Can creativity be taught?

“Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.”

Jules Feiffer

I am in the Sir Ken Robinson camp on this one. Creativity is often educated out of kids in school – if you have a spare 25 minutes check out his talk on ted.com he is both passionate & funny on this issue

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

I am not entirely sure if creativity can be taught as the audience needs to want to learn (I am not sure if anything can be taught if there is no inherent motivation to learn). What I do know is that I have watched a number of people “become” creative in front of my very eyes and the ingredient for it is very simple. In other words I have facilitated the learning of creativity.

If you want people to be creative or innovative – yes they are different but they both require the same foundational environment – then create a safe place; one where it is ok to make mistakes. Allow your audience to FEEL what Alexander Bell knew – for every incredible thing he created there were a thousand “mistakes”.

Personally, I create that environment through games and activities. I am more than willing to share if anyone wants.

wilrickards@gmail.com

and as a follow up:

Creativity is a wonderful organic process, I believe it is what the brain does naturally because it works on the principle of making connections. Here is the kicker though, the brain does not function optimally when it is controlled by an emotionally negative state – the brain needs to feel safe to make a majority of its connections – there are obviously the fight or flight exceptions. So this whole idea of teaching creativity leaves me a little uneasy as it is something that occurs naturally. As has been said before though; if the environment is one that creates a negative emotional state then creativity will be stopped in its tracks. I believe this is what happens in a lot of school and business environments.

We can create environments that will see increased creativity, we can provide tools to help it happen. I do not know if we can teach it.

What makes this discussion really relevant to me as a trainer is that it is my responsibility to make sure that I create an optimal environment to ensure learning AND to help people be the best that they can be and learn that this “best” is truly part of them. I want my audience to be creative to find that “best” so mulling over what the creative process is and what I can do to help it on its way is very valid.

This discussion has been a great thought provoker for me as it has mimicked the creative process and grown organically. Connections have been made and transferred. Contributors have taken information and made it their own by playing with it and manipulating it to create something that reflects them. It demonstrates the creativity involved in all learning. Now imagine what would happen if several contributors had shamed, mocked and dismissed other contributions – there was one entry that may have been taken that way but thankfully the group moved on quickly and left it behind.

If I imagine that scenario then I am back where I started, with a supportive environment creative magic is able to happen.

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Some Thoughts on Sustainability

I have been thinking about the word “sustainability” a great deal recently and more importantly about the meaning it adopts due to the cultural context that surrounds it. I also find that I am concerned with a parallel thread that seems completely inter-relatedt; health and wellness.

Let us start by looking at a historical perspective of health and wellness. Until recently health was considered as an absence of disease, during the 1980’s it took on a larger mantel. This new vision of wellness incorporates achieving and balancing physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and environmental health. By changing the way we look at health and wellness we make it easier to achieve because we understand it more. The very definition also allows us to move towards something attractive rather than away from something that we do not want which ties in with contemporary thought on goal setting.

What has this got to do with sustainability? Well for starters, to be sustainable a body or organization has to be healthy. I think this is something that has yet to be given sufficient significance within the discussion on sustainability. I also believe that the definition of sustainable needs to be expanded beyond Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland report 1983) Ultimately, sustainability could be about creating healthy people, organizations, environments, learners etc. which go on to (pro)create more healthy…

Another aspect that can be incorporated from the wellness movement is how to incite motivation that changes behavior. When a person is obese they need to see that they are overweight, there is no need to judge oneself, there is though the need to make a change. It is about being honest with oneself and making small changes that over a period of time create big results. It is about seeing something for what it really is rather than either being a conspiracy or for someone else.

The similarities go further still. Both are holistic concepts; a situation will never be truly healthy / sustainable until all the components are taken care of and nurtured. Therefore all the components need to be identified.

For a university to be sustainable there is a need to have healthy students who are able to achieve their optimal state of learning in the same way that there is a need for a small carbon footprint. Encouraging exercise and good and local nutrition is as important as recycling. Aiding students to feel a necessary part of a thriving society is as relevant as energy efficient buildings.

My thoughts then turn to what should a University Sustainability Club do. Obviously all the mentioned areas need to be incorporated and there is a lot more examples of Universities that have been focusing on environmental sustainability who provide an extremely good model. I believe though that where possible we can focus on initiatives that marry as many concepts together as possible. For instance:

·         Encouraging self powered commuting  – which might involve cheap / free rental of equipment (bikes from bike club, skis from student union), organizing leaders / guides (from clubs such as PE majors club), encouraging facilities to groom trails on campus rather than scrape them, prizes for people who are involved, more safe & covered storage and showering facilities on campus

·         Socials that involve exercise, education, networking and fun

·         Lobbying the food providers on campus to really consider the food that they are supplying and ensuring that there is information on all the food sold and that it is also measured for how healthy and local it is. All while working under a tight budget to reduce the costs. Perhaps, this would be more easily done if UAA provided the food on campus rather than contract it out.

I know that this is not really original thinking and yet I am inspired by a man I was lucky enough to spend some time with. Bill Mollison; the originator of permaculture, once said to me, “by myself I can do nothing, with one friend I can change the world.” Bill does not have many new ideas he has though taken lots of well proven ones and strung them together in a package that has been making a real difference in the world. I suggest that we do the same.

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On Commuting and Being Open to Experience

Originally posted in November

At this time of year my journey to work usually involves a bike. It can be anything from the the whirl of spinning feet and a pulsing soundtrack oblivious to my surroundings, (or worse still people greeting me) to a festival of sensations  as I slowly pedal the two and a half  beautiful miles into the office. Already winter has taken its toll when ice and rubber did not agree and Wil slid clumsily down the blacktop, the cost including a pair of gloves, a down jacket, a helmet and a probable broken finger. It could have been much worse; watching the tarmac from half an inch as I glided over it,  skin buffered by my helmet was sobering and needless to say the studs are now on!

I like to wear headphones, they spike my attitude and allow me to push harder as I disassociate from the discomfort and focus on the task of going from a to b. By doing more and thinking less I become more efficient rather like a dog bounding full tilt, its hinging mid drift drawing air into its lungs. There is a major problem to this detachment though and that is a separation from my environment. I am no longer part of it, I do not feel it in the same way and therefore do not become involved with it. When on the machines at the gym this may or may not be a good thing, on my ride into work I am even less sure.

Today, I left the house in the crisp dark, it was warmer than it has been for a while with the temperatures hovering just below freezing (good news for snow). This though leads to very slick roads so I slowed down. Travelling by the light from a headlamp was like passing through a tunnel so I focused more on sound and smell. The noise of the treads of studded tires were distinctive and reassuring, the travel breeze on my face refreshing, when I came to the fork in the trail, I usually choose left or right around the lake, today I clambered through the beaver’s industry and after striding through the felled trees reached the lake. Now I have never riden a bike on a lake before, the expanse of open ground allowed a pre dawn light to reach the snow that covered the ice and while Cai & I had skated here on Sunday, I was still a little intimidated to push out onto the flat surface knowing I was seperated from freezing liquid by a mear few inches of frozen water. Like being out at night when it is possible to imagine that every shadow is a bear, being out on this lake raised the intensity of the experience. It was a truly sublime experience, the early morning quiet meant I could hear the shattering frost under my tires. The open flat surface allowed far more interaction with the movement of air and the crisp smell of cold, the low light spread a mirage of dancing shadows. I really felt attached to this place and this moment and with that connection came an uplifting. For a while anyway, the black of the onset of an Alaskan winter was blown away, the frustrations of work and home no longer held me captive and in that moment I was extremely content.

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