientists.

On the other hand I use a spreadsheet to record notes and references for my writing projects, for blog post schedules, for cataloging images for potential Pinterest posts, and for a journal to record all my creative activities. 

I prefer the spreadsheet to a word processing table. Over the years I've gotten used to the functions and it makes it easy for me to organize things. I can sort, hide columns, and search easily. The multiple sheets within a workbook make it easy to keep years or other date periods separate.

Of course, there are programs such as One Note, or Evernote, and I'm sure there are many open-source programs that have similar capabilities. But if you're already familiar with its operations, the humble spreadsheet is perfect.

Whatever you use, keeping track of your creative pursuits helps you focus on where to go next.