These are my notes from the closing convergence session at the Creativity World Forum on 17 Nov 2010, “Are We Ready to Innovate?” My thoughts are in ALL CAPS.

On the panel: David Lopez, Amena Brown, Itamar Kubovy, Bart Conner, Andrew Essex, Randy Atkins, Ken Fergeson

Randy:
What are the grand challenges and how do they inspire innovation?
– one of our slogans: Because dreams need doing
– the national academies at the turn of the century looked at the past century and asked what the great achievements in engineering was
– list included auto, airplane, electrification, computers, the Internet
– our world was completely transformed in the last century
– we tried to look at the next 100 years not to predict, but it’s not unreasonable to expect similarly transformative innovations and changes
– Bill Parry, former SecDef chaired committee
– had 18 people, Ray Kurtzweil was included

– committee came up with 14 grand challenges
– check these out! www.engineeringchallenges.org

Grand Challenges for Engineering

We write reports that are probably only read by about a dozen people, but they are important people
– some universities have held summits on our grand challenges, and two national summits

MY THOUGHT: WHAT A GREAT LIST OF CHALLENGES! THESE WOULD BE GREAT TO USE FOR STUDENT PROJECTS!

Bart:
– creativity is a mind-set and not a skill set
– at the core of everything has to be your passion
– if your heart and passion is there, everything else will work out
– fulfillment is a broad term: can be making a living, contributing back to the community, inspiring the next generation

if the mindset is right, and if you have connected your passion and your aptitude, you will figure out a way to translate that into something magical, and possibly profitable

Randy:
Can we teach children to be creative? YES
– talent is a gift, it comes from another place
– we too often conflate talent and creativity
– we have to have sandboxes where people can fail
– creativity isn’t just painting: anything can be creative: engineering

every human being is creative
– slogan “let your freak flag fly”

2 examples of creativity today
1- The Million Project
– we know there is an academic achievement project
– we need to make a connection between work and reward
– we are giving kids mobile devices for academic achievement
– if kids read books they get more time on their phone
– I am working on JayZ on his project, with Microsoft and Random House
— we have hidden each page of the book in the area where it’s written about

Tomorrow as an example of the antithesis of creativity
– someone

Itamar’s comments:
– now teaching CEOs and others via dance
– started at Dartmouth College, group of athletes created Pilobolus Dance Theater
– I joined that company in 2004 and realized there so many basic approaches there which could be translated to other disciplines
– lessons learned from 35 years of making dances in studios
– the key is ignorance: we are great believers in ignorance
– the more you know, the worse off you are
– if you can tackle a problem from a position of ignorance, the better you can analyze something
– so we help people do that

other key concept: when groups work together
– it’s very important not only for people to know how to lead, but also how to follow
– that is an incredibly ignored skill
– we should focus more time on this
– no great idea can ever gain purchase unless there is someone who recognizes it is a great idea
– the recognizing of great ideas is as important as having a great idea

See July 2004 NYT article: DANCE; Keeping Pilobolus Safe for Democracy

Now hearing from Randy (?)
– we have started to change the stereotypes of creativity in the marketplace: you can perform better if you behave creatively
– sometimes we don’t celebrate what is already out there: examples and models are important, they can (at times) be transformational

Example of the great things Apple has done
– great design, intuitive way they bring about engineering so people my age and 4 year olds can use it
– very creative approach to empower developers to create apps, and
– that’s another example of creativity

leadership does matter in business
– small teams can do things that are different
– nurturing starts at the top
– nurturing by Ed Whittiker of cellular company connected to SWBell really led to big innovations

We need Jean Hendrickson’s for business, A+ Schools approach for business

Ken Fergesen question: School CIOs say problem identification is way to show creativity, School supts say problem solving – How as business people can we get BACK with our common schools and bring those together

From a variety of panelists:

Steve Jobs is the Jimi Hendrix of today
– Apple used to have 5% marketshare
– we need new metrics which show how creativity increases business results
– people who use creativity need to convince their CEOs that

Lockheed Martin has assigned 1 person to each of our grand challenges
– they are doing some problem solving with those topics

In business we are trained to look for an opportunity, not to put out a fire
– business ends up with the products created by the schools
– the need for alignment is pretty clear
– conversation in this country today is ripe

Creativity? It is going to take some change
– what we are doing now doesn’t seem to meet individual students’ needs or our country’s needs

MY THOUGHT: THIS IS A CRITICAL ISSUE. WE HAVE TO ADDRESS THE ASSESSMENT AND HIGH STAKES MYTHS IN OUR SCHOOLS. WE ALSO NEED TO REMEMBER THAT BY TRADITIONAL MEASURES (WHICH DON’T TAKE CREATIVITY INTO ACCOUNT) OUR SCHOOLS DO SERVE AFFLUENT CHILDREN VERY WELL. IT IS CHILDREN OF POVERTY WHO HAVE THE LOWEST TEST SCORES. NO ONE HERE IS STAYING THIS. I THINK THE LAST PANELIST MAY HAVE BOUGHT THIS “STORY” (I.E. THE ONE IN “WAITING FOR SUPERMAN”) THAT ALL OUR SCHOOLS ARE FAILURES. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. WE NEED TO CHANGE SCHOOLS, BUT EVERY TEACHER IS NOT A FAILURE AND EVERY SCHOOL IS NOT EITHER. WE HAVE A MIXED BAG. THAT IS TRUE FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS TOOL. THEY ARE NOT A PANACEA.

Bart:
– American Fidelity, Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy are among 100 most admired companies in America
– one setup a corporate health clinic for employees

How to engineers work within constraints?
– engineering is all about thinking inside the box
– difference between science and engineering: science discovers new things / laws of nature, while engineers create things that never were within the constraints of science

OETA special recently told the story of how elevators could only go so high because of the weight of the cables, until an engineer came up with the idea of using magnets instead of the elevators

many students are motivated by the prospect of working to save the world
– a combination of the arts can help engineers to do that
– also is important to help the public understand this

We need more engineers in this country
– young people in our country do not see engineering as a creative pursuit
– we could use the arts community to paint a better picture of engineering

artists actually spend 90% of their time figuring out how to make something work: that is like laying bricks

people often give short shrift how important it is to execute, and make an idea REAL
– an idea never realized might as well have never happened
– the doing of a great idea is REALLY important
– turning dreams into reality

Amena: Really you are talking here about left and right brain thinking, and bringing those together. Question for Itamar about using dance to do this…

Itamar: We’ve done a bunch of work with the Warden School of Business in their leadership training
– they have discovered as people serve as a pit team for race cars, climb a mountain
– very intense, requires synchronized performance
– we are very interested in how groups function
– we have taken a group who have never made a dance before, and give them a lot of constrains, and then in a very short time (5 min) come up with 1 minute of organized movement
– if we come up with enough constraints, you can get people relate and appear to each other differently than they did previously
– if you do that for several hours, and go back to their questions about their main issues, people almost miraculously go about that discussion in a different way

Being comfortable not knowing, but rolling up your sleeves and just figuring it out may be a quintessential “American” characteristic
– this can lead to some really good entrepreneurs

Bart: having a child is such a powerful experience
– your child is surrounded by a “soup of encouragement”

encouragement is the “soup I grew up in”
– in Oklahoma we are celebrating the magic that can happen when creativity is enabled to flourish

Bart’s question: When do we stop encouraging our children to be creative

We seem to get into “sorting” and then tell others / and ourselves what we are going to specialize in
– maybe that is part of our industrialized heritage
– we start to think that people are just one thing

Example: Dr Jordan Tang is as close as anyone to figuring out a cure for Alzheimer’s
– yet he painted a bison in an art event we had
– turns out he painted FIRST, and was a concert pianist

It’s a real problem in our society that we don’t make engineers cool
– story of an engineer comparing an iPad to an orange, from a design standpoint (the UI of an orange: perfectly designed)

Ken Fergeson: Our bank asks on our application about past art experiences

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS: I WONDER WHY A K-12 EDUCATOR WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS PANEL? BOY I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE IN THERE. LOTS OF GREAT IDEAS SHARED. I WOULD HAVE LOVED FOR THEM TO TALK ABOUT WAYS WE CAN ENCOURAGE KIDS IN K-12 SCHOOLS TO ACTUALLY CREATE. CREATE IS THE ROOT WORD OF CREATIVITY. IF WE’RE NOT CREATING STUFF AND ASKING OUR STUDENTS TO CREATE THINGS, WE’RE NOT BEING CREATIVE. IF ALL STUDENT WORK LOOKS THE SAME, IT’S NOT CREATIVE. NO ONE TALKED ABOUT THIS.

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One Response to Are We Ready to Innovate? Closing Creativity World Forum Session #cwf2010

  1. Hi there!

    My name is Lauren, and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 course, and I was assigned to read your blog, and I am happy I was. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I absolutely agree with your thoughts. Creativity is so important! It is something that should be pushed in K-12 grades and above! Like you said, creativity is about creation! Individual, unique creation that can help empower students! If creativity was advocated in schools more, we might have children who actually would like to go to school and challenge their minds! I agree that educators should harness their students’ creativity, and create opportunities for students to create!
    Without creativity, we will not have change, and change is definitely what we need!
    I love your blog, and am looking forward to reading more posts!

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