Friday, December 25, 2009

Riffs, Myths and Creativity

Peter Cook. author of 'Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll mixes ideas about business creativity and innovation with music. In this brief clip he discusses musical scales and their relationship with creativity at work.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sidewalk Menagerie

Joshua Allen Harris's recycled sidewalk menagerie.


From my friend Joe Miguez - the Labyrinth man.
What is imagination?.....
" The faculty of imagination," wrote Dugald Stewart," is the principal source of human improvement."..... THE MINDS' EYE.--- Human imagination enables us to transcend mortal limitations of space and time, to experience what was, what can be , what can never be; It opens vistas that are not available to the senses."

By his imagination," writes Frank Barron, "man makes new universes which are never to the hearts desire."

The sorcery and charm of imagination and the power it gives to the individual to transform his world into a new world of order and delight makes it one of the most treasures of all human capacities.....

This is from the 2nd edition - Experiences in Visual Thinking by Robert H Mckim.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Eureka Moments

A dream about Bartôk brought Malcolm Gillies his conceptual breakthrough, although it would take him another five years to finish writing it down.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Expressive Lives

This collection of essays from DEMOS examines the idea of 'expressive life'.
It helps us to see creativity and heritage as the fabric of our society that gives meaning and value to our lives.
Contributors from across the creative and cultural sectors look at the effects of changes in our behaviour towards cultural institutions, developments in technology and the global exchange of different attitudes and beliefs.
These combine with political uncertainty and economic upheaval to put culture and creativity at the heart of debate about the future of our communities and international relations.

Go here for a free download:
and while you are there search the site.
There is really great material to be found.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Imagination First

I read a lot of books about creativity and innovation.
This one was recommended to me by my friend Joe Miguez. Imagination First is about cultivating the imagination based on the premise that imagination unlocks the power of possibility. Authors Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon offer a very simple continuum placing imagination first. They call this the ICI Continuum. Imagination [defined as the capacity to conceive of what is not] is followed by creativity [imagination applied], which is followed by innovation [defined as novel creativity].
The book then goes on to briefly describe 28 and a half practices to develop imagination. There are chapters like "Untie your tongue", "Talk about your work with someone who doesn't understand it" and "Design for the hallway: Let informal spaces thrive".
At the end of the book the authors comment; "In these pages we've offered you some new ways to see seeing. Now its up to you to find some new was of doing."
They continue. "But before any of this, changing yourself and the world demands a purpose-fed, positively charged, playful imagination. It demands imagination first."
I am inclined to agree! Well worth the read.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Making of Me

Demos is a London-based think tank. Its contributors generate ideas to improve politics and policy, and give people more power over their lives.
One of their recent publications is titled Making of Me.
The quote on the cover summaries its content. "Creativity is vital in shaping our futures . . . . families are fundamental in developing it." Its a free down-load.

Here is the link.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The LAB Man

Joe Miguez is known as 'the labyrinth man'. I had the pleasure of his company in South Africa at the 15th International Creativity Conference and participated in his workshop intriguingly titled "Quantum Chroma Dynamics - A Four Square Rapid Design System for Accelerating the Creative and Innovative Process". I think I was attracted to the workshop because I had no idea what it was about!!
Now I wasn't sure that I was a labyrinth type person - I am now.
I had similar sentiments expressed by Greg Fraley in his blog about Joe and labyrinths and ended up a fan, as did Greg.
I'm not sure I can put my finger on what happened while walking Joe's indoor version of the labyrinth. My previous attempts at quieting and focusing my mind have not been particularly successful but with Joe's guidance this experience brought me closer to state of relaxed alertness than any other method I have tried. If you get the chance to walk a labyrinth with intention then do so.
Here is a link to an article to a masters level research paper that makes the link between creativity and the labyrinth. It is by Janice Fransisco and also appears on Greg Fraley's blog site.
Pictures courtesy of Alan Black

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Story of Tom's Shoes

Creativity, making a profit and doing good. Check it out.

A Creative Space

Dale Copeland is well-known for her unique assemblage art. Mike Scott of the Taranaki Daily News [thats in New Zealand] visited her working space to ask about her work.
This video is made entirely from still photographs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Passion and Purpose

Of the many highlights from the 15th Annual Creativity Conference in Africa one stood out for me. I have an addiction to percussion and Mark Dodsworth of Red Zebra fed that addiction. This from Mark in the conference handbook.

"There is a voice in the Universe urging us to remember our purpose for being on this great Earth. This is the voice of inspiration, which is within each and every one of us.
Creativity is a natural resource, but habitual patterns of thought exhibit a powerful pull on the mind leading inexorably to habitual solutions.

Innovation demands a shift in perspective. From the very beginning this workshop will resonate with each individual creating a high level of group synergy, establishing a fertile ground for shared living and personal growth."

And it did exactly that - using dialogue, reflection and percussion Mark worked with the group on identifying passion and purpose. In doing so each group committed to developing a performance for the evening session in front of all conference attendees. Some participants claimed no sense of rhythm, some had never played any percussion before but Mark worked with all and facilitated [ably supported by his co-facilitator - Peter Schaupp] two very fine performances incorporating percussion, voice and movement. The performers loved it, the audience loved it and being totally selfish - I loved it. I'm going back for more!
Check Red Zebra out - they work across both community and corporate sectors.

If you want a visual taste of what they do go here:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Passion for creative education?

If you are reading this and have a passion for creative education then go check out my friend Bruce Hammond's blog.

Courage and Creativity

Previous blogs have looked at vision and reality as aspects of the creative character. Another aspect of the creative character is courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. Ambrose Redmoon
It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. Alan Cohen
Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live. Dorothy Thompson

What is courage?
In a review of the book The Courage to Create by Rollo May, psychologist Stephen Diamond comments, "Creativity always requires taking a chance on one's self... and moving ahead despite self-doubts, discouragement and anxiety. Courage, as May makes clear, is “not the absence of insecurity, fear, anxiety or despair, but resides in the decision to move through these feelings as constructively or creatively as possible." Courage has no switch that one can turn on or off at a whim. Cultivating courage is more of a discipline, or a moment-to-moment, day-by-day practice.

Why is courage important?
Courage requires that we step beyond our zone of comfort and expand beyond our current capabilities or ways of doing things. This is why it can seem so frightening. Creativity requires courage.
We can develop more courage in a number of ways:
§ Being honest with yourself and others. When you give integrity away, you do not have it anymore. It is at times easier to compromise our integrity than to have the courage to do what we believe is right. Taking a creative path through life can require great courage.
§ Acting on your values
§ Taking some pride in your achievements. This can pull you to do things in a manner that elicits courage and excellence, helping you to overcome low hurdles and large obstacles.
§ Practice daily acts of courage by stepping out of your comfort zone.

More ways to develop courage are to be found in my book - The Creative Edge - Putting life into your creativity - Putting creativity into your life.

If you would like to purchase the book - in pdf form on disc - you can order a copy from me or from the Creative Skills Training Council $NZ15 plus $NZ5 postage and packaging anywhere in the world. Pay by PayPal.

Great Conference - Swelled Head!

This morning I received comments and feedback from the brilliant conference organising team of Kobus, Inge, Ronnie and Ena, that people made about the 15th Annual International Creativity Conference that I attended in South Africa in October.

"Contrary to the predictions of the prophets of doom (re the world economy!), ACRE 15 was without a doubt one of the most enjoyable conferences and gratifying experiences. The atmosphere could not have been better, the delegates were excited and full of praise - we are so grateful!
A few of the comments which we have received:
"Thank you for even thinking of bringing such a brilliant conference concept to our country! I feel very inspired and hopeful as a South African whenever I think of people like yourselves who try to do their bit for the good of our country."
"Travelling to South Africa for the conference was one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. I had a wonderful time. I know that I left a piece of my heart in Klein Kariba!"
"I wonder if I'll ever see such a group of enthusiastic, motivated, inspired people again!"
"I would like to thank you and your team for a mind blowing week at ACRE 15. I couldn't get enough - and still can't. Well done!"
"Just wanted to send a quick email to say thank you - it was absolutely wonderful. Hopefully I'll persuade my company to send more delegates next year"
"Please send me the dates of ACRE 16 - I want to diarise it immediately for myself and my company".
"As soon as you have the dates for next year's conference, please let me know - I want to organise my diary now not to miss it!" Etc etc etc.
And then there's the swelled head bit!
I facilitated a workshop that focused on making creativity a habit.
"As far as your evaluations are concerned:
1: The presenter covered the content as described in the programme
2. Presenter was well prepared and delivered session with confidence
3. Delegate's overall impression of the presentation

Q.1: 35 Excellent; 3 Very good;
Q.2: 36 Excellent; 2 Very good;
Q.3: 34 Excellent; 4 Very good
Great session - great style of presenting;
Great session - I'm going to start changing my bad habits!;
Great delivery - many applications - useful for education as well as companies;
Perfect session for the morning after - kept me awake;
Great stuff - best session of the conference which I attended;
Want more sessions like this - should be a 4 hr presenter;
Most enjoyable;
One of my best;
The best I attended this week;
Excellent - 4 hrs for him - Please come back next year;
Would recommend it to anyone;
A very well presented programme;
Outstanding - one of the best sessions I have been to at any creativity conference;
Excellent, practical, life-changing."

I'll definitely be back!! and you can get the workshop manual on a disc by emailing me It costs $NZ15 plus $NZ5 post and packaging anywhere in the world. Pay by PayPal.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tuks Creative

One of the highlights of the 15th International Creativity Conference in South Africa was the work of Annalie Botha and her students from the Tuks Creative Student Society of the University of Pretoria.
The theme chosen for the conference was The Sixties and one of the banners summed it up - If you can remember the sixties you probably weren't there.
The students who numbered maybe 25 carried this theme so well - they welcomed, performed, mimed - they just added so much to the conference. The students energy was well matched by Annalie's own energy.
Tuks Creative offers opportunities to students to participate in street theatre, children's theatre, art festivals and so on. In Annalie's words: "I believe that these future teachers will be able to link the theory of the academic world and the [practice of the real world, and that they will be able to use their critical thinking skills to bring magic and fun back into the classroom and touch the hearts of our children."
Alan Black from the US, Ken Wall from Australia and me, from New Zealand, had the privilege and pleasure of working with these students.
Wish I had teachers like these students are going to be!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There's a trick to building a better brain

This from the South African Sunday Times via Reuters.
Adults who learn new tricks such as juggling can improve the 'wiring' of their brains, say British scientists.
Research shows that newly trained jugglers had better connectivity in parts of the brain involved in movements needed to catch the balls - and the improvement lasted for weeks even after they stopped juggling. "We tend to think of the brain as being static, or even beginning to degenerate once we reach adulthood'" said Heidi Johansen-Berg of Oxford University's department of clinical neurology, whose study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
"In fact we find the structure of the brain is ripe for change. We've shown that it is possible for the brain to condition its own wiring system to operate more efficiently."
White matter consists of bundles of long nerve fibres that conduct electrical signals between nerve cells, while grey matter consists of nerve cell bodies where the processing and computation in the brain is done.
Scientists have already show that grey matter function can improve by learning or experiencing new things, but improvements in white matter have not previously been shown.
The scientists took two groups of 24 adults none of whom who could juggle. One group has weekly juggling training sessions for six weeks and was asked to practise 30 minutes a day. The groups were scanned using special magnetic resonance imaging diffusion before and after the the 6 week period.
After the training there was great variation in skill levels, the researchers said. But all of the newly trained jugglers showed changes in white matter - suggesting that the benefit was down to time spent training and practising, rather than ability.

Friday, October 16, 2009

South African Creativity

South Africa is a country of contrasts and has left a lasting impression on me. Its creative potential is extraordinary.

I have just returned from attending and presenting at the 4th International Creativity Conference for Educators and the 15th International Creativity Conference.

Prior to the conference presenters were invited to stay at Neethling's Place, sometime home and workplace of Dr Kobus Neethling, the founder of the conferences - and what a wonderful occasion it was. Apparently Neethlings Place was originally a film school and set for the movie The Gods Must be Crazy. The scene then was well set for a bunch of internationals to gather and relax a little prior to the conference.

The hospitality shown by Kobus and his team was just wonderful.
Known internationally for his work on creativity Kobus is also responsible for the development of the Neethling Brain Instrument. The Brain Profile is in essence the synopsis or summary of the person’s thinking preferences at a specific time in his/her life. Because the point of departure is ‘thinking preferences’, it is important to note that there are no bad or wrong profiles. The Brain Profile is a descriptive, non-judgmental analysis, with no profile being better or worse than another. Instead, the profile gives a description of an individual’s thought preferences, and recommendations are made based on those preferences.
These recommendations could focus on: personal development; subject or career choices; lifestyle changes; business improvements; personal relationships; improving education and sport achievements; parenting; leadership and management; plotting the future and many other possibilities.
More about this instrument in future blogs.

Now back to Neethlings Place. It was here I was introduced to the South African BBQ - the Braai - which seems to be an excuse to sing songs, drink and eat meat. I'm sure there is more to it than that but for a simple antipodean lad that was enough. Thanks to all for making me feel very welcome!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reality and the Creative Edge

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
Philip K. Dick

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
John Lennon

Few people have the imagination for reality.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have a very firm grasp on reality! I can reach out and strangle it any time!
Author Unknown
Reality is fine, you know, but it can really get in your way when you're chasing a dream.
Angela Bowie

What is reality?
Once you have a clear vision of what you want to create, you need to balance that with a clear view of the reality you now have. Where you are now is simply where you are now. It is an assessment of current circumstances and not a judgment on who you are. Be gentle with yourself as you assess where you are in relation to where you want to be. This process sets up creative tension. In order to set up the creative tension dynamic, you must have a clear measurement of your current reality and circumstances. Knowing the difference between where you want to be and where you are at this moment in time creates a healthy tension that seeks to resolve itself. Knowing where you want to go and where you are creates a tension that moves you forward. It is in the gap between where you are and where you want to be that the tension resides. It is in the gap where choices are made and the actions are taken that can propel you forward.

Why is reality important?
Once you know what you want and what you currently have in relation to what you want you can begin to organise your actions more effectively to cause the desired changes to happen. Say you had a vision to write an award winning play. If you have never written anything in your life then that's quite a gap between your vision and your reality. So what actions might you take to move yourself forward toward your intended destination? If getting an award for writing a play is not something that is important to you, then there is no creative tension and without creative tension you blunt your creative edge.

More on reality and its practical application in The Creative Edge Workbook.
Email me at for more information.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your reality is not real [and nor is mine]

A newsletter I subscribe to is Keith Livingstone's Hypnosis 101. Having trained in hypnotherapy this site continues to expand my knowledge and practice. A sense of reality is also one of the elements of the creative character. It is the gap between vision and reality that creates a creative tension that seeks resolution - the tension that causes people to create. In this part one of a two part video clip Keith sets up an experiment that challenges whether any one's reality is actually real Its a little freaky!!
Check the video clip out here. Your Reality Is Not Real (nor is mine)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vision and the Creative Edge

Most people are not really free. They are confined to the niche in the world they carve out for themselves.They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision. V S Naipul

Vision is one of the 5 elements of character [ see the Parthenon model of creativity] that I believe is essential for the development of personal creativity.

What is vision?
A vision is a positive, powerful picture of what you want to create - be it an art work, a meal, a dance or a life. It is a picture that is important enough for you to commit time and energy to bring it into being.
Peter Senge says it is “ a force in people’s hearts, a force of impressive power.” (Fifth Discipline. p.206).
A personal vision is the pictures or images that a person carries around in both their head and their heart. At its simplest level a vision is the answer to the question, “What do I want to create?”
Visions inspire us to reach for possibilities and to make them our realities. They bring out the best in us and help us rise above our fears and pre-occupations with what can go wrong and focus on what can go right.

Why is vision important?
Having a personal vision provides you with a constant mental road map giving you direction. With a vision firmly in mind, you can make moment-to-moment choices with real integrity. A person with a vision is more likely to feel fulfilled, energised and confident.
On the other hand, when no vision exits, life is more likely to be seen as drudgery, to be endured instead of embraced, performed instead of experienced, and stagnant instead of vital and evolving.

Vision . . . .
§ provides us with an anchor
§ provides us with a beacon.
§ supports the core from which we can make decisions about what we want to be and how we wish to invest our talents and time.
§ directs our focus and energy

If you want to learn more about developing your creative edge my new workbook - The Creative Edge Putting creativity into your life Putting life into your creativity - is now for sale. Contact It comes as a pdf file on a disc. Price $NZ15 plus postage and packaging. I'll send it anywhere in the world!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Morris Dancing

Seeing my last name is Morris I couldn't resist this - don't miss the movie if it comes to a cinema near you.
Thanks Brenda.

The Structure of Creativity

I have been puzzling over this thing called creativity for many years. One of my challenges has been to identify the elements that make up creativity and then figure out if others can learn to become more creative.

For a number of years I have been facilitating creativity workshops and retreats so I was always challenged to find ways of making them ‘better’ for people although the feedback from them has been great.

I am reminded of a quote from Terrance Conran, the designer, who said:

“I’ve never met a truly creative person who was happy and satisfied with life. They are always worried about something, that something is not right. They could improve the world. I needed through creativity, inspiration – whatever – and quite a lot of common sense - to find a better way of doing it.”

That’s me and this is my thinking around the structure of creativity to date. It may change – but that’s the nature of creativity. I explored a range of visual ways of trying to get across my thinking – there was the Creativity Diamond, the Starfish Model of Creativity and now I have the Parthenon.
Built in the 5th century BC, the original Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector. Its stylistic conventions have become the paradigm of Classical architecture, and its style has influenced architecture for many centuries after it was built.

Which is what I hope that my Parthenon might do – influence creativity for many years to come - nothing wrong with delusions of grandeur!!

Like any structure that is built to last the Parthenon rests on a solid foundation, topped with a floor. It has wall pillars supporting the roof. When we have all of these in place we have the framework that will support our creative edge.
Let’s explore the construction of the building in a little more depth.

The Foundation – that’s you - your beliefs, your values, your attitude and your motivation - those aspects of you that make up your character. It is the base on which your creativity rests.

The question to ask is how does your present character support your creative intentions?

To become more creative you may have to take a close look at your character and decide that some change is needed. Once you can identify the character qualities you’re missing, you can consciously develop them. But as long as you remain in the dark about these deficiencies, it will be tough to reach your creative intention because you won’t yet be the kind of person who can achieve it.

Select one of your creativity goals or intentions, perhaps one where your progress has been disappointing. Now ask yourself if a person with different character attributes would be more capable of achieving this goal than you are. What kind of person would find your creative intention easy to achieve?

Ask yourself the following questions:
What would a person with more vision do in my situation?
What would a person who fully accepted their reality do in my situation?
What would a person with more curiosity do in my situation?
What would a person with more competence do in my situation?
What would a person with more courage do in my situation?
By asking these questions for each of your creative intentions, you’ll end up with a list of character qualities to develop. By strengthening these qualities, you’ll become the kind of person who can and will achieve your creative intention.

The Floor - these are the elements of your character that I alluded to previously. They rest on the foundation and support the pillars of your creativity. I believe that creative people exhibit certain aspects of character.
They are: Vision, Reality, Curiosity, Courage and Competence
The Pillars - the framework that supports the roof - these are the day to day 'habits' that creative people exhibit that give them a creative edge. They are: Be open, Collect, Challenge, Seek, Surround, and Play.

Future blogs will look at each of these in more detail. In the meantime if you would like to purchase the book - in pdf form on disc - you can order a copy from me or from the Creative Skills Training Council

The Creative Edge

The Creative Edge is both the name of this blog and my new workbook. Over time I am going to put excerpts from the book on this blog. The book, by the way, can be ordered directly from me - or through the Creative Skills Training Council

The Creative Edge

All change happens at the edge and creativity is about change.
For me, creativity is the stuff you do at the edges. But the edges are different for everyone, and the edges change over time. Stuff that would have been creative last year isn't creative at all today, because it's not near the edges any more.

“The most fertile region [in the mind’s inner landscape] seems to be the marshy shore, the borderline between sleep and full awakening and where the matrices of disciplined thought are already operating but have not yet sufficiently hardened to obstruct the dreamlike fluidity of imagination.” Arthur Koestler

If you want to be creative, understand that you'll need to get to the edges, even if the edges have moved. Being creative means immediately going to the place the last person left off.

“Creative thinking takes place neither inside the box nor outside the box, but at the edges of the box.” Chris Bilton Management and Creativity

Creativity is about pushing the boundaries. It is not possible to be comfortable and creative at the same time. All creativity takes place at the meeting point between different worlds.

“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” Natalie Goldberg

We all live within a box of possibilities whose edge is formed by inner judgments, attitudes and beliefs. When we are conscious of these habits of mind and behaviour, we expand the box, continue the journey, and experience a sense of heightened satisfaction and fulfilment. With an expanded box of possibilities, we will better understand how to face life’s challenges with a creative mindset.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the centre.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you have
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you
Either you'll find something solid to stand on
Or you'll be taught how to fly!”
Richard Bach

"Come to the edge," he said. They said, "We are afraid."
"Come to the edge," he said. They came. He pushed them . . . and they flew."
Guillaume Appollinaire

How Edgy Are You?

Where are the edges of your current knowledge and abilities?

How have they shifted from a few years ago?

How do you challenge yourself to keep things fresh and exciting?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Creative Skills Training Council

The Creative Skills Training Council is an on-line community of creative practitioners made up of business executives, academics, designers, artists, behavioural and cognitive scientists involved in advancing the practice of creative skills and capabilities development in business, organizations and government through aesthetic processes and creativity thinking tools and systems.

This is a collection of blogs kept by individual CSTC members that include essays, comments, advice and links on all matters creative.

Gary Bertwistle, The Idea Vault, Sydney Australia
Robert Alan Black, Georgia, USA (Weekly Creative Challenges)
Keith De La Rue. Acknowledge Consulting. Melbourne Australia
Bob Eckert, New and Improved, New York, USA
Andy Eklund Creative Streak Sydney Australia
Gregg Fraley, Chicago, USA
Tim Hurson, ThinkX, Toronto, Canada
Ralph Kerle. Creativity Matters. Sydney. Australia
Viv McWaters, Beyond the Edge, Australia
Wayne Morris. Future Edge, New Zealand.
Linda Naiman, Creativity at Work, Vancouver, Canada
Des Walsh, Social Media Strategist, Gold Coast, Australia

It has also just recently established an on-line shop. Here is the CSTC Shop link
You can buy my book "The Creative Edge - Putting creativity into your life - Putting life into your creativity' at the shop.

The site is worth checking out at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Distance Creativity

Jeffrey Baumgartner publishes Report 103 twice a month. Its good!
You can find this and every issue of Report 103 ever written at at his archives on

The most recent issue [156] has a great article on a very simple and scientifically proven method to boost your creative thinking skills temporarily.

Here is a small extract - if you want the rest check out the newsletter.

"If you are looking to boost your creativity, you will find a lot of tips out there (including my own slightly flippant “10 Steps to Boost Your Creativity” at which first went on-line in 1996 and has been reproduced in numerous books, magazines, web pages and PowerPoint slides since). But few of those tips are based on any empirical evidence. Indeed, evidence tends to show your level of creativity is largely the result of how your brain is wired (see for instance the 19 September 2006 issue of Report 103: ) and so cannot be significantly changed.

However, recent research by Lile Jia , Edward R. Hirta and Samuel C. Karpena at Indiana University has shown that there is a very simple and scientifically proven method to boost your creative thinking skills temporarily. You simply need to distance yourself from the problem – even if only in the mind.

The team observed that according to the construal level theory of psychological distance, thoughts which we do not see as being part of the here and now are considered psychologically distant. Moreover, we tend to see such psychologically distant things as being more abstract; while thoughts related to the here and know we perceive as being more concrete.
Lile and the team theorised that the abstract thinking of distant thoughts would be beneficial to creative thinking. To test this, they devised two experiments."

And if you want to know more about the experiments and the results go to Look for the 15 September 2009 issue.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Should creative writing be taught?

An article from the New Yorker.
Should it?

The Creative Edge Workbook

Its been a long New Zealand winter and I've spent a lot of time writing The Creative Edge Workbook . . . AND ITS DONE!!! YEEEHAAAAA!!

Its over a 100 pages long and is on a CD in pdf format.

What's in it?

Information [word bites] about creativity - for those who like to know stuff [but don't expect to become more creative by knowing]. These are intended to stretch your thinking.

The Parthenon - have to but it to find out about that or check the previous blog!

Practical activities to expand your creativity - for those who like to do stuff.
Other people's stories - for those who need to know that becoming more creative is possible and that others have done it [some of these also appear on my blog]

A test!!! Yes a test - to see how you fare against the generally accepted characteristics of creative people

Quotes - a bunch of quotes from famous and not so famous people about creativity - learning from the wisdom from others never hurts
Some spelling mistakes - I'm sure that there will be some - spellcheckers aren't perfect and nor am I

Price - NZ$15NZ plus NZ$5 postage [if I have to post it] Seems pretty reasonable.

If you would like 1 or 10 or 100 let me know [by email] and I'll get them in the mail to you asap. Don't forget to include your snail mail address. I'll reply to your email giving you details of your payment options - including a PayPal email limk that I have never used before so I hope it works.

I'm off to South Africa as a guest facilitator at a 15th Annual Creativity Conference next month [October] and the workbook material will form the basis of my workshop.

So if I don't respond to any requests in October that's why - I'll be up at the great, grey / green, greasy Limpopo River - although I'm sure its not!

Hope you are all well and being exceptionally creative.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Creative Parthenon

For a few years now I have been playing with 'models' of creativity - there was the 'creativity diamond', the 'starfish model of creativity' and now the Parthenon. This is what it looks like.
The Parthenon forms the basis for a new workbook I have put together titled 'The Creative Edge Workshop - putting life into your creativity - putting creativity into your life.'

It is also going to form the basis of a workshop I'm running in South Africa in October this year. I have yet to work out a way of selling the workbook so if anyone out there reads this and knows about this on-line selling stuff feel free to contact me

Future blogs will look at the aspects of the Parthenon and the habits required for being a creative person.

Where in the world is . . ?

A couple of weeks ago I put one of those counters on this blog - you know - the thing that tells you how many people are watching and where they come from.
I promptly forgot about it until today. Its quite cool. Apart from the numbers it tells me that people from all these countries are interested in things creative:

  • New Zealand - 'cause that's where I live!
  • United States

  • Australia

  • Netherlands

  • Ireland

  • United Kingdom

  • Puerto Rico

  • Malaysia

  • India

  • Hungary

  • Pakistan

  • and some unknowns - creative extra-terrestrials perhaps?

That's pretty exciting.

Wouldn't it be great if we talked to each other about all things creative, bounced ideas around - feel free to start a conversation on this blog. Use the comments box or email me at

Monday, September 7, 2009

Benefits of Creative Classrooms

Mike Baker of the BBC looks at the progress made in instilling creativity in British classrooms.

"Creativity benefits results in other areas, research suggests
Ten years ago this month a 243-page report on the importance of promoting creativity and culture in schools landed on ministers' desks.
It had been commissioned in the heady early days of the Blair government to recommend ways to make progress in the "creative and cultural development of young people" both in and out of school.
The review was led by Sir Ken Robinson and included leading scientists, business leaders, and key figures from the arts world.
It was widely acclaimed.
It argued that creativity was a skill that could be taught.
It was not about progressive teaching or loose discipline. Nor was it in any way an alternative to the essential skills of numeracy and literacy.
Rather it was about encouraging pupils to be innovative and to develop the ability to problem-solve in all areas of the curriculum, from maths to technology.
It argued that such skills were essential to individuals, employers and the whole economy.

But what has happened since?
There has certainly been cultural activity in schools but even the strongest champions of creative and cultural education would have to admit that the report - called All Our Futures - has not dominated schools policy.
That's because it came out just at a time when the new Labour government was investing its energy in boosting standards in the "three Rs".
Determined to show it was tough in standards, Labour's drive was focused on the Numeracy and Literacy Hours.
Ask a primary school pupil in England what numeracy or literacy is and they will have no hesitation in describing what they do in class for an hour each day.
But creativity? Even if All Our Futures had suggested a "creativity hour" it would probably have been seen as a distraction from the key message on standards.
Of course, it did not recommend anything as gimmicky, since the whole tenor of the report was that creativity and culture are not some sort of bolt-on activities, but are skills that should be developed throughout all aspects of teaching and learning, in science as much as in the arts.
In some ways the report was ahead of its time.
It called for a reduction in the burden of assessment and said the national curriculum should be reduced to take up no more than 80% of the timetable.
The latter recommendation probably now seems too modest, an indication of how far the call for greater freedom for schools has been reflected in subsequent reforms of the curriculum.
But any satisfaction the authors of All Our Futures may draw from subsequent events must, surely, be tempered by recognition that there is still a long way to go before creativity is seen as fundamental to teaching and learning in schools.
The current fierce debate about the national tests, or Sats, at age 11 hinges on whether they contribute to a narrowing of the curriculum, with many teachers and schools feeling they dominate the final years of primary school.
Indeed, the accountability criteria that determine success or failure for schools and teachers are overwhelmingly based on formal tests, particularly covering English and maths, not on indicators that reflect pupils' creativity.
So you could not blame head teachers if they felt it was more important to secure their school against league table failure - or the triggering of an Ofsted inspection - than to promote creativity.
However, a report published this week by the new charity Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) highlights research suggesting that a focus on creativity in schools need not be at the expense of achievement in the basics.
Indeed, it claims the very opposite: that creativity boost exam results and attendance.
The report looks at the record of a programme called Creative Partnerships.
This programme - which fosters collaborative partnerships between schools and creative professionals including artists, performers, architects and scientists - has now engaged almost one million school students and 90,000 teachers.
According to research from the independent National Foundation for Educational Research, which covered 13,000 young people, pupils who have taken part in Creative Partnerships' programmes have often outperformed others who have not been involved.
The NFER research found many of the differences were relatively small but it did conclude that "The results of this study suggest that Creative Partnerships is contributing to improved levels of attainment."
In particular, it found that "Young people who have attended Creative Partnerships activities made, on average, the equivalent of 2.5 grades better progress in GCSE than similar young people in other schools."
While the NFER is at pains to point out that from the evidence so far the gains are small, this is clearly an encouraging sign for those who argue that creative and cultural education is not just some sort of woolly feel-good effect.
Report cards
Perhaps more important, though, is the NFER evidence which suggests Creative Partnerships programmes have been associated with an "educationally significant reduction in absence rates in primary schools".
Ofsted has also monitored Creative Partnership programmes.
It found "improvements in literacy, particularly writing, and speaking were significant in the majority of schools visited".
Educational research is rarely definitive as there are always so many other variables involved in pupil attainment.
But the evidence so far seems to back the view that putting a real emphasis on creative and cultural education in schools has broad benefits.
However, getting all schools to take this route will continue to be difficult when the accountability measures that determine the success or failure of schools continue to emphasise short-term improvements in formal qualifications.
Perhaps the government's proposed new School Report Cards can find a way of indicating whether a school is successfully promoting creative and cultural education?"

Source: BBC

And we in New Zealand are bringing in National Standards! Bugger!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sound Magician

Robbie Duncan works magic, getting the best from people and from sound. I talked with him about the creativity involved in doing that at his Braeburn Recording Studio.

“No matter where you are on the creativity scale the question is how do you get better than that? First of all do you want to get better?

My creative process is to do with play – that’s how I learn – I try 99 things and 99 things don’t work and the 100th thing – I’ve now got it! I’ll just keep on. How do you cope with so much failure – by enjoying the process and that’s where play comes in. It’s the Edison thing – it’s not failure, it’s just another step on the way to getting it sorted. So play is definitely part of it.

But there is another thing in the creative process and that is how do you develop beyond yourself? Once you’ve written that book, written that song, done that painting, recorded that album – how do you then do something else? Some people are happy to write the same book, paint the same picture but most creative people want to go further. I guess its about challenge.

So how do you get beyond your habitual way of doing things. I think play is apart of that too – but I guess it is intentional play. I want to get over there. being open to the process and open to the doors that show themselves.

Another aspect I’m beginning to understand is working within constraints. Why do poets do sonnets? Certain disciplines and sometimes working within the discipline gives you freedom as well. Because there is a large world out there some people are like moths to a flame – they’ll never develop – they’re just going off in whatever direction. So I did The Sound of the Sound album for that reason – to grow beyond my habitual way of doing things. I used tunings I never used before. It’s like building a vocabulary, then learning to talk, then turning off conscious thought then just making it up within the discipline of the tuning I had created. The tuning was the language.

Working with clients – there’s budget restraints and then there’s [perfection – what stage do you say this is good enough. All sorts of decisions – When is the picture painted? When is the album done?

My advice to others? If you’re looking at your art, your craft, your life I would say have fun. You’re not going to be creative if you don’t want to be. So first of all you have to want to be then have fun and then – part of having fun is not doing badly – the more you do it the better you become so part of it is do it, do it, do it, do it but don’t be a perfectionist about – but have high standards. The first thing is to get better than you are - challenge yourself. One way of doing that is working within constraints then finding new constraints."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Creativity in the Paddock

Peter Charlton-Jones is half of a story-telling duo with Mary Kippenberger. I'm probably biased but I think they're the best in New Zealand. You can see more of what they do at In addition to being a very fine musician Peter runs song-writing workshops for children. He has applied the same model he uses for his workshops to his most recent CD of children's songs.

I asked Peter to describe how he went about writing the songs for the CD.

"Well I've been doing workshops with children - they write their own songs and I record them and put them on a CD and I give them the CD back. We use a model for that. We talk about the name of their pet, have them describe it and then tell about something that's happened to it. I've got used to thinking about what children think about animals and pets and things."

The inspiration for the songs came from his own childhood experiences, those of his grandchildren as well as from the experiences of the kids who he has worked with.

"I was lying in bed - I got the idea for the cricket ball song [The Cricket Ball Went Over the Fence] - that goes back to my schooldays at the Ormville Primary School where the neighbour used to keep the balls that went over the fence. I started there and thought now I just need another 11 songs. I thought about my grandchildren and they just came. I wrote them then and there - lyrics first - then I put a tune to them because that's what we've been doing with the kids in the workshops. The tunes are borrowed from various sources - I'm not sure where they came from."

Peter has written and produced 2 other CD's for children. You can find more about Peter and Mary and all the creative endeavours they are involved in at and if you get the chance to see them perform don't miss it - for kids of all ages!!

Habits for Creating

In my workshops I'm always on about the importance of habits to support one's creativity.
This arrived in my in-box from Dan at Coach Creative Space:

There's something exciting happening on CCS I wanted to tell you about...
We're relaunching Thirty Days Of Creating, for September
Thirty Days of Creating is simply that.
Create something, anything, every day for thirty days.
Habits are one of the most powerful ways we can train ourselves to be more like we want to be, and ultimately become happier.
When you do something each and every day for just a couple of weeks, you put in place the foundations for a habit that can last for life.
A habit you can then expand into virtually unlimited potential.
As creative people, the longer we go without creating, the harder it becomes.
So by creating each and every day you can gently stretch your creativity, warm it up and get it in shape, so soon you're creating not just once a day but many times a day, without any effort whatsoever.
You switch your creativity on, call it up, give it permission to gush forth and flood you with creativity!
Thirty Days of Creating is about creating SOMETHING each day. It can be a few lines of poetry, a journal entry, a sketch, a few melodies on a piano, a trip out with your camera taking photos, making a batch of cookies, dancing the night away, and any other of thousands of way of being creative.
What's most important is not WHAT you create but that you CREATE EVERY DAY.
This habit will unlock your creativity in ways you can't imagine.
All this would be very powerful on its own.
But here on CCS you have a whole community of like minded creative artists to share with and have support you and spur you in.
That kind of encouragement is priceless, and the combined energy of the group means each of us create more frequently and fully than we can under our steam, and maybe more than we've done in months, even years...So my fellow artist, are you with us?
Head over to the discussion on CCS and jump aboard!
Can't wait to see you there and get started...Happy Creating!
Visit CoachCreativeSpace at:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on Blogging

Take a look at what Seth Godin has to say about blogs.
His comments may surprise you e.g It doesn't matter if no-one reads your blog!

Joint Enquiry

Joint Enquiry is an effective way for change leaders to engage with others when attempting to change organisations and create something new. Watch Stephen Billing explain Joint Enquiry in this clip.

Chase one rabbit

David Parrish writes the best of anyone I know about the business of creativity.

From Davids most recent blog:

Here's some ancient wisdom from a Chinese proverb:
"If you chase two rabbits, both will escape."
A useful thought for all creative entrepreneurs.
It can be applied to:- deciding which creative speciality to choose, from all the creative things you can do.- deciding which particular market segment to focus on, rather than trying to appeal to many types of customer.

This is discussed in more detail in his article: Create your own Business Formula.

See also:
Ten Things Google Has Found To Be True

PS: Another animal to take inspiration from is the Hedgehog.

You can also download his book 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity'. It's a practical handbook for creative entrepreneurs to refer to and find information, examples from other businesses, and practical tips about using powerful business ideas in a creative context.

The book condenses over twenty years' of David's experience of working in creative enterprises, combined with learning from clients and from business school.

Download free eBook now
(PDF, 1.9MB)
[PC - Right click and 'Save Target As' to copy to hard drive.][Mac - Hold down Ctrl and 'Download Linked File'.]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Imagination and Fantasy

"People who are able voluntarily to enter the realm of fantasy - to take a theme, and then let an imaginative scenario unfold like a dream or a movie - have been found to be more creative than those who cannot. Interestingly, adults with more accessible and more powerful fantasy lives report that they have cultivated their powers of imagination since childhood. As children they were more likely to have engaged in imaginative play, and to have been able to 'lose themselves' in the fantasy world of a book, than were adults with less vivid or less ready imaginations. It is tempting to read this, conversely, as indicating that some children may be beginning to lose their imaginative birthright even at quite young ages."

A worrying trend?

Source: Claxton, Guy. (2001) Wise Up: Learning to live the learning life. Network Educational Press Limited: UK

Sunday, August 16, 2009

They came, they saw, they conquered

This just goes to show that you can be creative with most things.
It'll be musical chain saws next - although I guess that has already been done!

Hinemoana Baker

Hinemoana Baker's - poet, songwriter, performer - latest newsletter:, Click here to listen to puawai while you read! :
Source: Mike Moroney on the NZ Folk Digest, Vol 56, Issue 33

Creative Bedfellows

The New York Songwriters Circle and Fashion Fantasy Game Forge Unique OnlineMusic and Fashion Community Partnership:

From the Morph Team: "Morph is an alternative approach to art and culture. Morph is here to show that there's more to the arts than work seen in a gallery or performed on a stage; that creative geniuses abound in every guise; that art does not have to be elitist or high-brow to live up to the label; that life is encrusted with fine jewels of creative thinking; that artists are seers capable of transforming a society fast becoming one dimensional; that art encompasses all visions and emotions it is celebratory, analytical, critical, prophetic, heretic and breaks down barriers to the way the world is viewed. Morph promotes and celebrates local culture with a small is beautiful pro-community philosophy. Morph makes it possible to believe that the world we live in does not have to be a continued reproduction of earlier generations, an amble to planetary immolation; that there are alternative, creative ways of viewing and living in the world. MORPH was started by the Depot Artspace who wanted to share the privilege of exposure to so much significant city talent; artists, writers, poets, musicians, inventors, creative thinkers, skateboarders, BMXers and surfers. Everyone DOES have a creative bone in their body. Creating is as essential as breathing but maybe less evident because too many rules involving power brokers and gate keepers have put creativity into a small box and labelled it elite.Morph is about liberation of the creative spirit and that's why we are wide open to everything. Morph welcomes your input in any form: interviews, social commentary, poetry, photography, cartoons, illustrations and ideas all add to MORPH's identity.True to its name Morph will continue to transmogrify along with time, circumstance and perspective that you, Morph reader, are able to bring to it. We have shifted from being a print magazine to an online only magazine. This site feature many of the articles in the six print editions of Morph over the years. Copies of most editions are keep in stock and are available on request."

Check it out! There's even something in it for us old folks!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

David Woodings - Painter

Andrew Paul Wood in his blog described David Woodings work as: "large canvasses, photorealist in style but with a distinctly Pop Art suite of themes and candy-bright palette. Wooding homes in on the gleaming hard surfaces of cheerful, bulbous, curving objects: parts of cars, the magnificent Kiwiana of a Buzzy Bee. It is delicious work, full of comic-book vigour and populuxe-era utopianism, like something that shambled out of the consumer utopian visions of the 1950s. Rosenquist comes to mind."

I asked David to talk more about the role that creativity plays in his life.

David: I seem to have been involved in creative activities all my life. My earliest recollections are of either colouring in, painting or carving something. I was also heavily involved in singing as a child and performed in choirs and as a soloist either as part of the choir or on stage. I now paint full-time

Wayne: Was there a point in your life when you recognised that you were creative?
David: I suppose that at a very early age. I began to enter colouring competitions maybe as an 8 year old and won a number of prizes. I started painting and getting painting sets when I was 10-11 and even had lessons with a local painter when I was early teens.

When asked how he would describe his creative process David replied: I see interesting and stimulating things that can represent for me social commentary and depict them in paintings.

Wayne: What suggestions would you have for others who want to explore their creativity?
David: For those who are creative in an artistic sense, time must be apportioned to fully understand what that person wishes to achieve either singularly or collectively (with others), ascertain the correct medium to best give emphasis to their creativity and then spend time understanding how work they create is best delivered to be both understood as meaningful and personally rewarding

Wayne: Do you have ‘habits’ associated with your creative expression? e.g. a certain place to create, conditions when you are at your most creative, states of mind, special/favourite tools/equipment/media, any rituals?
David: There are certainly ‘times’ when one feels more like being creative than others. However I am a firm believer that by placing oneself in the right environment creativity can be measured. Sometimes it is hard work, but by starting something one often just works through the barriers and results come. I have always had a deep love of music (have very catholic tastes) and love to play music (sometimes but not always ‘loud’) when in the studio. The space filled with music enables me to concentrate more on what I am doing and the time just flies by. I like to have a full day in the studio, broken by ritual tea and lunch breaks (like being on the factory floor), and finish around 5. The only difference can be that my work in the studio can be any of the 7 days of the week. I have always had a love for oil paint and it has become almost an exclusive medium for all my work over the last 10 years.

Davids final comment about creativity: " It is the life force of the universe, without it we are nothing!"

No argument from me! More about David and his work on including work for sale - a better investment than almost anything else in this economic climate!