on creativity

Overview


It’s imperative that curriculums (especially for early education) are built on more than just core subject matter. They also need to be strongly founded upon core ideals, values, and principles. The teaching of such values (although much harder to guide, manage, and track) is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth and prosperity of emerging generations.
What values are most important to push early in a child’s development? Honesty & trust. Altruism & empathy. Individuality & originality. Happiness & humor. Confidence & faith. Creativity & innovation. Innovation & creativity. Creativity!

I’ve posted about holistic education before and creativity is one of the three main pillars of such education – It’s seen in the SunWALK model of holistic education as “one of the three intrapersonal ‘primary colours’ or modes of engagement, of the human spirit, that are utilized in facing, individually and interpersonally, progressively more challenging tasks to nurture the development of abilities.”

Creativity is essential to the development of other abilities and the fundamental ability to engage/interact with people, nature, and the world in which we live. It’s from creativity that the purest dreams and ideas are born.

Definitions


So how is creativity defined? Let’s look…

Wikipedia: “Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.”

Children’s Health Encyclopedia: “Creativity is the ability to think up and design new inventions, produce works of art, solve problems in new ways, or develop an idea based on an original, novel, or unconventional approach.”

Some more definitions can be found at a great post by Dr. Leslie Owen Wilson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point “On Defining Creativity”.

It’s important to note that creativity and intelligence are not synonymous. There are plenty of studies addressing possible correlation between IQ and creativity, but the main point is that with a positive surrounding environment and culture, we must believe creativity can exist in any individual of any level of intelligence.

Qualities

  • Impulsivity and spontaneity – Just do it! / Just think it!
  • Nonconformity (not going with the majority) – Stray from the beaten path.
  • Courage – Naturally be unafraid of trying new things.
  • Self-Confidence – Have no susceptibility to peer pressure.
  • Persistence – Learn when to maintain thoughts or set thoughts aside.
  • Balance – Convergent / divergent thinking – Learn to hypothesize, speculate, and evaluate multiple conclusions while reserving the ability to logically find and support a single conclusion.
  • The “One Brain” Concept – Right brain thinking and left brain thinking together are the best engine of creativity.
Some Take-Aways

  • Need to create good inner resources in children. Multi-dimensionality is key.
  • Give children an active role in their own learning.
  • Educators need to be aware of the “blocks to creativity” or things that can interfere with it. SunWALK says there are two types of blocks: Environmental (the lack of a motivating physical surrounding, trustworthy acquaintances, or positive leadership) and Cultural (the fear of making bad choices, lack of an appetite for chaos, and the general lack of enthusiasm). It should be noted that the positive case of “blocks” would be that Environment and Culture become “enablers” of creativity.
  • In order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge.

Simple Creativity Exercises

  1. Spell all the letters of the alphabet using letters other than the one you are spelling. Now try it without using any vowels. CAY-YII-FEE-EYE-EHDT (that ‘N’ was very hard)
  2. Draw an adjective, act a noun, describe a verb.
  3. Create an equation that has never before been created. Describe its elements, fundamentals, and purpose.
  4. Contemplate a newly-shaped earth. What would a cubed earth be like? What if the world really was flat? How would business, transportation, politics, weather, etc change?

Quotes

  • “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm
  • “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” — Thomas Disch
  • “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
  • “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” — Goethe
  • “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho
  • “We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain
  • “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Einstein
  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw
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better sleep

Sleep does wonders. It’s the rejuvenator everyone requires. But it shouldn’t be a burdensome requirement. It should be a good, positive experience that charges you with the convertible potential energy for tomorrow.
Now this is not going to be rocket science but in the process of trying to improve my own sleep, I figured I’d post on my approach to do exactly that. I’m giving it a three-prong structure:

Chemically
Fruit – I enjoy McIntosh apples (PLU #4019, not #4152), soft Bartlett pears, peaches, clementines, or any type of berries. Save the bananas for the morning.
A Good Drink – Milk, VitaminWater, big glass of regular water, orange juice, apple juice, or cranberry juice. Refreshing, nutritious, and calming.
Daily Vitamin(s) – Not to take before bed, but taken each morning it maintains chemical balance and the healthy diet needed for good rest.
NO Drugs – No sleep aids ever. No smoking ever either. People shouldn’t drink alcohol before bed either, but a glass or two or three of wine during/after dinner every once in a while is good for sure.

Physically
Exercise – The best way to be tired is to get tired. Nothing like a good early evening workout followed by a good shower. Good health is directly proportional to good sleep. Just leave some post-shower cool-down time to get your heart rate back to normal.
Stretching – Probably one of the most important things to do before bed. Even if it’s just hamstrings and quads, relaxed muscles correspond to relaxed sleep.
Deep Breaths – Sit and take 5 deep breaths. It’s soothing and creates a relaxed rhythm.
Pillows / Blanket – Build a good nest! Get the right blankets there.
Environment – Turn on a fan, open a window, close the blinds, etc. Getting a good temperature, lighting, and sound (or lack thereof) are especially important for sustained rest.
Psychologically
Write – Write off all your worries for another day. Sometimes actually writing things down you need to take care of – at work and at home – helps rid your mind of those thoughts and temporarily relieves stress and burdens.
Read – A routine of ten pages a night does the job. It will make you look forward to reading and falling asleep at the end of that session, and also will break you cleanly away from the rest of the day.
Observe – Go look at the sky. It is different every night and can be a good way to clear your mind of any earthly pains.
Convert – Turn daydreaming into night dreaming. Think of a good memory, dream vacation, or happy feeling. Or make some original thoughts and ideas and take them to bed with you. New thoughts can be very enlightening and comforting before bed.
Hopefully a combination of even a few of these things (e.g. fruit + stretch + good temp + reading) is all you need. The good thing if you don’t like the routine, there are plenty of combinations to make from the above lists.
Image 1: From GraphJam
Image 2: From JeromeProphet

gaining strength from weakness

One of my favorite exercises is to take a quote, phrase, idiom, or saying and digest it in every way possible. It’s an exercise that builds upon existing cognition to create new ideas and thoughts. The internal lines of thought leave the individual with a new network of philosophical pathways from which some amazing self-realizations can be gleaned. From a quote comes a new concept, from that concept comes a good memory, from that memory a connection is made, and from that connection an appreciation is built. That’s the breadcrumb trail of thought.

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” – Emerson

Although not complex in structure, vocabulary, or tone, I enjoy this quote because its simplicity allows diverse interpretation. Emerson connects two antonyms as if they were a pair, complements to each other, one needing the other. And so it goes…

Immediate questions: What are my weaknesses? When did I realize they were weaknesses? Am I weak compared to others or compared to my own understanding of standards? How does one define standards in relation to characteristics? Have my standards changed with my changing abilities or with my realization of new weaknesses? What is my most recent weakness? What is my biggest weakness? Are all weaknesses able to be improved upon? Are there universal weaknesses or only individual ones? What is the most common weakness?
Let’s integrate: If I can somehow build upon the set of all my weaknesses from the time I was born until yesterday (or up to a second ago for purposes of true continuity), with what would I be left at this exact moment? Emerson says it’s strength, and I wholeheartedly agree, simply because I know we all have the capacity to learn. Our greatest trait is our capacity to learn. Learning gives us reason to try again. Learning gives us reason to move on. Learning gives us reason to find possibility. Learning gives us hope for tomorrow. Learning trumps failure.

Here’s a scenario: Consider a set of X functions, abilities, processes, and tactics with which we are all equally born. On day 1, they all exist as unrealized weaknesses. With each experience had and the capacity to learn, an individual has two possibilities: turn an unrealized weakness to a realized strength, or realize weakness and create a new realized strength. Over time, the original set of X expands as new strengths are added and the overall dynamic changes as weaknesses grow into strengths. The result is that from day 1, the number of realized strengths will always equal or exceed the number of realized weaknesses. In other words, as a result of their complementary nature, the proportion of strength to weakness almost always increases.

Wow – what a great realization that is! Rather than despise that which we cannot achieve, instead we must harness our weaknesses, grow to accept them and adapt to them, and find ways to learn from them. With that alone we’ll grow stronger every day.

Image 1: Chet Phillips – “Thought Process”

balancing education

Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” 

– Ron Miller, founder of the journal “Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice”

In my post titled “adsideology 2 and the one brain” I talk about the rise in interdisciplinary subjects and departments in higher education, and the need for the same in the K-12 educational system. Driving “thought mixtures” at an earlier age begins to weld the foundations of math, english, history, etc. while expanding the intellectual capacity of individuals at a young, developmental stage. Making connections for a new perspective of the world will better position the individual and those around the individual to find meaning, value, and purpose in life.

I think that’s why there needs to be a more balanced educational system. I’m not getting into the politics, inefficiencies, and the educational and opportunistic gaps that currently exist throughout the world, but am sticking to the foundation of education systems in general for now. Holistic education involves an understanding that self-actualization and the development of one’s character comes through different means and speeds. The grade number doesn’t matter, but building upon yesterday and striving for a better tomorrow does.

There needs to be more holistic education in the developmental years. The current K-12 education system emphasizes the teaching of facts, rules, skills, and discipline. However, it is missing the necessary methods of transformative learning and experiential learning. Sure, plenty of schools these days act as a community and teach about human interaction. But too much focus is on subject pillars and meeting quantifiable goals. The verticals, although important, need to be connected with horizontal layers of experience that encompass the facts and skills learned in the classroom. More emphasis should be put in teaching compassion, peace, self-respect, self-esteem, and community involvement. In my post titled “wearing other people’s shoes” I talk a bit about transformative learning and why that’s important for personal growth. A change in perspective can sometimes make all the difference, and that notion should be introduced at a young age.
I want to make it clear that holistic education is just one approach to a very large issue in education but by no means is the solution. The solution involves a balance in educational concepts and methods, and this balance should be institutionalized in the school system. A mesh of traditional, holistic, and other educational approaches is more dynamic. This allows for optimization of resources and methods for each individual student.
In the end, it’s the experiences and the relationships that make us who we are. It’s who and what we impact, not what we know. Understanding this at the earliest age will most certainly result in a life of significance, personal happiness, and community prosperity.
“Good grades show you’ve done your work; great deeds show you’ve learned your lessons.”
-Me
i. Top picture is the SunWALK pedagogical model of holistic education, by Dr. Roger Prentice. 
Arts, Science, Humanities + Creativity, Criticality, Caring.
ii. Bottom picture is from a Wake Alternative Break (WAB) trip I led in Spring 2005 to Virginia Beach. We were fortunate to work with the local parks & rec dept to clean up some parks and tutor in a local school. Good times.

data visualization

The visualization of data exists at the intersection of art, science, and technology. The absence of one of these inputs leaves the viewer unsatisfied in terms of both comprehension and stimulation.

It takes both hemispheres of the brain to produce a truly outstanding graphic – a mesh of logical and analytical components with intuition and creativity. Creators must know the basics of audience, tone, color, consistency, and purpose while understanding technical and scientific limitations of particular data analyses and visualization methods/tools. Creators must also be their own best critic, and be able to ask the right questions at the right time. When done correctly, a final result should bring engaged thinking and meaning to a viewer, no matter how simple the underlying objective.

That being said, I wanted to post some interesting data viz resources to hopefully inspire new creativity and awareness around data visualization. Those are listed below. As a note, some were listed in the latest issue of AmstatNews (monthly publication for the American Statistical Association). All descriptions are from the respective websites and/or other related web resources.

Websites
Flowing Data – FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better – mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all.
Gallery of Data Visualization – This Gallery of Data Visualization displays some examples of the best and worst of statistical graphics, with the view that the contrast may be useful, inform current practice, and provide some pointers to both historical and current work.
Gapminder – Gapminder is a non-profit venture promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.
Graph Jam – Music & culture for people who love charts. Some recent posts include “Ways I spent my time while playing Oregon Trail in elementary school” and “Things that the Pinball Wizard does”.
IBM Many Eyes – As part of IBM’s Collaborative User Experience research group, the Many Eyes lab explores information visualizations that help people collectively make sense of data.
Information Aesthetics – Inspired by Lev Manovich’s definition of “information aesthetics”, this weblog explores the symbiotic relationship between creative design and the field of information visualization. More specifically, it collects projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways.
Junk Charts – Recycling chartjunk as junk art.
Marumushi Newsmap – Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap’s objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.
NameVoyager/NameMapper – This is the online home of Laura Wattenberg, author of the bestselling book The Baby Name Wizard and creator of award-winning tools that have helped the world look at baby names in a whole new way. Check NameVoyager and NameMapper which show temporal and geographic representations of any name in a simple, intuitive interface.
Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena – Easy to spend lots of time here. These pages demonstrate visual phenomena, and ‘optical’ or ‘visual’ illusions. The latter is more appropriate, because most effects have their basis in the visual pathway, not in the optics of the eye.
Prefuse – Prefuse is an extensible software framework for helping software developers create interactive information visualization applications using the Java programming language. It can be used to build standalone applications, visual components embedded in larger applications, and web applets. Prefuse intends to greatly simplify the processes of representing and efficiently handing data, mapping data to visual representations (e.g., through spatial position, size, shape, color, etc), and interacting with the data. Flare is particularly cool.
Tableau Software Blog – Official blog for Tableau Software, a data visualization software company headquartered in Seattle. I’ve used Tableau Desktop for a few years now and can’t live without it now.
The Work of Edward Tufte and Graphics Press – Official Edward Tufte site. He is an American statistician and Professor Emeritus of statistics, information design, interface design, and political economy at Yale University. He has been described by some as “the da Vinci of Data”.
UC Berkeley Visualization Papers – A listing of papers from the visualization lab at UC Berkeley, from today back to 1995.
Visualization of Complex Networks – This site intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. The project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web.

Well-Formed Data, Elastic Lists Demo – This is a demonstration of the “elastic list” principle for browsing multi-faceted data structures. There are additional options to create sparkline charts to show the temporal aspects of the data.
Papers / Presentations
7 Things You Should Know About Data Visualization – EduCause Learning Initiative
Artistic Data Visualization: Beyond Visual Analytics – Viégas & Wattenberg, IBM Research
Designing Great Visualizations – Jock Mackinlay, Tableau Software
Milestones in the History of Data Visualization – Friendly & Denis, York University

wearing other people’s shoes

It’s just as easy to get tunnel vision as it is to be blinded by the light. And most of the time, these metaphors hit us hand-in-hand. That’s why it’s imperative that we find a way to step back from the lives we live and experience the minds and lives of others. We all need to live in perspective of neighbors, a community, a country, a world, a universe, and beyond – the positive impact on health, compassion, and a greater good are infinitely realizable.

I find myself stuck in my own head quite often. Not that my cognition has devilish control over my body and soul, but I frequently think about my life, my goals, my history, my future, my lunch, my finances, my vision, my health, my hobbies,… well, you get the point. That tunnel vision not only limits my knowledge of and interaction with the outside world, but also puts me in a dangerous position to hit a one-way mental road block. I can only find opportunity to avoid that road block if I create the highways, byways, and multi-directional pathways through which I can creatively navigate.

Adsideology encapsulates that notion of universalism – that most concepts are applicable to all people. This isn’t an all-encompassing theory by any means, but rather a concept of wearing other people’s shoes. I exist as does the person next to me, and I make decisions as does the person next to him or her. My life exists not in a vacuum, but in alignment with the lives of billions of others. We all have obstacles and achievements, goals and passions, ups and downs. The realization of all those other feelings helps contextualize the life I live and it’s not until I am standing in someone else’s shoes that I can more clearly see the footprints that I am making. Lose the tunnel vision, blind yourself with compassion, and jump in someone else’s shoes – you’ll be a better person for doing so.

adsideology 2 and the one brain

At the intersection of science, religion, politics, and philosophy you’ll find some quality, creative thought. I find it interesting that there exist discrete boundaries between these subjects, although these boundaries have traditionally existed between all subjects. That being said, over the past several years it’s clear that many major universities are fuzzifying these boundaries through interdisciplinary departments, research positions, and classes. This is necessary to weld together the right brains of new experts and forward thinkers around the world (with, of course, the logistical, process-oriented, left-directed thinkers that still power much of our world). Let’s call it the One Brain concept – similar to the One Medicine, One World, One Nation, and other Onenessisms developed in recent times.

Adsideology is very much a One Brain idea. It’s not a religion, it’s not a science, it’s not a political belief, and it’s not a personal stance. It’s just a concept that brings together a lot of thoughts and ideas that make me happy and healthy as a human being. With that in mind, I hope to share my thoughts in an effort to drive positive, creative thought in you, hopefully resulting in the same happiness and health that I see in my life.

Back to the fuzzification of subject boundaries, there does need to be more of an effort to drive interdisciplinary thought at a younger age. College classes in “Physics and Philosophy” are certainly good, but those types of thought mixtures need to occur at an earlier age. As the right-brain world emerges as the driver of disruptive technologies, innovative thinking, and new creative logic, this direction should be fostered in early developmental stages of life – in school, at home, at church, on tv, in music, through art, at dinner, and everywhere your one big brain may venture.

I’ll leave you with a poem written by Piet Hein who was a Danish mathematician, physicist, philosopher, writer and creator of puzzles and games:

The Paradox of Life:

A bit beyond perception’s reach
I sometimes believe I see
that Life is two locked boxes, each
containing the other’s key.