ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘human nature’

The Contemplative Way of Design

Posted by Plish on June 4, 2011

“(Emerson wrote,)’We animate what we can, and only see what we animate.’ Contemplative beholding of art – indeed of anything – can lead to the animation of whatever is before us. New eyes, “the right eyes,” suddenly open, waking us up, and consequently awakening everything around us. ” – Physicist Arthur Zajonc in Psychology Today

Don’t just observe a situation – contemplate it.

Center

Look

Widen the gaze

See the relationships

Feel

Understand (With more than the mind)

Design

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Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Design, Experience, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Spirituality, The Human Person, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Environments and Creativity – Why Not in Political Discourse?

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2011

A little over a year ago I blogged on optimizing your environment for creative output.  I also wrote about the pros and cons of open office plans.

I wanted to share this article from today’s Wall Street Journal that touches on both of the above topics.  One amazing tidbit:

…Researchers at Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health tracked 60 white-collar workers at a government facility in the central U.S. Some had been randomly assigned to an old office building, with low ceilings and loud air-conditioners. The rest got to work in a recently renovated space filled with skylights and open cubicles.

For the next 17 months, the scientists tracked various metrics of emotional well-being, such as heart-rate variability and levels of stress hormone. They discovered that people working in the older building were significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work. The scientists said the effect was big enough to be a potential risk factor for heart disease.

All this got me thinking about how early philosophers and politicians carried out their discussions in open air forums, surrounded by fresh air and blue sky.  They dreamed of ways of improving the world, becoming better people, and their imaginations would soar. 

We are indebted to their innovative thinking still, today.

I wonder how much more creative and effective our elected officials would be if their sessions were in an open air environment, without rows of desks and aisles, no left or right…

Their work might actually have the freedom to soar,

and we, likewise…

Posted in Architectural Design, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Politics, The Senses, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

True, Sustainable Design = Revealing Beauty

Posted by Plish on March 14, 2011

Beauty is not caused it is – Emily Dickinson

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. -Michelangelo

What if we all acted as if Beauty is?

What if we lived our lives seeking out Beauty in the others, in the world, in our selves – chiseling through the chaos, peeling away the layers and revealing the Beauty that is? 

Isn’t that Design?

A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it. – Michelangelo

Posted in Authenticity, Design, innovation, love, nature, Social Innovation, Sustainability, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Breaking Down Creative Blockages and Dealing With Stress

Posted by Plish on March 11, 2011

We all get stuck.  

Dr. Stanley Block, over at Psychology Today, has a great process for breaking through the blocks, or rather the box that surrounds and constrains our psyches  –  in three minutes or less.  Rather than reproduce it here, I’m including a link to the process that you can read here. 

I’m a strong believer that the more relaxed we are, the better the quality of ideas.  Dealing with stress is important if you want to stay on top of your game. Here’s another interview with Dr. Herbert Benson,  founder of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

What do you do to deal with stress and keep the creative juices flowing?

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, Interviews, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Science, stress, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want More Creative Solutions? Solve Problems for Someone Else.

Posted by Plish on March 2, 2011

Researchers have known for a while that one way to come up with creative solutions is to create some distance from a problem (I blogged on it here).  In other words, if you frame the problem so it’s distant in some way, geographically, temporally, etc, the solutions you come up with tend to be more creative than if you are solving a problem that’s located in the here and now.

Well, now researchers have demonstrated that you can be creative solving problems in the here and now, just solve the problems for someone else.  In other words, people tend to be more creative when solving problems for others than they are when solving them for themselves.

This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. If a social species, like humanity, is to survive, it makes sense that its members are at their best when solving problems for their fellow humans.  It creates a support structure that helps increase survival odds when focused on the other.

What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Need Inspiration and Insights Into Human Nature? Don’t Miss These Sites!

Posted by Plish on February 21, 2011

I was recently asked for sites that I go to for online inspiration from a design standpoint.

The first, I’ve mentioned here before.  It’s AskNature.org – an inspiring portal for seeing how Nature solves problems.

The second is a site that I write for on occasion (and wish I had more time to write for), Trendhunter.com. They actually give away a browser toolbar that has a list of various trend sites – it’s a great resource  for ideas.

The last three are wonderful (and sometimes quite entertaining) in that they have a uniquely human touch to them.

The first, HighIdeas.com , touted as “the best ideas (while you’re high)”, often has contributions that make you think, say “hmmm….”  and reach for the Cheetos.  (For the record, I have never contributed to this site)

Halfbakery is a listing of “half-baked” ideas. It describes itself as, “a communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users. It was created by people who like to speculate, both as a form of satire and as a form of creative expression.” Some of the ideas here are not all that half-baked.

Last, but by no means, least, there is Failblog.   This site is a catalog of failures.  It also has a  subdomain that is particularly thought provoking:  There I Fixed It -Redneck Repairs .   This site is chock full of everyday people’s solutions to everyday problems. (For the record, I have never submitted to this site, though quite truthfully, I probably could have.)  There is brilliance hidden here.

What sites do you find particularly inspiring or revealing of human nature?

Posted in Authenticity, Biomimicry, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, nature, problem solving, The Human Person, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Design and Innovation in the Context of Life’s Problems

Posted by Plish on December 31, 2010

“Jacob,” asked Mr. Gold whose days dangled by a thread, “where do you find the strength to carry on in life?”

“Life is often heavy only because we attempt to carry it,” said Jacob. “But I do find strength in the ashes.”

“In the ashes?” asked Mr. Gold.

“Yes,” said Jacob with a confirmation that seemed to have traveled a great distance.

“You see, Mr. Gold, each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And each of us is on a journey.

“In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food.

“But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another’s fire, what we often find are the ashes.

“And in these ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony.

“Because these ashes tell us that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on.

“And that can be enough sometimes, that can be enough.”

-Jacob the Baker, by Noah benShea

The above story, taken from the delightful book, Jacob the Baker, was written by the author to help him and his dying father through the night. The words are profound and meaningful, especially for those people who are going through difficult times.

Ahhh, difficult times…

I am only now, finally getting my new computer and business systems running again.  If not for some annoyances that pop up every now and then, I can hardly tell that a little over a week ago my CPU/motherboard melted down in the midst of deadlines and the holidays.  Before that…

Fast rewind with me for a year and, like other people,  along the way you’ll  experience family illness, accidents, pain, even death…

This laptop debacle pales in comparison to the other things that happened over the course of a year.  Yet, this technological glitch was a frustrating event that meant schedule manipulation, late, sleepless nights, and more intense days. It did nothing to foster a more peaceful approach to the holidays.

Why do I bring this all up?

People’s lives can get extraordinarily messy.  In the midst of chaos, humans naturally seek some semblance of order. During those times, more than in others,  people expect things to work – especially the little things.  When the little things don’t work, it can push our patience to the limit.  We’ve all been there.

Interestingly enough, seldom do the design of products and services take this larger context of chaos into account.  Oh, sure, products are (hopefully!) designed to be easy to use, intuitive, and  pleasing.  Designers strive for empathy with people to make sure that they really understand what people are going through in their daily lives.  But it’s difficult to design for the effect that time and stress can have on people and how they go about living day to day.

Designing a sterile package that’s easy to open in an Emergency Room is not the same as making a package easy to open in an ER where a family of  six is coming in from a head-on collision – 14 hours into a shift in which more people have been lost than saved; the head nurse’s husband asked her for a divorce that morning; another’s child got sick in daycare so he had to call his brother to pick the child up; one ER doc’s car broke down and still isn’t repaired, another nurse is home with the flu; the only food anyone consumed has been a bag of Halloween candy, multiple soft drinks, 2 energy bars, and a bag of chips; and the ER is going to be audited the next day. That’s just the last 24 hours for this crew…

“Easy to open” takes on different meanings depending upon  the extent to which people have been stressed prior to opening the package.

 Now granted, not every person is going to be swamped 24/7.  There is respite in even the most hectic lives.    But I think we’ve all seen people become blubbering messes over something that just a week earlier was accomplished without any thought or emotion.  

Think, no, dream of what our lives would be like if things were designed so that even in our most frazzled states, the use of a product or service caused us to crack a smile, or pause, breathe and savor a flickering moment of peace.   What if, designing innovation meant that during those frantic times of searching through the ashes, someone made sure that we actually found a hot, glowing ember?

May you not only find encouragement in the ashes,

may you also find glowing embers – enough for you and enough to share.

I wish all of you a safe, healthy, wonder-filled 2011 and beyond!

Posted in Authenticity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Life Stages, love, Social Responsibility, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brilliant Insights Into Creativity, Experience and Human Nature From Joe Howard

Posted by Plish on November 18, 2010

I came across this article/video over at the Jerusalem Post -it’s a short interview with Joe Howard, an archaeologist turned advertiser.  Amazing insights into creativity and creating engaging experiences.  So, I followed the links and came across a three part keynote address.  I’ve put all three parts here for your convenience.  Each piece is about 9 minutes long and contains observations into human nature, creativity, idea generation and more.   Do yourself a favor and watch.  It’ll be time well spent, and you’ll probably find yourself at least a little inspired as well.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Posted in Authenticity, cognitive studies, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Education, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Interviews, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Eight Insights in Design from the World of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2010

This past weekend I was at the Midwest Bonsai Expo at Chicago’s Botanical Garden.  While there, I had the pleasure to watch and listen to a demonstration workshop by bonsai expert Michael Hagedorn.

While it was fascinating watching him transform a tree through his thoughtful touch, it was even more interesting to listen to his insights and reflections on bonsai, bonsai design, and hence design in general.

 Here are some thoughts of his from the workshop:

1. A good tree (design) should have three aspects: A – Elegance; B- Dignity; C – Presence.   However, it is not uncommon for these three to be doled out in different proportions.

I love this observation. It is no doubt influenced by his training in Japan.  How do designs (or even brands!) that you know of stack up?

2. “I should be invisible as an artist”  The tree is designed so that it stands on its own; that even though it’s been pruned and manipulated by the artist, it doesn’t look it.  It retains itself, or, “takes possession of itself,” once the designing part is over.  Think of it: after a product is released into the market place it stands on its own and grows into its own.

3. “Great people and great trees are the same.”  This is with regards to how the tree(design) ages, how it shows the scars of life and still comes through it all with Elegance, Dignity and Presence (see #1).

Some additional observations of mine:

4.  A good bonsai (design) is a result of the artist(designer) embracing the constraints.  A tree has branches, roots, soil, certain nutritional needs.  If any one constraint is ignored the result is a sickly tree (design) or worse.

5. It’s not about adding to the tree as much as it is taking away from the design and redirecting the tree to achieve Elegance, Dignity and Presence.  However…

6.  There are  wildcards like weather, those things outside of our control, that can scuttle all our bests efforts.  So all we can do is prepare the tree(design) for whatever the future may hold and hope for the best.

7. While bonsai are shown and meant to be seen from their ‘ front’,  really good bonsai (design) it seems, have something to look at from any direction.

8. Bonsai is a type for metadesign.  The self-building, synergistic, holistic, fractalesque nature of working with bonsai is beyond regular design.  Bonsai is an ongoing relationship and dialogue between the designer and the designed.

So what do you think?  Do these eight insights resonate with your own experience?  Can you think of examples that highlight or contradict them?

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, Design, imagination, Life Stages, Meta-Design, nature, Nature of Creativity, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Want to Increase Creativity and Innovation? Touch and be Touched

Posted by Plish on August 5, 2010

We’ve all experienced the gentle pat on the back, or touch on the hand when things aren’t going well.  Well, it seems that these touches are helpful in more ways than we typically think.

Research has shown that touching is helpful in  a myriad of ways.

 According to the article:

A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”

“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”

Some of my thoughts on applying this?

  1. Team building events can accomplish a lot more than just bring people together, but…
  2. Building teams needs to be done all the time.  There needs to be an active, ongoing building of esprit de corps, but…
  3. Perspectives regarding the touching of coworkers might need to be reassessed.  It’s interesting to think that current  ‘hands off’ practices might actually be hurting innovation.
  4. It seems obvious to say, but personal lives, the relationships people have outside of work, do make a difference in the workplace.
  5. People who are more tactile, more ‘touchy-feely’ might be a good addition to a team.
  6. Although it’s not directly mentioned in the article, the touching phenomenon might help explain the benefits of why having pets is a good thing.  Pets in the workplace, anyone?
  7. Customer service (think healthcare) should be open to allowing and fostering touching in the proper contexts so as to better treat people as whole beings.  This could also give customer service people more credence and build better bonds between customer and company.
  8. Massage therapy shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a necessity in the workplace.
  9. I’d be interested to know if things like brushing hair, or touches like those experienced at beauty parlors or hair dressers, has positive effect.   It does in senior care facilities, why not use it in other places?
  10. How might technology be used to foster human interaction and touch?

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Authenticity, Biology, creativity, culture of innovation, Evolution, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Society, stress, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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