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.