These are my notes from “imagination conversations: a project of the Lincoln Center Institute” at the Creativity World Forum in Oklahoma City on 17 November 2010. Panelists include Scott Noppe-Brandon, Eric Liu, and Martha McKenna from Lesley University. I am audio-recording this session with permission from presenters and will publish it later here as an audio podcast. MY REFLECTIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Addition 1/24/2011: An audio podcast recording of this session is also available.

Comments from Eric first:

Scott Noppe-Brandon and Eric Liu have co-authored “Imagination First,” a book about practices: how to cultivate imagination
– 1st part is why: why imagination matters, what we mean by imagination
– the capacity to conceive of what is not
– cognitive, emotional: not just about thinking, also about feeling

imagination applied is creativity

So often we worship at the altar of innovation
– we want to incubate it and celebrate it

but wishing for it in that way is like wishing for the fruit without the seed
– imagination is the seed
– if we want to see more innovation, we need to work more to cultivate imagination as the seeds of creativity

2nd part of our book are lots of examples of creativity, drawn from diverse practitioners
– we use the word “practice” very intentionally and deliberately
– like practicing soccer or piano
– deliberately repeated effort
– like practicing medicine or law
– we are ever-trying to perfect our practices by being mindful of our own patterns

Now comments from Scott:

Lincoln Center has launched the “imagination conversations project”
lciweb.lincolncenter.org/imaginationconversation

All great romance starts with a conversation
– we started this project with this in mind
– bringing commerce, culture and education together, working in and through the premise that we have to bring all three sectors together to chagne

our work is based on the work of John Dewey, Maxine Dewey

Dewey: to ask the what if question

during the heyday of the constructivist movement we were seeing 30-40% of our kids in urban centers not graduating
– not clear if there was a casual connection there
– definitely was a reactive connection
– don’t want to have an argument no one wins

Wanted to start a dialog and conversation bringing together
– after initial conversations wanted to turn this into a 50 state initiative
– interest has grown beyond arts and education, to many diverse groups

Our goal is not to disprove standards and accountability, but to make clear by itself standards and accountability won’t produce the results and outcomes we need

The greatest untapped resource we have is the imagination of our youth
– how we tap that is our greatest challenge as well as opportunity

More from Eric:
– we want to tell you how these imagination conversations have gone
– we also want to converse with each other

July 21 and 22, we are going to have a summit on this
– need the content! lots more thinking to do to fill that frame

Massachusetts hosted the 2nd imagination conversation
– already had a creative economy initiative
– Creativity Challenge Index: First statewide assessment of creativity
— getting schools to report on creativity activities
— Massachusetts has highest test scores in the nation, but we’re not satisfied, we don’t just want teachers teaching to the test

Creativity Challenge Index: article about this

focused on building a coalition in Massachusetts
– debates began
– our secretary of education said we need robust curriculum to demonstrate that children are learning, and all the opportunities for creativity and innovation (need both)

MY COMMENT AND THOUGHT: THIS REMINDS ME OF THE FOLLOWING GRAPHIC AND QUESTION. INSERT CREATIVITY BY DIGITAL LITERACY. (POST REFERENCE)

Mutually Exclusive?

Scott’s initiative was pivotal in moving this conversation forward

Now hearing from Steven Dahlberg who is with the International Centre for Creativity & Imagination

Also heard about how these conversations moved forward in Connecticut and Wisconsin
– thought provoking and sad quotation: in many rural areas we teach kids what success looks like and it’s NOT here (via George Tzougros, who is with the Wisconsin Arts Board)

We have 28.5 practices in the book you can try and use
– we’ll talk about 3 of them today

1- Renewing your Narrative
– so much of our sense of the possible is literally drawn up in the box of a narrative: a story we tell
– an be a story we tell about ourselves
– many of those become incredibly self-fulfilling
– we encourage others to detach and examine those stories we share (is that story serving me well, opening up doors, etc… or not?)

2- Challenging your Challenges
– if you want to incentive innovation, put out a challenge!
– the X Prize is an example: it captured the imagination of people in aerospace and engineering, but also people who care about imagination
– so the X Prize people created different X Prizes for different things: electrical vehicles, other things
– we can create these challenge awards, which are different than recognition awards like the Noble Prize or the Oscars

We call this “challenging your challenges” because at times we get stuck in a goal set that isn’t particularly challenging
– at one point it may have been a stretch goal, but now it’s become routine and become stale

3- Yes, and…
– from improv
– cardinal rule in improve is NEVER say “no”
– sustain energy of the improv

NOW: get in clumps of 4 or 5
– do 2 things:
1- spend a minute or two thinking about your space (profession, state, or other community relevant to you) and consider: In your domain how do you think imagination is being cultivated now? What ideas are coming to you know about how you’d like to accelerate those efforts?

2- Looking to July 11 National Imagination Summit, if we want to move toward action steps, what would you like to see happen at that summit?

MY CLOSING COMMENT / THOUGHT: THIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST SESSION I’VE ATTENDED YET AT THE CREATIVITY WORLD FORUM, BECAUSE IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THE PRESENTERS ACTUALLY ASKED ATTENDEES TO PARTICIPATE AND TALK WITH EACH OTHER! WE NEED MORE SESSIONS LIKE THIS. THERE WERE SOME GREAT IDEAS SHARED IN OUR SMALL GROUP! I’M VERY ENTHUSED ABOUT THESE IMAGINATION CONVERSATIONS, AND THE ENTIRE CONCEPT OF WORKING TO NOT JUST FOCUS ON CREATIVITY BUT ENCOURAGING IMAGINATION! I LOVE THE SEED / FRUIT ANALOGY SHARED BY ERIC AT THE OUTSET. I WANT TO READ THEIR BOOK! đŸ™‚

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