Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In pursuit of the perfect brainstorm

The New York Times Magazine recently published an article on ideas and how best to nourish them. More here:

A box? Or a spaceship? What makes kids creative?

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal Americans' scores on a commonly used creativity test fell steadily from 1990 to 2008, especially in the kindergarten through sixth-grade age group. The finding is based on a study of 300,000 Americans' scores from 1966 to 2008 on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a standardised test that's considered a benchmark for creative thinking.
More here:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

9 brain habits you didn't realise you had

Check out and in particular this post:

Brain is certainly the most amazing part of human body. It becomes more interesting when it does not work the way you expect it should. Psychology frequently establishes our intuitions about how human mind works, but it reveals a number of surprises as well… here are 9 of them.
The image is by my friend Sunset

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Using music in the classroom

This blog by Gaetan Pappalardo from Edutopia offers a challenge for all teachers to bring the heart and soul back to the classroom. Gaetan says "However, to do so they must first answer a very difficult question, "a moral as well as a practical question," posted by the most famous critical gunslinger out there, Alfie Kohn: Will teachers "treat students the way they, themselves, are being treated . . . or the way they wish they were being treated?"

More here:

Why arts education must be saved

Almost every one of us can point back to a creative pursuit, in or out of school, that enhanced our skills, knowledge, or understanding. Yet the majority of secondary school students in the United States aren't required to enroll in arts courses, many elementary schools nationwide lack art classes or activities, and arts and music instruction is often the first thing to go when schools feel the pressure to improve test scores.

Happily, from this admittedly grim background spring many rays of hope. In our special report on arts education, Edutopia paints a bright picture of how schools are forging innovative community partnerships to bring rich, academically integrated arts curriculum to their students.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A painful glimpse into my writing process [in less than 60 seconds]

Dark and humorous, this extremely short film features a stream-of-conscious look at the writing process, told with animated images straight from the subconscious...
or somewhere.

"Every writer has felt buried under the shadows of the brilliant wordsmiths and ideas that have come before them. Using frenetic composite animation, this dark comedy captures the humiliating process of wracking your brain for something original to say."
- International Film Festival of Boston

From Chel White. Link here:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kinetika Family Workshop

As part of the Kinetika - our kinetic art festival - a series of workshops were run.

One series was for schools run under the auspices of Pukeariki - our local libray and museum - education tream led by Amanda Hewlett.

I ran one, with local artist Dale Copeland
especially for families using small motors and recycled materials.

It was a great evening!

KInetika - a collaboration between artists and engineers

My home province - Taranaki - is a centre for engineering excellence based around the oil and gas industry. The local Govett Brewster Art gallery also houses a collection of works from Len Lye - an internationally known kinetic artist - kinetic art meaning art that moves. It is also home to a number of exceptional artists. I had the privilege of being part of a group that facilitated a recent exhibition at our local museum - Pukeariki - that explores the fusion of art and engineering.

There were two categories. One where the artist both designed and built their art work. The second category where artists worked with engineers to create the art work. The photos are of works from the second category.

Air Wheel Artist: Libby Wichman Fabricator: Pace Engineering

Soma Cube: Artist: James McKillop Fabricator: Superior Stainless

Sea Leopard: Artist: Jan Huijbers Fabricator: Fitzroy Yachts

All of the engineering companies donated their time, expertise and materials - a real collaboration between art and engineering.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

When creativity attacks

The Creativity World Forum drew more than 2,500 people from around the world to hear presentations, experience performances, and engage in discussions about the critical role creativity will play in the world going forward.

Also links to Ken Robinson, Dan Pink and David Pogue

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Revolutionary TV

Harnessing innovative technology from the mind of video game legend Will Wright and storytelling expertise from television hitmaker Albie Hecht, Creation Studios is looking to revolutionize the way TV is made. And that's by including you in the creative process of a new television series called Bar Karma--the first show of its kind. Utilizing Will Wright's StoryMaker Engine, you can develop the stories and characters you want to see. You'll also be able to vote on ideas submitted by other members of the Creation Studios community. The most popular ideas will become contenders for the actual plot developments on the show, written and filmed by our professional production team. It's not reality television; it's real television made by real people, including you.

Comics make for colourful learning

Teachers have begun to accept comic books as a tool for teaching literacy through group projects. from an article in Edutopia by Ed Finkel

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Speed Thinking

Most senior managers are pressed for time, but according to Dr. Ken Hudson this can actually improve the quality of their ideas. Dr. Ken Hudson is an organizational consultant and the author of the recent book ‘Speed Thinking: How to thrive in a time-poor world’ . He describes his views here:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Daniel Pink at the 2010 Creativity Forum

Dan discusses motivation and what this means for our organisations and our schools. He encouraged and challenged everyone to make more time for "uncommissioned work."

Check out his web site:

Think like an artist, work like an entrepreneur

According to Jana Lyn-Holly in an article from The Big Idea [
and used with Jana's permission]it takes a fine balance to stay on the edge of inspiration and be productive. Many of the attributes required to maintain that edge are shared by artists and entrepreneurs.

She explores the question 'I want to think like an artist and work like an entrepreneur – what do I need to know?'

What is your Theme Song?

Not every artist wants to be an entrepreneur and not every entrepreneur wants to be an artist. For both there is a lot of risk involved.

What is the biggest risk? Great art and entrepreneurship is full of disaster stories but don’t let that put you off doing what you love. Like John Lennon’s song, All you Need is Love. Love what you do, Love who you are, Love those who are drawn into your enterprise.

It may sound simplistic but 'simple' is a good place to start. All you need is Love. learn how to play the Game..learn how to be in Time. The first time I heard this song, I felt connected to something bigger than myself and these lyrics heard over and over, have moved me to action.

The beginning

In the formative stage of an enterprise, the focus is often about identifying what we’re about. Inspiration is high, there is a strong belief in the future. The arts can inspire the commitment required to get people involved.

An enterprise has its own life, its own DNA, but if the vision of the enterprise isn’t shared and there is not enough commitment (time, money, goodwill etc) it can die.

Is an entrepreneur one who loves the life of enterprise? In this article, I’ve drawn attention to various artists and entrepreneurs who’ve achieved success in the creative sector.

It takes a fine balance to stay on that edge of inspiration and be productive. Some of the attributes that seem to go with maintaining that edge are shared by artists and entrepreneurs.

A few years ago, I had the privilege to meet some of these remarkable people in focus groups across six regions of New Zealand. The purpose was to engage in strategic thinking that would strengthen connections between art sectors and the creative economy of the Nation.

I was contracted to be the visual artist documenting the discussions and I used the story telling analogy of Journey, travel, and maps to simply represent their ideas. The landscape of this Journey was specific to each region and included the challenges and aspirations of art practitioners.

Keep that analogy in mind because it’s a great little exercise in future thinking.

What if you sent yourself a postcard from the future? Where would it be sent from and what enticing images or text would it convey?

Thinking like an artist can open up the imagination for strategy and strategy is a pathway that takes us out of today’s reality and into tomorrow’s potential.

Who are Creative Producers and Artist Entrepreneurs?

Sir Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop was started more than twenty years ago in the back room of a Wellington flat and is now an internationally acclaimed, award winning enterprise employing many talented artists.

In the spirit of the entrepreneur, he says “Tania and I have continued to challenge and develop our company by diversifying into a variety of new and intriguing creative ventures. These include a high-end licensing company producing limited edition high end art pieces for a community of discerning collectors. A chainmaille manufacturing company, a publishing arm, and most recently a mini museum and retail outlet called TheWeta Cave - a place that fans and enthusiasts for Weta's work can come and enjoy a look behind the scenes."

I’d like to acknowledge that I came to New Zealand on the invitation of artist/entrepreneur, Greg Whitecliffe. He’d established his own independent college of the arts, Whitecliffe, and was recruiting overseas staff. He had many of the attributes of the entrepreneur; bold, energetic, charismatic, focused, multi-skilled, and visionary. He was a powerhouse.

New Zealand has more than its share of these characters and I’ve been pleased to meet some of them and draw out their stories.

One of the first was the founder of Les Floralies, Colyn Devereux, who said that business is about having a dream.

I represented her story as a flowering plant growing out of a seed of an idea. I thought, “she was a solo mother with no money and look what she did - I could create an enterprise, too”. It really helps when artists and entrepreneurs meet each other. Who are some of the people that would inspire you? How do you get next to them? Learn from them and invite them to learn from you?

Look at this exercise on mapping your story for a helpful framework.

Who knows what you don’t know?

Go across disciplines. Meet people from a really different landscape to yours.

Be a life- long explorer of new perspectives and seek out the stars in those sectors.

I’d never have thought an accountant could be interesting until I met entrepreneur Rod Drury, CEO of the online accounting software company Xero. I listened to him speak about challenging the system at a Digital Summit and was riveted by his can-do approach to business start ups.

Another OMG entrepreneur is ex-pat New Zealander in corporate America , Andy Lark, I include him because he’s like a one man NZTE dynamo (and he loved the way I draw).

‘Small is cool’ he says, and meeting him was an epiphany that being in New Zealand isn’t a barrier to having presence in wider markets.

These people exemplify the value of making connections just like our brain constantly makes neural connections.

It was in the 1990s that the term Left Brain/Right Brain came into public language through, in part, research into multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner & Michael Grinder). I met Michael at a Learning Conference in the USA. He said the left side of our brain is stimulated by hearing, talking and sequential input and the right side is stimulated by stories, props, and movement. I remember him well because he complimented me, as the artist visualising his session, on my right brain left brain integration

Ever since, I’ve been an exponent of ‘whole brain’ integration. (Why function with half a brain when you’ve got a whole brain?)

I am attracted to brain-based research because it acknowledges the Arts as key to our learning experience; dance it, sing it, draw it, sculpt it, rap it, play with it and you’ll learn it.

Where is The Zone of Collaboration?

It is heartening when researchers validate the experience of the artist. One that comes to mind is Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (CHICK-zent-mi-high) and what he terms ‘flow states’ of the brain -the sense that one is immersed happily and meaningfully in the moment.

Entrepreneurs sometimes term this as being ‘in the zone’ and it is an experience that can be shared with others. This is collaboration at its best. This often happens in the Normative Stage of an Enterprise when the focus is on how we function. roles and responsibilities are key to running a business and interacting with the marketplace.

John Lennon sings ‘learn how to play the game, learn how to be in time’. That’s often the purpose of strategy, define’ the game’ and create time frames for achieving your outcomes. What are your measures of success?

As I mentioned at the start of this article, an enterprise has it’s own life; a beginning and an end. Some of the indications that disaster could be at hand is when you’re working harder and harder but getting less results. Or, there’s the stories of denial or arrogance that fill up conversations.

A disaster can be an opportunity for self-correction if you’re agile, willing to learn from your mistakes, and the situation isn’t too dire.

In the integrative stage of enterprise, the focus is on leadership and you’re anticipating rather than reacting to situations. This current global economic reality challenges artists and entrepreneurs to be leaders.

How do you lead by example? What clear vision can move you, and others, into a new era of prosperous creativity?

You can explore more of what Jana does at her web site

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Three Threats to Creativity

In a recent HBR blog Teresa Amabile says "Creativity is under threat. It happens whenever and wherever there's a squeeze on the ingredients of creativity, and it's happening in many businesses today."

More here:

Diversity is the mother of creativity

Jeffrey Baumgartner publishes Report 103 - a twice monthly newsletter focused on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business. All the newsletters can be found at

The following extract 'Diversity is the mother of creativity' is used with his permission.

Arguably, one of the most important ingredients for creative thinking is diversity. We all know that diverse teams produce more creative results than teams in which all members are from a similar background. Tests have shown that the one sure-fire way of improving your creativity is to move abroad. Not travel, but move. Living in a new culture, learning new ways of doing things and, in short, diversifying your life makes you more creative. That’s not surprising.

To understand why this is the case, let’s look at what creativity is. It is a mental process in which two or more bits of information come together in your mind to create a new and useful idea. (I use the word “useful” in its broadest sense here. Scientific evidence shows that schizophrenia is similar: various bits of information come together to form new ideas and beliefs. However, in this case the new ideas are not based in reality and can lead to delusions, hallucinations and paranoia).

This seems simple enough. But our minds organise information in a structured manner, so that similar pieces of information are associated with each other and effectively exist in proximity. Such structure is necessary for processing and managing all the data that is stored in our heads.

As a result, when you are looking for solutions to a problem – and virtually all creativity is the result of trying to solve some kind of problem (see CPS) – your brain tends to work with information that is related to the problem. For instance, if you want to impress a client with a business presentation, your immediate mental reaction will probably be to think about PowerPoint software, images, slogans, case studies and that kind of thing. All of these thoughts are associated with business presentations in your mind.

But, if you want to get creative, you need to diversify your thinking and encourage your mind to look for information associated with other concepts. For instance, you might think about drama, which is vaguely related to presentations, and have the creative idea to perform a small role play for a client, in order to demonstrate your company’s services in a more realistic way. This latter approach is more creative, basically as a result of diversifying your thinking.

Diversification in Personal Creativity

If you are looking to generate more creative ideas to solve a problem, the best thing you can do is to diversify your thinking. A classic way to do this is to open a dictionary, or any book, and select a word at random. Then try to generate ideas that use that word. This forces your brain to diversify its thinking and look for solutions in more distant mental nooks and crannies. Incidentally, a more modern variation on that approach is to then google the word and select the fourth link on the eighth page of results (or use some other arbitrary pair of numbers).

Likewise, going for a walk, visiting an art gallery or applying a distantly related model to the problem can also be effective. The last method, applying a distantly related model, can be very effective. Choose a concept – such as a business model, a complex object or a game – that is only slightly related to the problem at hand. In the example above, looking at drama to find a solution for a business problem is an example. Another example is a bank that wants to provide more streamlined services to customers. They might use the model of a fast food restaurant. Both are service oriented businesses, but they have little else in common. Nevertheless, looking at how a fast food restaurant manages food, serves customers quickly and promotes new products can provide a wealth of inspiration for a bank.

Diversification in Teams

Teams can use personal creativity-diversity techniques in order to generate more creative ideas. In addition, team leaders and those putting together teams should strive for diversification. Bring in women and me from various departments, with various educational backgrounds and, ideally with different cultural backgrounds. Such people will provide a wider range of knowledge from which to extract information and build upon ideas.

Nevertheless, the work environment can not only stifle creativity, but can force people to think in a corporate way. In terms of corporate image, this is good. But for creativity it is bad. Hence taking the team to external locations in order to generate and develop ideas also injects diversity into group thinking.

Diversification in Companies

In order to have diverse teams in your company, it is essential that your people are diverse in background, education, knowledge and experience. Ideally, hire people from other countries and cultures as well. Not only do such people provide diversity within your workforce, but each of them will also have networks of professional associates whose knowledge they can tap in order to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Needless-to-say, diverse people will have diverse networks and provide your company with a vast and diverse meta-network at your disposal.

Diversity should also include, as much as possible, an even mix of sexes not only at the employee level, but also at management and board level.

Diversity and Managers

Clearly, managers should hire diverse people for their divisions and build diverse teams to handle projects. Ideally, those teams will include people in other divisions as well. More importantly, managers need to give responsibility to subordinates and trust those subordinates to handle those responsibilities in their own way. This can often be difficult for new managers who have found their own effective approaches to performing tasks. And it can often lead to micromanagement. But taking the latter approach leads to more work for the manager and less creativity for the division.

Instead, managers need to trust their people, to do things their own way, and learn from the new approaches team members take in order to solve problems.

Diversity Homework

Even when not actively trying to solve problems, adding diversity to your life provides you with more knowledge, experience and insight than you would have without that diversity, Diversity can be as simple as trying new foods, taking evening classes in new subjects, travelling abroad and reading books on new subjects. Moving abroad is even better, but not always practical.

Thanks to the popularity of networking web sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, many of us now have networks that include people we have never met. So, from time to time, why not select someone from your on-line network and meet up for a coffee just to exchange ideas and get to know each other. It’s a great way to learn and diversify.

And, of course, if you are ever in the Brussels, Belgium area, you can always buy me a coffee! I’d love to meet you!

An ideas museum in Barcelona

Jeffrey Baumgartner publishes Report 103 - a twice monthly newsletter focused on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business. All the newsletters can be found at

The following extract 'An ideas museum in Barcelona' is used with his permission.

Catalan inventor Pep Torres believes that "An idea locked up in your head is like a thorn in your heart". The inventor will shortly be able to remove his own thorn by bringing to life his idea to create a museum dedicated to creativity and inventions. It will be called the miBa, and will be housed in a six hundred metre square central location in Barcelona, which will open its doors to visitors in January 2011.
miBa stands for Ideas and Inventions Museum, Barcelona. But this is no ordinary museum; this one will appeal to everyone. Pep Torres says "The subject matter of some museums, such as Barcelona's Erotic Museum, excludes a large section of the public, and other specialised museums, such as the Footwear Museum, isn't for all tastes. However, everyone likes an invention."
The miBa will also stand out from the crowd as it aims to offer more than any conventional museum. It will support and convey creativity and inventions by inspiring, training and communicating with visitors. As such, according to Torres, this museum is about more than just looking at displays. "The miBa is, above all, a hands-on project to awaken latent creativity and get the visitors thinking," says Torres. "The intention is that everyone who steps through the door will leave wanting to turn their ideas into reality."
Inspiration is can be found in the museum's permanent collection: a tour of the imaginary everyday items we will be using in 2300 (Futour), hysterical useless and absurd inventions (Funventions) and a cause-and-effect machine that the visitors can operate, alongside a selection of the ideas and inventions that are shaping our future.
The miBa also invites exhibition-goers to reflect. "We are going to raise people's awareness and get visitors to react to the subject matter. We want them to creatively participate to resolve the matters being put forward, for them to do their bit, so that together, we build a better world."

The miBa will also become a training centre. Its Labs will be used to apply the creative knowledge and inspiration derived from the museum. "We are going to develop a series of conferences based on the TED Talks, which provide innovators with a platform, whether they are well known or not," says Torres, who will also be applying his years of experience to give conferences on creativity and innovation.
In reality, this museum is a way of introducing the public to the work carried out by Torres and his creative agency, Stereonoise. As such, the museum will hold frequent workshops. "We hope that the participants in the creative workshops take the practical ideas from the sessions away with them and immediately apply them to their own personal and professional projects." Visitors will be able to see the team cooking up ideas for the museum live, just like an open restaurant kitchen. "And can even have a chat or a cup of coffee with us," adds Torres.
While the adults are using their little grey cells to create a better world to live in, the kids will also be able to join in the fun. "The Twentyone Lab is based on the format developed by British inventor Bill Currie, which comprises a group of twenty-one children developing various inventions using a creative method that brings out individual as well as team talent over a period of twenty-one weeks; it also involves “Hola, Soy Inventor” (Hi, I'm an Inventor), a dynamic, short presentation for children about the world of inventions, which involves testing and discussing a range of inventions from my personal collection," explains Torres.
"All in all, the aim of this personal project is to give the city of Barcelona a space where people find the drive to bring the ideas buzzing around in their heads to life," he concludes. Space designed by: Juanola & DeMiguel Arquitectes

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Lots of creative projects die because of lack of funding.

Kickstarter might provide the solution.

What is Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.

They believe that...

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

All-or-nothing funding?

Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands.


1. It's less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it's tough having $2,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.

2. It allows people to test concepts (or conditionally sell stuff) without risk. If you don't receive the support you want, you're not compelled to follow through. This is huge!

3. It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they're going to spread the word.

Kickstarter is focused on creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. It's a great way for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, illustrators, explorers, curators, performers, and others to bring their projects, events, and dreams to life.

Find out more here:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If it won't fit on a Post-It, it won't fit in your day.

Does your daily to-do list look like Mount Everest? Check out this super-simple approach to streamlining your everyday tasks for more sanity and productivity...

Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach for artists and creatives. He offers a free 6-month education in how to succeed as a creative professional. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Creative Edge in Pretoria

Following the African creativity conferences my friend and colleague Francois Coetzee organised a day long Creative Edge workshop for a small group of people at the Ubuntu Training Centre in Pretoria.

We explored the characteristics of creative people and 'measured' ourselves against them. This at times meant we tied each other in knots!

We explored the six habits of creative people - be open, collect, surround, seek, challenge and play - and looked at ways making them a greater priority in our lives. And played with with modelling clay

We spent time using Speed Thinking - a very effective thinking process developed by Dr Ken Hudson - more at

Red Zebra

"Red Zebra uses music, dance and creativity to design projects and workshops that are inspirational and unforgettable.

They encourage people to recognise their uniqueness and give them the opportunity to share this with others. They create a situation where differences are valued and viewed as strengths.

In exploring who we are, we discover beautiful similarities, exciting differences and develop new understanding. When we work together, sharing our differences, amazing things are possible.

Using music and creativity, people experience this in a tangible and exciting way. This principle is the foundation of their work."
The above is from the Red Zebra Linked In profile.

For me they are all that and more. I have experienced Mark and Peter from Red Zebra a two creativity conferences in Africa and they have been my highlight both times.

To take a large group of people, many of whom have not played any percussion before, through a 4 hour development workshop, the last two hours of which involve working with percussion, and turn them in to a group that performs to the conference audience as part of evening key notes is extraordinary.

To see the smiles on the performers faces, to feel the energy of the audience and to hear comments such as 'I have to get a photo of this. My family will not belive that I have done this' is testimony to the great work they do.

I'll be back for more next year!

The 16th Annual Creativity Conference in Africa

Take 300 participants, 40 odd presenters [no pun intended], a stunning African resort and expose them to new skills and knowledge , good food and great company and you have the mix for a very successful creativity conference. I was privileged to be invited back to South Africa to deliver workshops based on my new book The Creative Edge Workshop. You can get a copy at

Every year Kobus Neethling and his team put together this wonderful conference. This year the theme was The Great Awakening.
In a message to participants Kobus quotes from an article titled 'From Participation to Creation' published by KnowledgeWorks Foundation.

"This 2020 Forecast illuminates how we are shifting toward a culture of creation in which each of us has the opportunity - and the responsibility - to make our collective future. People are creating new selves, organisations, systems, societies, economies and knowledge. Networked artisans and ad hoc factories are democratising manufacturing and catalysing new local economies. These creators are highlighting the significance of cooperation and cross-cultural intelligence for citizenship and economic leadership.

Furthermore advances in neuroscience are creating new notions of performance and cognition and are reshaping discussions of social justice in learning. Communities are beginning to re-create them,selves as resilient systems that respond to challenges by replenishing their vital resources and creating flexible, open, and adaptive infrastructures.

Together these forces are pushing us to create the future of learning as an ecosystem, in which we will have yet to determine the role of educational institutions as we know them today."

In the words of Seneca "Its is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult."

Will there be a great awakening or will we attempt to maintain the status quo? I know my preference.

Report 103

Report 103 is a twice-monthly newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner. You can find archived copies at

The latest issue includes and article of mine on Strengths, Fatal Flaws and Allowable Weaknesses - A Whole Brain Strategy for Success.
Also included is a link to a great article by Steven Johnson whom I have featured in a previous blog. Steven Johnson has just published a book entitled Where Good Ideas Come From, which looks at the collaborative nature of creativity and the evolution of ideas. You can read a fascinating interview with him in the Guardian Newspaper at

There is also a link to a podcast where Liz Massey, a writer, editor, media producer and a creative agent provocateur, interviewed Jeffrey and enjoyed a wide ranging discussion on creativity, business innovation and idea generation. The interview is now on-line in Liz’s web site and you can download a podcast of the interview on
You can read more of Liz Massey's work on

Sign up to Report 103. Its one of the best of its type around.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Neethling Brain Insruments

One of my reasons for going to South Africa was to get further training in the whole brain thinking preference tools developed by Dr Kobus Neethling.

Kobus developed the suite of tools as a result of extensive international research beginning in 1980 and ongoing research at a number of universities remains an essential part of whole brain science.

Ken Wall [pictured] from Australia and Rache Rutherford from South Africa faciliated the workshop

You can visit for frequently asked questions and to download your own copy of 'Understanding your whole brain'. Its free.

If you are in New Zealand contact me as the New Zealand agent for the NBI

The 5th Annual International Creativity Conference for Educators in Africa

On the 3-5th of October I had the pleasure of running workshops at the International Creativity Conference for Educators in Pretoria in South Africa. The weather was warm the hospitality even warmer. We were welcomed teacher trainees from the University of Pretoria under the guidance of Annalie Botha. These remarkable young people greeted us dressed to the theme of the conference - storytelling.

Participants could choose form a range of workshops - 90 minutes to 4 hours in length - delivered by local, national and international presenters.

Workshops went by the intriguing names of:

Don't just sit there - be creative
Complex creativity - six simple steps to brilliant ideas Inspiring breakthrough ideas in others Creativity is zigging in a zagging world

There were also two excellent key notes - one by David Venter 'Inspiring Africa's principled, radically innovative leaders of the future - a new paradigm and the other by Bruce Baum -The laughing classroom: challenges and opportunities.

The setting was just great for a conference - great accommodation and food, baboons and monkeys, small bok, dassies [like a very large rat].

Nearly 300 people went away motivated and inspired to meet the very real challenges facing teachers in South Africa.

My workshop - The Six habits of Creative People - was very well received and I sold all my books!!

Monday, October 18, 2010


On the weekend of 25 / 26 September I had the privilege of presenting at Interwoven -a joint symposium of ANZATA [Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy Assoc]

and CTAA [Creative Therapies Association of Aotearoa]

On the Sunday CAN [Creative Access Network] held a forum showcasing a range of creative spaces and their programmes. More information here.

It was held at the Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, which is the only New Zealand provider of a masters degree in arts therapy.

Included in the weekend was an exhibition of art works by people challenged by mental and physical disabilities. Some out standing work was presented.

It was a great weekend - both informative and entertaining - and then I had to leave to catch a flight to South Africa. Oh well - never mind!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where good ideas come from #2

This visual representation of Steven Johnson's work is great.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where good ideas come from

People often credit their ideas to individual "Eureka!" moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the "liquid networks" of London's coffee houses to Charles Darwin's long, slow hunch to today's high-velocity web.
This from TED.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Leonardo's Basement

Leonardo's Basement is an innovative educational organization for children and their families. They create imaginative learning environments where girls and boys ages 6 to 16 design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science and technology. They provide exciting building experiences for over 600 children a year and introduce their programs to thousands more at neighborhood and community events.

Move over kids - this looks like fun!

Check out the video links as well.


A book from the Change This series by Seth Goodin

Friday, September 17, 2010

Making is Connecting

A great web site and video links.
David Gauntlett argues that making things, on-line or off-line, we make connections with others and increase our engagement with the world.
Really worth spending some time looking round.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Business of Creativity

This from David Parrish:

I thought you'd be interested in this new short video about a business support project to help creative enterprises to grow and create jobs.

The Liverpool Creative Growth Initiative is a Merseyside ACME/Liverpool Vision project to help growing creative businesses.
Over 100 creative, cultural and digital enterprises have been assisted by this project to date.

The video features several creative businesses in the city and the Director of Merseyside ACME, Kevin McManus.

The video is online here:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Childhood's End

Schools train children to remain children all their lives, John Taylor Gatto argues in his new book. There’s another way: Teach them to become leaders and adventurers. This from ODE Magazine - the online community for intelligent optimists!

Pecha Kucha Journalling

This from my friend Ken Wall from a friend of his - Jim Ridge.
"Check out my Pecha-Kucha from Mindcamp this year! The big difference this year is that I did even use PowerPoint’ll see what I mean. The first few seconds didn’t get recorded, but the tile was “Indiana Jones and the Journal”, all about how I was inspired by “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arch” to start keeping a journal. Please pass around!"

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to run an un-conference

This from Jennifer Goddard
and check out Alan Black's fabulous resource page on Open Space Learning Techniques and World Cafe

New CEO To-Do List

This from Fortune Magazine for new leaders:
Spend the first weeks and months listening
Focus on the culture
Don't get locked in

More here:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Using your whole brain

This from my friend and whole brain colleague Ken Wall:

I had a conversation last week with one of our NBI practitioners and one of the things we talked about at some length was the question of habits. She told me that in her organisation the NBI was regarded as 'the leadership tool'. She added that for some years now, the NBI has been an invaluable aid to identifying leadership potential using a combination of the Adult, Skills and Leadership profiles.

In another organisation the NBI is used as, "one of the best aids to staff selection and retention we have ever used," according to a senior HR manager. The first company doesn't use the NBI for selection, and the second one doesn't use it for leadership! So maybe the NBI is habit forming? Have you discovered a particular area where the NBI works really well?

With 22 versions of the NBI currently available and more on the drawing board, the range of applications could well be endless. So it would be a shame if your experiences of success in one area of application barred the way to exploring others.

There are many great examples:

The South African netball team achieved a much higher placing than ever before at the last World Cup based on an analysis of thinking preferences required in each position at different stages of the game. In addition the cry of "Play L2" seemed to mystify the opposition!
A major out-going call centre reduced staff turnover, improved retention of top performers and doubled their strike rate by selecting staff based on the NBI profile of the exemplary performer, rather than the profile determined by traditional job analysis methods.
An International wholesale bank showed major improvements in revenue achieved by their Relationship Managers (RMs) dealing with high net worth clients throughout Asia. One RM reported a four fold improvement in revenue, and was delighted to have signed up a key client she had been working on for over a year! The secret? A series of NBI based 'Whole Brain Selling' programs conducted by Rob Devine, Director of the Thinking Network in Singapore.

If you would like to know more about these and the many other success stories involving the NBI, just let us know. And if you are wondering if there might be a potential NBI solution for an issue you are facing, we would be happy to discuss this with you.

Yours from the bottom of my brain...

Ken Wall

Whole Brain Thinking Pty Ltd

Principal distributors of the Neethling Brain Instrument throughout Australia, New Zealand and the whole of Asia

Changing the World - ONE THOUGHT AT A TIME!

PO Box 672
VIC 3106 Australia

Phone: 61 3 9850 9165
Fax: 61 3 9852 1190

or talk with me as the New Zealand Agent

When outside the box isn't enough.

"I mean, we seem so hellbent on getting outside the box all the time that no one knows the "properties of the box" itself."
More here:

Age no barrier to innovation

A double-headed broom invented by a three-year-old Derbyshire boy has been hailed as one of the most ingenious inventions in recent years.

Tried and true tactics for kick-starting innovation

“To get good ideas, you need lots of ideas.”

This quote by Linus Pauling is a popular one among companies who hope to gain or maintain competitive advantage by continuously innovating. It’s also a concept at the very heart of open source development.

If you’re reading this, I would venture to guess that you could use a few new ideas … especially good ones.

More here:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

FREE Creative Industries Guide

Free online 'Creative, Cultural and Digital Industries Guide' for creative and digital businesses:

This creative business guide was written by David Parrish, author of the book 'T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity' and published by Business Link West Midlands in the UK. David writes about this stuff better than anyone I know. It is well worth a look - and its a free download.

The 48 page creative industries guide provides information, ideas and guidance on a range of business issues relevant to enterprises in the creative, cultural and digital sectors.

Sections include:
- Strategic Planning
- Understanding your Customers
- Profiting from your Ideas
- Organisational Structures
- People and Skills
- Promoting your Products / Services
- Financial Management
- Legal and other issues
- Links to useful organisations and resources for creative enterprises

and more.

24/7 Creative

24/7 Creative is an on-line community for artists, designers, musicians and anyone who supports a more creative world. It is well worth a look - especially some of the stuff accessed through YouTube Play and the collaboration between YouTube and the Guggenheim Museum.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rewiring the Creative Mind

What neuroscience reveals about how to come up with new ideas.
Gregory Burns in Fast Company.

Creativity Workshop - Interested

Hi folks
I intend running another of my Creative Edge Workshops later in the year when I return from running some creativity workshops South Africa. This is just to let any Kiwis out there know and to seek interest. Here are some shots from the last one.

And here's what people have had to say about previous ones I've run.

“Outstanding - one of the best workshops I have been to at any creativity conference anywhere in the world. Practical and life-changing.”

“The workshop gave me a chance to refocus on what creativity is and more paths to get there. The 'team' shared - but did not invade private spaces. We all had different focuses and interests yet the same goals.”

“I now know my creative impulse is valid thanks to conversations, humour, support from all at the retreat, particularly Wayne as guide / facilitator. Self belief gives creativity one heck of a boost.”

“Really good creative and interactive sessions in a safe environment. New relationships, heightened perception and lots of laughs made it a great retreat.”

“The days of the retreat gave me the time to unlock my personal box to look outside the square into the endless possibilities of creative expression. It was a fizzing, bubbling time of creative action prompted by Wayne's enabling guidance.”

“A life changing experience... The retreat showed me how to kick start my creativity! The retreat gave a wonderful opportunity for expanding horizons, breaking down barriers and pushing the creative comfort zone in a supportive environment.”

“For me, this is what I’ve taken from the retreat - lovely friendships., inspiration, joy, freedom, energy, a new way of looking at life, a fresh sense of fun and mischief.”

“Your facilitation; It was ‘just right’ for me. I enjoyed the quotes, background theory, your insight and personal passion that set the scene and kept pulling us back to the purpose through out the weekend. I enjoyed the varied activities that made you think – e.g. draw using only 7 lines… and found the ‘visualisation’ exercises you talked us through very useful for me. I liked the balance with freedom to choose and no requirements to perform or share if you didn’t want to (we’re perverse beings. – when you don’t have to you usually do!)”

“I found the retreat fun and relaxing and I feel that myself imposed pressure to be creative has gone. I am continuing to feel calm, relaxed and more efficient in all aspects of my life. I have a real feeling of well-being that I haven’t had for a while”

"Wayne did a great job of creating a supportive space for the creative process and then did a great job of not getting in the way of it! I had great fun playing with my creativity and the creativity of others. Everyone should do this!"

“A fun and fascinating weekend conducted by Wayne which inspired me to put some creativity back into my life.”

“I think it was a combination of your hands-off approach combined with creative advice or ideas offered when requested, the stimulation of interacting with specific individuals in the group, and the creative atmosphere generated by the group as a whole that caused the magic to happen. The bubbling, buzzing feeling of being part of a group of people all listening to their creative sides at once has to be experienced to be believed!”

“Wow - creativity where I thought there was none and lots of fun. Thanks.”

If you are interested drop me an email to and I'll send you some more information.

Monday, August 30, 2010

If you're the boss, start killing ideas.

Robert Sutton in the Harvard Business Review on what to do with ideas.

Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything

Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review challenges some commonly held myths around excellence.

Creativity in South Africa

In October I travel back to South Africa to deliver some workshops at the 5th Annual Creativity Conference for Educators and the 16th International Creativity Conference.
Its a real treat to be among some of the best creative minds on the planet.
This time I am also running a one day workshop after the conference, organised by a colleague in South Africa, Francois Coetzee. This is a new workshop and I am very excited about it.

I have called it IMAGINATION FIRST after the title of a book that had a great influence on my thinking. The authors are Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon.

Each participant will be getting a copy of my new workbook The Creative Edge Workshop [available from ]

The programme is a one day interactive exploration of imagination, creativity and innovation .

Imagination might be defined as the capacity to conceive what is not; creativity as applied iumagination and innovation, novel and useful creativity.
The workshop is based around some underlying assumptions:

“Imagination comes first. It must. Until we have the emotional and intellectual capacity to conceive of what does not yet exist, there is nothing toward which we are to direct our will and resources”
Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon

Without imagination there can be no creativity, no innovation.

“The next ten years will require people to think and work across boundaries into new zones that are totally different from their areas of expertise . They will not only have to cross those boundaries, but they will also have to identify opportunities and make connections between them.”
Clement Monk Designer

“Many engineering / scientific deadlocks have been broken by people who are not engineers / scientists at all. This is because perspective is more important than IQ. The ability to make big leaps of thought is a common denominator among the originators of breakthrough ideas. Usually this ability resides in people with very wide backgrounds, multidisciplinary minds, and a broad spectrum of experiences.”
Nicholas Negroponte MIT

Insanity is doing the same things over and over hoping the results will be different. If you want to different results you have to think different and do different. You become more imaginative by being more imaginative! You become more creative by being more creative! You come more innovative by being more innovative!

This workshop will help you do that.

As a participant you will:

• identify the strengths and weaknesses of your creative character
• identify and practice ways of growing your creative character
• identify and practice the six habits of creative people
• identify which habits are supporting your creativity and plan to enhance them
• identify which habits are undermining your creativity and develop strategies for creating better ones
• apply a range of tools and techniques that will improve your ability to imagine, create and be more innovative
• be challenged
• have fun [compulsory!!]

If you would like a similar workshop then please let me know.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stalemate - Mate!

This from my Aussie colleagues and friends in the Whole Brain Thinking Network

In Australia we have a stalemate - or maybe we should call it a draw - with the results of the General Election held last weekend. Neither of the two major parties have a big enough majority to create the new Government, so there's lots of negotiation going on with the independents, who hold the balance of power.

It's hard to believe that there is no alternative solution. Things like this happen every day in business of course. How are those issues resolved? What happens if there is a draw in the Boardroom?

Unfortunately, as with the political scene, the one with the most power often comes out on top. And power can come in many forms: a person's position, money, backing, followers or sometimes even popular opinion. The real problem with power is that it assumes that someone is 'right' and therefore the other side is 'wrong'. Our election result at this stage shows that the public think each side is equally right - and therefore of course equally wrong!

What would happen if we could replace power and black and white opinions with creative and critical thinking that focused on a new way of working? One of the independents suggested something similar yesterday and was considered immediately labelled naïve by both parties and political commentators! Creative thinkers in business are often labelled naïve by the 'old hands' who love the status quo.

The word 'immediate' lives comfortably with the word 'power'. Powerful people want immediate results. Creative thinkers want to search, enquire and explore; characteristics which are often considered wasteful by poor leaders.

Yet the evidence tells a different story. Where creativity has been given a chance the results speak for themselves. Massive and often unbelievable reductions in delivery times, quality improvement, shorter processing times and improved customer satisfaction have resulted from the marriage of creative and critical thinkers and a good supply of the best techniques and tools of the trade - the thinking trade.

Our starting point has always been - and will continue to be - an understanding of the thinking preferences of those involved. To do this we use the Neethling Brain Instrument (NBI). The results are shared and explained with the group and a much better understanding of each others preferred thinking processes gives rise to better use of resources and a willingness to explore new ways of thinking and working.

Who do you know that might be living in stalemate? Is it happening at work? Are some of your clients 'stuck' with a problem? Is there a battle with parents and children trying to determine the 'right' way forward?

If there is a genuine will to improve things, the NBI can help in all these situations by forming a sound basis for understanding each other and moving forward with creative ideas with critical assessment.

Maybe it could even work with politicians!

Organisational Creativity Enablers

I - that's me in the picture - wrote this as part of a masters research project. It is as relevant now as when it was first written - maybe even more so.

More than just a buzzword, creativity is becoming acknowledged as a critical factor in organisational success. Creativity in organisations might be defined as the process by which new ideas that make innovation possible, are developed. Talk to any organisational leader and sooner or later the words ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ will come up. But for many, these terms are simply buzz words. Few truly know how to foster creativity and innovation in their workplace. And even fewer actually do it. My research identified the following as the top ten critical organisational creativity success factors. They are in ascending priority order as identified by the survey respondents. The quotes are taken directly from the survey responses.

10. Appropriate reward.

“It’s money that brings me to work but it’s not money that gets the best work out of me.” Rewards do matter but they must be appropriate and that requires an understanding of what pushes each individuals buttons.

9. Clear organisational goals.

Agreed by the majority but with some interesting exceptions as expressed by this response. ““My department has done all the visioning stuff – and we have goals for everything – but the reality is that if I get excited about something I will do the work I have to do as quick as I can so I can get onto the exciting stuff. I still try to meet my goals but if I wasn’t able to do some of this other stuff it would probably drive me nuts. Isn’t most work boring?” There is a growing message that being able to act rapidly, to seize new opportunities as they emerge and to create new knowledge from previously unanticipated needs are becoming more important than staying focused and marching in the same direction.

8. Positive staff motivation

Motivated staff are essential to having a creative organisation. Most took this as a given – no motivation – no creativity. Some described it as a cycle as expressed in the following: “If I am motivated I will be more creative but the reverse is also true. I have seen people get into upward and downward spirals and it can be catching.” Positive staff motivation enhances organisational creativity.

7. Committed leadership

“While the truly inspired and creative may break through the barriers to success, an environment that enhances organisational creativity may reap benefits from many surprising sources – the quiet, the reluctant, the plodders – not just the Einsteins. The leaders role is to remove the barriers.” Leadership that removes barriers enhances organisational creativity.

6 Personal authority to initiate change / individual empowerment

Respondents talked about how much freedom and authority they had to initiate change – some gave it to themselves, others waited for it to be given. Many spoke of the anxiety that at times accompanies empowerment. Ideally empowerment of people results in increased initiative, involvement, enthusiasm, innovation and speed but also has a cost in terms of increased anxiety and stress levels.

5 Supportive organisational structure

Described by one respondent as “an environment where problems are addressed without blaming or scapegoating” supportive organisational structure was described by others as having decentralised authority, flexibility and adaptability. The terms ‘organic versus mechanistic’ were used by some respondents with an organic structure being the preferred to enhance organisational creativity.

4. Open communication and information sharing

“For me one of the barriers is an environment where people undermine each other, information is not shared and there is no credit given for creativity.” And from another respondent; “It’s essential to have access to information – creativity is often spurred on by hitchhiking on new ideas that flow past the alert mind – often converting them to a new situation or application.”
Open communication of organisational changes, decisions and policies; opportunities to voice concerns, understandings and ideas; and the feeling of ‘being heard’ all enhance organisational creativity.

3. Space / resources to pursue ideas

This priority was closely linked to time but also included the physical space required to ‘trial’ new ideas and the finance to fund such a pursuit.
“I am at my creative best when I can balance the need for access to people and resources with time for me. I do my best thinking when I am jogging in the morning but then I need people to test my ideas against – and sometimes that is hard.”

An environment that was conducive to creativity was also mentioned by some with one commenting that “having appropriate music, art work and ‘creative stuff’ around gets my creative juices going but I don’t think my tastes would appeal to all. I’m not sure how you get agreement on that sort of thing.”
Appropriate space and resources enhances organisational creativity.

2. Staff competence

Competence of staff was highlighted as the second most important factor in enhancing organisational creativity. When questioned further about this respondents talked about a range of issues perhaps best summarised by this comment: “If I know I can rely on my staff, that they are technically competent, then I am able to push the boundaries of their technical competence into areas of the unknown of the new – to come up with creative and innovative ideas.” A contrary view was offered by some. “Just because someone is technically competent doesn’t mean that they are capable of producing new and creative ideas. Some people are simply not competent or confident to do so”.

From the survey responses there appears to be agreement that competent staff are important to organisational creativity but disagreement over the types of competencies required.

. . . a drum roll please . . . ! The single biggest enabler to enhancing organisational creativity is . . . .

1. Time

More respondents raised the issue of time as the most important factor in enhancing organisational creativity than any other factor. The following comment was typical of a number of responses. “Just having uninterrupted time would do it for me. It’s so rare that I make space and time in my day to just think. I know that when I do, it works really well for me and I get a lot more satisfaction from my work. It remains a real challenge for me.”

This is supported by a study conducted by Teresa Amabile [Fast Company Bill Breen Issue 89 Dec 2004] the results of which indicated that contrary to the belief that people often thought they were more creative under deadline pressure the opposite was, in fact, the case – people were the least creative when they were fighting the clock. It seems that time pressure stifles creativity because people are unable to deeply engage with a problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up.

Organisational creativity requires time!!

The scary bit!

The majority of people surveyed had little difficulty in identifying the factors they regarded as necessary to enhance organisational creativity but very few said that they worked in an organisation that actually implemented them.
“I personally feel ‘congested’ to the point where dreaming up something new and innovative is totally unappealing, because it will just add to an already overloaded schedule. I do recall feeling differently and have demonstrated an ability to make a silk purse out of a sows ear in the past. But I do seem to have passed over the creative climax and am trying not to slip down the other side. I suspect this sentiment is not uncommon.”

Sadly, I suspect the comment above is right.

Let me finish this article with some quotes from my research – they are offered as thought starters.

“Uncreative people in the organisation need to gently placed out of the way of the creatives – at all levels!”

“The environment has to be safe enough to make mistakes in – not repeatedly – but it is difficult to learn without making some mistakes.”

“Dead and boring leaders create dead and boring organisations.”

So, if creativity is important to you and your organisation's future you
need to make time for it before you begin to wonder how you got this far

Observations from a Creativity Workshop

These were observations made at the beginning of a recent creativity workshop that I facilitated. Used with permission.
"I am in a large room surrounded by the efforts of creative people – art, craft, musical instruments, books. A discussion is in full swing. There are several groups of people. In the group I am observing there are two engineers, a coffee shop manager, an artist, a community worker and a manger of a service business. They are part of a creativity workshop. They have been on ‘a poster walk’ to find a quote about creativity that attracts their attention. This is the beginning of a one day creativity workshop facilitated by Wayne Morris.
One of the engineers chose an Albert Einstein quote: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” He explained that engineering needed both but that it was the rational mind that was rewarded. The other engineer chose a quote by Edward de Bono: “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” He went on to explain that everything new, every new development, came from the mind of a creative person and then went on to wonder why creativity is so poorly supported in our education system given its importance to our future. The coffee shop manager put forward a strong case for her selection – a quote from Robert Fritz: “The one fundamental choice – to be the predominant creative force in your life – is a foundation for the entire orientation of the creative.” She argued that we each have a responsibility for ‘creating’ our own lives and without that we become victims of other people’s decisions. It was a passionate argument peppered with her own experiences. The artist favoured Picasso who said “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.’ She explained that an artist, perhaps any creative person is always on the edge, pushing the boundaries of their competence and not always succeeding which led to a quick discussion on the role of failure in creativity. The manager interrupted with a story from his experience around failure and contributed a quote from Margaret Wheatley: “The things we fear most in organizations -- fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances -- are the primary sources of creativity.” He explained that in his experience people sometimes had to be challenged to go beyond their comfort zones to get the creative juices flowing. Most nodded in agreement. The final quote was offered by the community worker. He supported one offered previously by reading his de Bono quote: “In today’s world creativity is fundamentally important for our personal, social, economic and cultural well-being. The most important developments in civilization have come about through the creative process.”
The animated discussions – this was just one of 3 groups - continued for several minutes until Morris called for the groups attention. “We have a day together to create”, he said, “so lets take some time to look at your creative journey – where it has come from, where is it now and more importantly, where do you want it to go?” I left thinking that I will do the next workshop. I need more life in my creativity and judging by the excitement in the room this may well be the place to find it."