Sunday, January 31, 2010

Creativity and Prosperity: Compatible?

Steven Weber describes himself as an actor and wise-ass. That may be. He is also a fine writer as this article in the Huffington Post testifies.
Scary thing is that his article could also be applied to the path that New Zealand is going down!!

No pun intended.

These from my friend Ken Wall.

The ability to make and understand puns is considered to be the highest level of language development [and creativity perhaps].

Here are the 10 first place winners in the International Pun Contest:

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir,only one carrion allowed per passenger."
2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, "Dam!"
3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit afire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."
5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?", they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."
7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal."The other goes to a family in Spain ; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."
8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.
9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Te Rangi Diaries - a Big Hit

What is it about people and percussion?

People love hitting things.

Children of all ages had the opportunity to make and play drums at the Te Rangi Festival.

I took a trailer load of materials to the festival and we still ran out.

Its a simple process - cardboard cores from paper rolls, Oxford nylon for the skin, muscles to stretch it, and staples to hold it in place.

Decorate with painted designs.

It's easier when you collaborate.

And there you have a drum.

Instructions to kids: Play it outside your parent's tent early in the morning - then run!!

The Te Rangi Diaries - Hair Raising

Another weekend - another gathering of creative people.
This time on the property of Peter Charlton-Jones and Mary Kippenberger. More about them and their creative escapades here.

They have small farm in the Hawkes Bay [New Zealand] and open it each year to enable a bunch of creative people to become even more so.
This year it rained and that might explain why people's hair and hairstyles took on a colourful appearance.
See what I mean.

It may have something to do with the fact that Peter and Mary are storytellers and musicians and work a lot with children. Their dress-up boxes are fantastic - for children of all ages.

Habits for Creating

A number of my blogs have been about the habits [behaviours] that creative people exhibit. Other writers have also written about habits in relation to creativity.

Julia Cameron of The Artists Way talks about the “creative grid,” that web of routine and practice that can protect artists from chaos, drama and subconscious resistance to their work.

Carol Lloyd, in her creative-career-making book “Creating a Life Worth Living”, encourages readers to practice The Daily Activity, which she describes as 15 minutes everyday spent in a solitary, process-oriented activity that “creates an empty space where your creativity can reassert itself.”

“What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives.
What common denominator is shared by mass murderers, abused children, burnt-out employees, depressed mothers, caged animals, and chronically worried students? Play is rarely or never a part of their lives.” This from Stuart Brown of the Institute of Play

And on the importance of play as a habit . . “Play reaches the habits most needed for creative and intellectual growth”. according to psychologist Bruno Bettlehiem.

So if you want to be more creative you need to answer the two questions that follow and plan to do something about it!

•What do you do on a daily / weekly / monthly basis that supports your creativity? Need more of this.
•What do you do on a daily / weekly / monthly basis that undermines your creativity? Need less of this.

If you want a Habits for Creating Worksheet then let me know.

The Neethling Brain Instruments

I accepted an invitation to speak at a creativity conference in South Africa last October. Whilst at the conference I met Kobus Neethling from South Africa and Ken Wall from Australia.
Ken introduced me to a suite of whole brain thinking instruments that Kobus had developed.
I had not seen anything quite like them before.

The aim of the NBI suite is to help individuals understand their thinking preferences and the implications so they can make personal and professional decisions that result in increased performance, productivity, and satisfaction.

Use of the NBI™ can help individuals and organisations to:

Increase individual productivity
Enhance organisational performance
Strengthen customer and client relationships
Establish better job and person matching
Build and lead effective teams

Thinking preferences give an indication of how an individual:

Does business
Acts toward other people
Solves problems
Makes decisions

I liked them so much that I am soon to become the New Zealand agent for them.
So watch this space.
Leave me a comment if you would like to know more or contact me at

Creativity Thought Starter #2

“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

“. . . creativity generally involves crossing the boundaries of domains.”
Mihalyi Csikszentmihayli

“Many engineering deadlocks have been broken by people who are not engineers 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

How are you placed to be successful in the 'boundary crossing' future that faces us?

Creativity Thought Starter #1

Every now and then I come across a quote or a saying that jump starts my thinking around creativity. When I do I will share them with you on this blog.

These three all echo the same sentiment.

“In today’s world creativity is fundamentally important for our personal, social, economic and cultural well-being. The most important developments in civilisation have come about through the creative process.”
Robert Fritz

“Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives . . [and] when we are involved in it we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important resource of all. Without creativity there would be no progress and we would be forever repeating the same pattern.”
Edward de Bono

The question I have in my mind is that if creativity is as critical as these three suggest then why do we continue to do our best to squash it in our schools and workplaces?

I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bill Gates on Innovation

Bill Gates 2010 Annual Letter is now live at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website.
In this years letter Bill talks about the importance of innovation for solving some of the worlds biggest problems and how he and Melinda see innovation as the factor that will make the difference between having a bleak future and a bright one.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brian Eno Interview

Great interview with Brian Eno in the Guardian.

This quote on the naming of things.

"A way to make new music is to imagine looking back at the past from a future and imagine music that could have existed but didn't. Like East African free jazz, which as far as I know does not exist. To some extent, this was how ambient music emerged. My interest in making music has been to create something that does not exist that I would like to listen to, not because I wanted a job as a musician. I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist. It's like having a ready-made formula if you are able to read it. One of the innovations of ambient music was leaving out the idea that there should be melody or words or a beat… so in a way that was music designed by leaving things out – that can be a form of innovation, knowing what to leave out. All the signs were in the air all around with ambient music in the mid 1970s, and other people were doing a similar thing. I just gave it a name. Which is exactly what it needed. A name. A name. Giving something a name can be just the same as inventing it. By naming something you create a difference. You say that this is now real. Names are very important."

You can read the rest here

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Tahora Diaries - Habits for Creating

Going to festivals like Tahora reinforces my research findings that creative people have habits that support their creativity.
I have talked about these in past blogs but they need reinforcing.

Creative people are OPEN.
They live with a sense of curiosity where every moment is an opportunity for learning and where existing mental models and beliefs are temporary and flexible.
Creative people COLLECT.
They catch and preserve their thoughts and ideas. They collect other creative people and stuff!!
Creative people CHALLENGE.
They give themselves challenging problems to solve.

Creative people SEEK.
They seek out new experiences, with the understanding that the more diverse their experiences the more interesting the interconnections.

Creative people SURROUND.
They surround themselves with interesting people, things and environments.

Creative people PLAY.
They give themselves opportunities to to 'childlike' and the 'permission' to play.

Festivals like Tahora offer opportunities for creative people to reinforce and expand their habits for creating. Long may they continue.

PS: I still have few draft copies of my book on disc about ways of developing habits for creating - The Creative Edge. Putting creativity in your life. Putting life in your creativity. It'll be published later this year and will be a lot more expensive.
Let me know if you want one and I'll send you the details

The Tahora Diaries - Brendan Power

Brendan plays the harmonica - boy - does he play the harmonica.

A Kiwi now based in the UK Brendan is acknowledged by many as one of the most creative, skilled & versatile harmonica players around today. That's him running a harmonica workshop at Tahora [next to the washing machine!!]
He has recorded fifteen solo CDs to date, in a wide variety of musical genres.
Since he moved to Britain in 1992, Brendan’s eclectic skills and sympathetic ear have made him an in-demand session player, leading to live and recording work with artists such as Sting, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, James Galway, Paul Young, Shirley Bassey, John Williams, Mike Batt and many more.
His playing is also heard on many Hollywood movie soundtracks (eg. the 2008 Oscar winning soundtrack for 'Atonement'), and BBC TV series.
He’s featured on the internationally-syndicated Jools Holland Show and has toured worldwide, performing in venues such as China’s Great Hall of the People and The Kremlin.
In addition to his Pop, Jazz & Blues skills, Brendan is an expert player of Irish traditional music (winning the 1993 All Ireland Title), and performed for three years as soloist in the Riverdance Show. He has recorded with well-known Irish artists such as Donal Lunny, Altan, Paul Brady, Arkady, Artie McGlynn, Mary Black and others. A respected harmonica technician & customiser, Brendan is employed by Suzuki Musical Instruments Co. of Japan as their International Harmonica Specialist. You can check him out at

In spite of all that fame he is a really nice guy and I got to play with him - and Wayne. Yeehaaaa!!
Here's the evidence.

The Tahora Diaries - Ukulele

Sarah's job was to produce a CD of Tahora Ukulele performances. That's her with the blond hair at Mik Gough's ukulele workshop.
This honour was thrust upon her. Not having done anything like this before it caused her some consternation.

Working with performers is a bit like herding cats so after having timetabled various acts to meet to perform in the wool shed and involving the very obliging Keith Ellett and his small high tech recording machine the recording sessions - individuals, duos and large groups - took place over the duration of the festival.

Peter Charlton Jones used his recording skills to engineer the raw material into a finished product on his Apple Mac.

The question on every one's lips now is 'Have we got a hit and how many thousands can we sell?"
Watch this space.

The Tahora Diaries - Tahora Rocks

Woodsy makes rocking chairs.
He makes them from wood, fabric and farm machinery parts.

They work. Every time he displays them people line up to try them. Some stay all day!!

The Tahora Diaries - Toilet Innovation

For those not familiar with long-drops a long-drop is a structure over a hole in the ground used as a toilet.
This one has an innovation - it flushes.
Ahhhh the luxury - and without a door - what a view.
You just had to whistle while using it to let people know it was occupied.

The Tahora Diaries - Working with Wood

Gary Steel uses and sells woodworking tools But these are not your usual range of tools. Gary brought his tools to Tahora and worked on the Tahora dragon over the period of the festival. I have carved and sculpted wood for around 30 years and I have never seen tools as effective as these.
From the katools website: Steel Toolz Ltd offer a unique range of carving products and tools in New Zealand to cut and shape wood and other materials. Most tools can be mounted on a regular 4” (115mm) grinder, others stand-alone such as the sanding and polishing systems. Manufactured and developed in the USA by King Arthur's Tools all our products are patented and have distinct safety and performance features. These tools are unmatched in the industry for safety, durability and cost effectiveness.

Check them out!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Tahora Diaries - Tracey Knits

When she's not playing or singing or MCing concerts Tracey can be found in a quiet corner practicing the ancient art of knitting wonderfully colourful creations.

I'm still waiting for mine but she said that she doesn't knit swim wear!!

The Tahora Diaries - Bullroarer Workshop

Helen Capes plays Northumbrian Pipes and Bullroarers - not sure what the connection is.

For the uninitiated [according to Wikipedia] Bullroarers have been used by a number of indigenous cultures in Australia, Africa, the British Isles, North America, New Zealand and other parts of Polynesia. The New Zealand Maori called them purerehua.

The bullroarer was made of a thin, flat piece of wood, shaped in elliptical form with pointed ends.
A cord about a metre or so in length was attached to one end and the other end was attached to a handle - although this didn't appear to be necessary for the success of the ones made in the workshop.

The operator whirled the instrument with increasing velocity until it emitted a whirring sound [ and made sure they got out of its way!!]

A simple but very effective instrument and thanks to Helen for bringing all the bits necessary to make one.

The Tahora Diaries - Drum Making

I love hitting things and making things that you can hit.
It's called percussion and you can make percussion out of almost anything.
STOMP does.

A friend and colleague who works in a paper converting mill [that's where they make toilet paper] saved me some of the cardboard cores from the large rolls of paper they use to convert to toilet paper.
They look like this.
The cool dude is my son Stuart.

We stretched Oxford Nylon across the cores and stapled it into place.

The drums were then decorated in a variety of ways.

Then they were hit by hand or with beaters.

It's almost that simple.

They were put to good use drumming the New Year in around the bonfire at Tahora.

The Tahora Diaries - Wayne Gillespie

Wayne Gillespie wins awards for the songs he writes.

You can read all about that on his web site.

It had been 23 years since Wayne had been to Tahora.
It was great to have him back.

In between times he also did a psych degree research project on the personality of rock musicians. Seems like they do have them!

I went to his song-writing workshop.
Here are some snippets of wisdom from a very fine singer song writer.
"A major writing block for singer songwriters is happiness."
"Songwriters start asking if it is good way too soon."
"2 traps for songwriters - thinking everything you write is great and accepting that a song is good enough even when something is not working."
"I can't write a song if I'm not moved."
"No-one can write a song if you don't make time for it."
"Separate the creator from the editor."
"Get used to brainstorming and make a dick of yourself!!"

And the best thing - I got to play with him!! Talk about mixing with the rich and famous - well famous anyway!
That's me on the 'crate' [ a busking type drum kit] and Brendan Power [more about him in later blog] on harmonica.

The Tahora Diaries - Kath Tait

London based Kath Tait writes songs - funny songs, poignant songs, great songs - and she performed a bunch of them at Tahora - now that's a long way from London.
In Kath's words she is 'a highly ambitious singer/songwriter, desperately trying to get to the bottom of her profession.'
That's Kath's sense of humour. You can hear it in her songs.
You can listen to her and others sing her songs at
If you like what you hear you can buy her Cd's through her web site.

The Tahora Diaries 2009 - 2010 - Creativity in Action

Tahora has a population of around 10 - maybe less.
The shop closed many years ago.
The school closed a couple of years ago.
It is in the back blocks of Taranaki - that's in New Zealand - not far from Whangamomona. That's where the nearest pub is - on the Lost Highway.
There's not much at Tahora except for lots of memories.
For more than two decades I, and my family, have gone to a festival on Kerry Turner's sheep farm at Tahora.
After 30 years of festivals they stopped but this year we decided to have a reunion and what a reunion it was!
Creativity in action!
The next few blogs are going to feature the creative goings on at Tahora.
That's Kerry with the guitar.