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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.