ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘imagination’

Making Lightning – The Creative Spark in All of Us

Posted by Plish on August 7, 2015

The sky went from sunset blue to thick blackness that the windshield wipers swiped at with futility.  The rain pounded the the car and an uneasy, queasy feeling filled the air as a tornado warning was issued.

I drove the rest of the way home and parked.  To the west the worst was already breaking and salmon patches of sunset backlit clouds.   To the north the blackness churned and lightning crackled from cloud to cloud as the thunder rumbled without pause.

(Mouse over and Click the play arrow and continue reading on the other side)

***

CREATIVITY!!!

It’s in you!

That same power.

You’ve experienced those shocks that startle when you touch a doorknob on a dry day.

This is bigger and can change the world.

Lightning bridges gaps – tremendous expanses of space.  It’s possible because of the difference in charge, a difference in potential.   Lightning finds its way.

But you need to provide the stuff for creativity to happen.

Observe, read, smell, taste, listen, touch, dream!  Understand the challenges you want to solve and then look at them from a different perspective, and then another, and then another!

Allow those differing perspectives to mix  together and the clouds will rumble, the sky will flash, creativity will happen.

It’s in you.

Be YOU!

 

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Posted in Authenticity, brainstorming, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, observation, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Three Guidelines For Enabling Innovation (Via a 7 Year Old Crossing the Street)

Posted by Plish on June 26, 2014

The crossing guard waved her arms and held up the stop sign.  On my way to a prototype shop to pick up some parts, I slowed, and stopped, and watched.

Behind the yellow vested guard, thirty to forty seven year olds began crossing the street in a relatively organized manner, except for one girl.  She wasn’t particularly tall as far as 7 year olds go.  She had straight, dirty blonde, just-past-shoulder length hair, and was wearing a white number 4, Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers jersey.  While her friends took a linear approach to street crossing, she took each step in a calculated manner.

With each step she reached with her little legs to the next reflective strip in the cross walk.  Like Indiana Jones crossing a foot bridge, this little girl took a step, rebalanced, shuffled to get to the edge of the strip and then s t r e t c h e d her leg, pointing her toes, landing on the next reflective strip.   Intensely concentrating on where she stepped and avoiding knocking into those around her, she wove her way across the street.

As I smiled at the beautiful play, I realized that this little girl, in this situation, embodies what’s necessary for there to be successful innovation.

1. Safe Space is Needed – She most likely couldn’t have done what she did if cars were whizzing through the crosswalk.  The crossing guard stopped traffic and created a safe area.  If you want people to be innovative, or for that matter, if you want to be innovative yourself, somehow the traffic has to be stopped.  Someone, or something, has to run interference and create a space and time for innovation.   Corporate politics and power plays are guaranteed innovation killers.  There needs to be insulation from NOISE and distraction. If an innovator has to worry about getting hit by proverbial cars, she can’t create.

2. Give the Minimum Direction Necessary – The little girl was likely told: “Cross the street with your friends when the guard says it’s safe. Be sure to stay in the crosswalk!”  She wasn’t told where to step, how many steps to take, or who she had to walk with.  She knew she had to get from Point A to Point B.  Too often there is a tendency to manage how people get from Point A to Point B.  Don’t.  There are infinite combinations of numbers that when added equal 4.  It’s not simply 2+2.  This goes for personal creativity as well.  When in a creative endeavor, ask yourself if you’re simply taking the shortest distance between two points or if you’re exploring options.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re taking the ‘easy’ way, or following everyone else, until we stop and ask ourselves what we’re doing.

3.  Space for Fun/Exploration – To me, fun and exploration are largely synonymous.  I alluded to this earlier.  The girl was playing while accomplishing what was asked of her: crossing the street and staying in the cross-walk.  As safe space is needed, so is space for playing.  People need to explore, to try things out, to play and have fun while they innovate.  At least they should.  If someone isn’t having fun going from Point A to Point B, you should ask yourself if that person is the right person in the right place in the project.  But, it’s not always the person!  If someone isn’t having fun, this could also be an indication that above points 1 and 2 haven’t  been implemented.  If they haven’t, fun is much less likely to occur.  Use this check for yourself as well.  Are you passionate about what you’re doing? Are you having fun?  If not, find out what it is that’s blocking the fun.

When you’re trying to create the best environment for innovation for yourself or others, picture the little girl in the Brett Favre jersey stepping from reflective strip to reflective strip while crossing the street.  Remember the three guidelines and you might just find yourself coming up with more creative work and having fun doing it!

 

Posted in children, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creative Milwaukee @Work – My Summary in Words and Pictures

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2013

A couple weeks back, I was at the Creative Milwaukee @Work Conference.

I’ve put together a social media summary at Seen.

To Be

 

 

Posted in Arts, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

When Innovation Meets the Human Spirit (Video Inspiration)

Posted by Plish on September 11, 2012

This video is a must see!  It’s leaving me speechless, inspired, dreaming…

Through unexpected juxtapositions, this work aims to excite and inspire by creating images that transform preconceptions. More here

Thanks to Thoughts on Theater for posting this!

Posted in creativity, Design, Experience, imagination, innovation, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Censoring the Censor – The Key to Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2012

Inside your brain there’s a creativity censor.  With finger poised above the ‘Bleep’ button, he’s constantly protecting you from ideas that he deems useless, or worse: foolish.  He knows what every boss wants, what every friend thinks of you, what strangers see when they look at you.  He knows what’s best for you and the best way to get it.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen this censor, singlehandedly, dull brilliance and turn a symphony into an energy sapping drone.

Why would the censor do this?  Because he’s protecting you!  Give him a free rein and you will comfortably reside in the Status Quo.  You won’t look like a fool, you won’t push the envelope, you won’t feel uncomfortable.

Your creativity and the potential for great ideas will also come to a screeching halt.

Ideas build upon ideas – yours and others.  They are stepping-stones.  Remove one and things might be okay…might.  Remove two or three and you’re constrained to walking on one plane.

So, what can you do?

You need to teach yourself to not listen to the censor, but instead to listen to the ideas. When you hear the “BLEEP!” you need to ignore it.  Instead, write the idea down and play with it. See where it leads.  Nowhere?  That’s okay!  But, the very act of acknowledging that idea has now given you a stepping stone to another idea, and another, and….

Don’t get me wrong.  There is still a time and place to listen to the censor.  But, when you’re trying to come up with ideas, looking for new possibilities, exploring the unknown, your imagination is your friend, your light.  Work together with your ideas!

This is exemplified beautifully in this blog post over at Thoughts on Theater.  I’m going to end this piece with  a quote directly from her post, as it’s a wonderful read (as is her entire blog).  It’s about Academy Award winning screenwriter, Robert Pirosh.  He was a copywriter that wanted to become a Hollywood screenwriter. Here’s how he finally landed his dream job:

(Pirosh) sent the following note to all of the major studios, received a slew of interview requests, and finally accepted an offer as a junior writer at MGM. From there he went on to win an Academy Award and write for some of the best and brightest (including the Marx Brothers). Just another testament to the fact that you should not water yourself down in order to obtain the dream job. Do not censor the you that just might land you the gig.

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

385 Madison Avenue, Room 610

New York Eldorado 5-6024

 

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Fragile Muse and Respect for Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 18, 2012

Over at the Looper’s Delight group we were discussing what to do with ideas that don’t grow the way we expected, or wanted them to.  Richard Sales of Glasswing Studios and Good Nature Farms (A farm/Creative sanctuary) then said the following:

We have a policy at our house that, when someone is in the creative moment, we tiptoe, we close doors quietly, we are very respectful of the presence of the Muse – that lightning fast butterfly. When we accidentally barge in, we dont’ make conversation and apologize etc. Everyone is trained.

This is such a great practice to follow!

Everyone puts such a great emphasis on collaboration nowadays, we assume that the best results will only occur when everyone is open to everyone else.   Businesses try and force collaboration through architecture, work flows, etc.

Yet, how often do businesses respect the need for people to seriously engage their muses; to afford people the silence to hear the silent whispers of inspiration within?  How often to we tread lightly when approaching people who are immersed in their creative moments?

How can businesses and people structure the environment, or create rules, so that individual creative moments are free to blossom?

Beautiful, amazing, new, hybrid plants are possible through botanical cooperation – the collaboration of multiple flowers.

But before this can occur, each flower needs to bloom on its own…

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Honing Creative Skills with Six Impossible Things – An Interview with the Captain of the Titanic

Posted by Plish on December 14, 2011

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  -Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I sat down for breakfast tea with Edward Smith.  A jovial, white-haired seadog, he walked with a bounce in his step since he learned he’d be Captain of the Titanic.

“Sarah,” he called to his wife in the kitchen, “I’ll be having tea with Michael in the study.”

“Yes, dear!” she said as Smith smiled and showed me my seat.

He sat down across from me and without hesitating asked, “So my good friend,” as he leaned towards me, “You are always reading something,  What have you been reading lately?”

“Lewis Carroll’s works, ” I said,  his white eyebrows raised and he leaned back in his chair. “I find them quite stimulating, even if at times they are somewhat cryptic.”

“Ha! I always enjoy our conversations Michael, you find amusement in the strangest of areas.”

His wife placed warm. steaming crumpets in front of us and began pouring tea.

“What one tidbit of Carroll catches your fancy this morning?” said Smith as he buttered a crumpet.

“Six impossible things.”

“Which six?”

I took a bite of a crumpet, the steam carrying the aroma into my nose, “These are delicious, Sarah!”

A voice returned, “There are plenty more, eat hearty!”

“Which six impossible things has Mr. Carroll written about?” continued the Captain, clearly captivated by my introduction.

“Six impossible things before breakfast.  Any six. Simply believe six impossible things to be possible – it is at once challenge and folly.”

The Captain smiled, “And therein lies the allure – much like a man’s love for the sea.” He smiled broadly, crumpet crumbs falling from the white, brushy mustache.

“I’ve taken it as a personal challenge, Captain, to believe six impossible things before breakfast.  I do believe it’s motivating me to make the impossible, possible.  It stimulates my creativity and broadens my horizons!”

Captain Smith nodded, “It is the motivation of the likes of Magellan, to constantly reach for the horizon, where the impossible waits…” His view became distant and he paused.  No doubt for effect as well as to ponder the deeper truth.

“Six impossible things,” he continued. “Let’s take the challenge together this morning.  What is impossible so that we may believe it?”

He began looking around the room, stopping at the radio.

“There!” He said pointing. “Wouldn’t it be grand if, while I listened to the radio, I could see the people talking? -That’s impossible isn’t it?”

“Well done, Captain!” I laughed and watched as his eyes went to his telescope.

He slapped his thighs and wiped the last bit of crumb from his mustache and beard and pointed at the scope, “The moon.  One day men will walk upon that cold, grey orb.”

“Are you quite sure that’s impossible?”

“Are you telling me it’s possible?”

“It’s perhaps as possible as your cigar box containing all the letters you’ve ever written, all your charts, and all Sarah’s recipes with room for more!”

The Captain laughed, “My dear Michael, you are not helping your case.  What you claim is quite impossible, even if all were written with tiny letters.”  He paused.  “But, I will believe it to be possible.  There, that’s three:  A box that can hold an ocean’s worth of information.”

“Three,” I  sipped some more tea. “You have a heart for this, Captain.”

“I find this enjoyable.”  He paused, chuckling. “My heart!”  He paused and his eyes widened. What if it could be replaced by a machine, or, or perhaps another person’s heart?!” His eyes were sparkling and childlike now.  He was beginning to understand why I liked this discipline.

“Four,” I said. “What is number five?”

He narrowed his eyes and again they wandered about the room. First to my tea-cup, then to his.  He began stroking his beard and his gaze landed on a rifle on the wall.

“Number five is a weapon…one round sufficient to annihilate entire cities the size of London.”

“Number five!” I poured myself another cup of tea and continued, “You’ve gotten the hang of this! Remember to start each day aboard the Titanic with this exercise.  You’ll find your mind invigorated!”

The corners of the Captain’s mouth fell, his gaze distant.  He looked down and shook his head, “Michael, you Cretan, you’ve told me all Cretan’s are liars and I am bound by your truth.”

I wasn’t offended, but it was clear the Captain was not complimenting me.

“People say,” the Captain said, his voice becoming softer and gaze more distant, ” that the Titanic is impossible to sink…”

 

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Practice These Three Approaches for Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on November 22, 2011

When studying creativity, researchers measure certain traits that are indicative of creative thought processes in individuals.  Three key concepts are:

  • Fluency (the ability to generate multiple ideas)
  • Flexibility (the number of relevant categories of ideas)
  • Originality (the uniqueness of each idea)

In general, more of each of the above is better and indicative of creative processes.  Get more, and be more creative.  Simple, right?  In fact, getting more isn’t that difficult as you can practice pretty much anywhere – but you do need to practice.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

To Increase Fluency

Play with words and associations (think synonyms!); practice coming up with ideas, get comfortable with expressiveness of feelings and ideas (i.e. emotion).  A simple exercise is to find a common object and then come up with as many uses for it as you can.  A favorite improv technique is to stand in the middle of a room (or anywhere for that matter) and point at various objects and yell out each one’s name, only call things by the WRONG name.  It’s fun, liberating and harder than you think!

To Increase Flexibility

This is about categories, so spontaneity is good here, as is the ability to adapt.  Strike out in new and unusual directions, expose yourself to new experiences; try things a different way and make the most of it.  Usually put your left shoe on first?  Try the right, instead. Brush your teeth with your right hand? Try your left.  Try taking a different way to work in the morning.  Pick up a magazine you’d never read and read it.  Try food you’ve never eaten before.  Get out of those areas you feel secure in  and stretch yourself. The naming game mentioned above crosses over into this realm as well, depending upon what you’re naming.

To Increase Originality

This is about coming up with ideas that no one else would think of.   It’s about making connections between disparates – putting things together that usually don’t get put together, while still finding, and building upon, that kernel of commonality that gives an original idea its glory.  This is what gives every comedian her special uniqueness.  It’s why jokes are funny.  They come out of nowhere; we don’t expect the result but we ‘get it’ when some commonality gets presented and understood in a new light.  We get it.   But, don’t think this is the domain of comedians only.  We’re all unique and originality is our signature.   So, start practicing your creativity signature by combining dissimilar things!  Pick up a baseball and a fork.  Now, think of something that can be done with them.  The easy answer is to stick the fork  in the baseball.  Go beyond that – way beyond. (This is where your practice in fluency and flexibility comes in handy.) You can do your own version of a cooking show like Iron Chef or Chopped.  Take a mix of ingredients out of the fridge and make something you’re not even sure will taste good- but try it anyway.  Finally, one practical tip: If you want your ideas to be more useful and not fauxnnovations, look for that kernel of commonality between the  disparate objects, experiences, contexts, ideas or metaphors within the situation.  It’ll help pull everything together and make originality shine (and implemented ideas more useful)!

So, there you have it – three ‘secret’ processes for increasing creativity.  Only, they aren’t really secrets.   They’re simple approaches for improving creativity and living an authentic life more  full of surprises. Give them a try!

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Play, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Insights into Forcing Creativity: The Mood Board Music Experiment

Posted by Plish on August 17, 2010

I’ve been hitting a block with regards to creating music lately. Rather than use a sketching exercise to get the ideas flowing, I decided to do something different.

I went on Twitter and asked for a mood board so I could compose a tune based upon it.

Interior designer, Heather Jenkinson obliged by sending me three.  The first one I opened was the one I used.  I looked at the other ones, but I forced myself to use the first one so I wouldn’t be bartering with myself as to which board might be easier or harder.  Here’s what it looks like:

Heather Jenkinson's Mood Board

And here’s the song Sepia and Blue      

So how did the song come about?

First, I  sat down and looked at the image.  I listened for the mood, listened for emotion, what colors came to mind, what movements, words and hence what instruments.  I even started writing some lyrics.  But then, it became clear that I was overcomplicating matters, overcomplicating the music and the words.  There was a simplicity present and I was fighting it, trying to fill in the spaces as opposed to letting the gaps speak.  Before I could come up with lyrics I just jotted down random images and feelings.  Eventually, one line became the inspiration and the basic pattern for the song’s sparse lyrics.  It was distillation to the max:

(It says:  Sit with me,  we’ll watch while sunlight floods fills dance across the room.  A filigree in sepia and blue.”)

It’s interesting how this developed for me.  Certain instruments needed to express their voices – there needed to be some guitar,  piano, some female voices, some introspection and reflection.  Sepia and blue came out naturally.  They were actually the first thing that came out of process.  BING!  And the words/concepts were there.

Things that weren’t in the picture popped into my mind as well: lilacs and Port wine to name a couple.  Ultimately, I  backed off, trimmed and combined.   There needed to be space – space to move, to breathe.

Ultimately, constraints provided impetus and direction.   Since I had never done this before, I was forced to go down an entirely new road, enjoy the scenery, and above all, listen to myself – or more precisely, my response to the mood board. 

Interpretation held Experience’s hand and on occasion they wrote together, at other times independent of each other.   It was a combination of play, sketching (musically and verbally) and design; trying to see what worked and what didn’t. 

For example, the female harmonies originally were just after the intro synthesizer sound.  There were no lyrics at that time.  There were also two other orchestral string tracks that hung around for a while but were eventually cut.  The lyrics started with that one distilled phrase above.  I didn’t even have a second verse for a long time and was seriously considering not even having one…then it came:

 “Look with me,

through leaded glass and memories,

Sit with me,

in sepia and blue.”

I liked the fact that ‘sit’ appeared here like it did in the first verse – a kind of closing out of the thought from the first verse – coming full circle.  But,  even though sitting was part of the first verse, so was dancing light.  In addition, the filigree theme needed to stay and a filigree is, visually speaking, a dance of sorts.  So, “sit with me,” became “dance with me,” and that was that.

Finally, I felt like there needed to be a crescendo of sorts after the last sung verse.  Everything I tried was too complicated and instrumentalized so I used a short track of a string section with some syncopation.

Even though my goal was a song, there were some other ideas that popped up.  One of them was to make a digital mood board and assign an instrument or instruments to various regions.  They would play when you hover over them with the mouse pointer so the song and mood board would be an interactive experience.  This could be a cool future project.

The key take away from this is that designing music (or anything for that matter) is an iterative, recursive process.  The depth and breadth of the act of creating increases with the novelty of stimulus.  In addition, different stimuli  cause new connections in the subconscious and that helps with creating new ideas long after the exercise is complete.

So challenge yourself; throw yourself a curve and flex those creativity muscles.  Sure there’s some pain and frustration associated with bringing together disparate ideas and thoughts. 

But, ultimately it’s not about pain…

It’s about creating….

Posted in Authenticity, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, design thinking, idea generation, imagination, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, Play, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Imagination: The Foundation of Creativity and Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 28, 2009

(michael plishka, 2009)

(michael plishka, 2009)

Everything you can imagine is real – Pablo Picasso

You can’t depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus  – Mark Twain

Imagination is not a talent of some men but the health of every man- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Imagination is more important than knowledge – Albert Einstein

Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real. – Jules Verne

Imagination…

Envisioning the future

Destroying barriers

Dancing partner of the Present

Childhood companion

Motivator

Healer

Welcoming Conversationalist

Font of Wonder

Perpetually Young

Foundation

We need to use our imaginations – let the possibilities for new products, new processes, new approaches, new relationships, excite and empower us to gift the world with our unique visions, with our Imaginative Selves!

The World is waiting…

Posted in Authenticity, Brain Stimulation Tools, children, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, imagination, innovation, The Human Person | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

 
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