1. Knowledge, Curiosity and Imagination

    It’s Not Only What You Do, But How You Do It.

    By Sharon de Korte

    A friend of mine recently asked me ‘What role does experience have in breakthrough innovation? ’The question stopped me in my tracks. Of course, experience does play a role in breakthrough innovation but the answer really isn’t that simple.

    Three elements that I focus on to enhance creativity play off and support creative thinking: knowledge, curiosity and imagination. It is through the synergy of these elements that breakthrough innovation can be nurtured and innovation developed through deliberate evaluation of ideas.


    Knowledge is often where we start as we are looking to develop new things. It is the lens through which we see the world. And knowledge is built from our experiences — what we have done, places we have been, people we have met. We can say that the more experiences we have the more knowledge we develop — but that’s only part of the story. Having experiences and learning from them are not the same. It is important to take the time to pay attention to what is happening and why it is happening. Deeper observation — using all the senses — can give new richness to an experience.

    Earlier this week we were in the country looking at the fall foliage. Seeing the colors from the car window was beautiful. We saw incredible patterns and beautiful trees. But when we got out of the car the experience was so much richer — the sound of walking on the fallen leaves, the smell of the slightly damp leaves, the sounds of them underfoot and the babbling brook in the distance — these are the experiences that inspire.

    When learning from others, another aspect of experience is listening with an open mind and open heart. Think about the last time you were having a conversation with someone or even watching something on TV. Which of the following are you doing?

    1. Selective listening or not listening, but thinking of other things with background noise that occasionally may break through your consciousness.
    2. Contextual listening, where you are listening to agree or disagree with what is being said.You might already be focused on what you are going to stay in response or even interrupting.
    3. Empathetic listening, where you are actively listening to learn from the speaker’s point of view and see new perspectives.

    Deepening our experience with the experience is where real learning or knowledge building can take place.

    But if it was only up to knowledge then the most creative people would also be the most knowledgeable. We know that’s not true since children are generally considered highly creative and we know that they don’t have the most knowledge. So why is that?


    What is it that children have over adults that drives them to be more creative? I believe it’s their attitude: a curious spirit that provides the spark, and opens up their minds to new thinking.

    Children are open to learning and exploring the world. They don’t have a preconceived notion of what things ‘should’ be, since they genuinely don’t know. But what happens to adults is that our knowledge gets in the way. We start assuming we know something and then we stop looking for new ways. It is important that we use the knowledge we have as a starting place for to enhance our curiosity rather than squelch it. No matter how much we know or don’t know, if we are arrogant then we won’t learn more compared to taking a humble attitude that opens us to new learning.

    Sometimes we don’t even realize that this is happening. Habits help us be productive — we need our habits — but often we don’t even realize what we are missing. Our minds and muscles develop habits so that things are easier for us to do. But as soon as that happens, we are no longer thinking about how to do better.

    New technology is a perfect example of this. There is so much new technology that is being designed to make our lives easier. However, in order to take advantage of these things we have to change the way we do something. My brother recently showed me that when I open my iPhone, if I push the little camera icon up, it opens the camera right away. It used to take me several steps to do the same thing. Now, why didn’t I ever think: ‘there has to be a faster way to do this?’

    Don’t miss this: remembering to ask that question is a habit, too.

    If we are truly open to a new way of doing things, we are going to be more flexible if something changes. If something changes and we take the attitude that there is one way to do it then all of a sudden we won’t know what to do. But if we take a curious attitude and ask ‘how might we solve this with what we have?’ we are open to finding a breakthrough approach.

    Curiosity will open us to surprises. I met my new husband on an Internet dating site. When I started dating, I thought I knew the type of person I wanted to meet but I didn’t want that to stop me from exploring the new world of possibilities. Rather than making a list of requirements, I thought: let me see who I meet. By being curious, I met someone who captures my sense of adventure with a passion for the world in a way that I would never have imagined — and never would have found had I made a list of husband criteria.


    And that brings us to imagination. Knowledge and attitude are important but breakthrough thinking won’t happen without imagination.

    The first step to accessing our imagination is to change the question. If we are asking ourselves the same question, we are most likely going to get the same answer. Sometimes we are so focused on accomplishing a goal that we lose sight of what we are trying to do. Whatever the challenge, just asking two simple questions can help to engage your imagination:

    1. Why do you want to do that?
    2. What’s stopping you from doing it?

    These two simple questions will recast the challenge and open thinking to new possibilities. It helps get to the essence of the problem which may have been evasive.

    Similarly, challenging your assumptions about the problem helps breakthrough creative roadblocks. Think about the times when you have said ‘I can’t do that!’ and then you see someone else is doing exactly that. In a recent conversation with a friend, she was telling me that she didn’t have enough time for something she wanted to do since she had to clean out her closet. I couldn’t help but think that it was merely her assumption that her closet needed to be organized. Maybe someone else with a closet in the same state wouldn’t think that it needed cleaning. Next time you say something that you think is ‘a fact,’ simply ask yourself, ‘what if that wasn’t true?’

    The most important thing about experience is not what it is but what we bring to it. We need to ask ourselves: Are we having this experience or is the experience having us? Are we taking a curious attitude to approach this situation or do we think we know the answer already? And,are we engaging our imagination or just seeing what we always see?

    But all that isn’t enough to get to breakthrough innovation. They come together through evaluation — having creative ideas isn’t the be all and end all to have creative breakthroughs. It is critical to evaluate and refine the ideas to develop workable solutions to the challenge.

    To answer my friend’s original question: What role does experience play in breakthrough innovation? Experience is certainly important, but more important is how we have experiences, and what we do with the experience we have.

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 1 year ago
  2. An itty bitty BIG Problem

    By Costa Michailidis

    While creative ability in the US declines, the challenges that require creativity are increasing in size, complexity, and quantity. In the past, even a mere half-century ago, problems that we faced on a daily basis had fairly predictable solutions. Most manufacturing jobs could be summed up as the routine execution of a handful of tasks. Today, the challenges we face have far less predictable answers. Software engineers are constantly inventing new solutions to programming challenges. Health care professionals are taking more challenges diseases and an aging population. Teachers are faced with the obstacle of educating their students for jobs that don’t exist yet. These challenges, and most others today require Creativity to solve. Bad news: there is less and less creativity going around.

    What is Creativity?

    We often think of creativity as an intangible, sometimes even magical, property. You either have it, or you don’t. It can’t be quantified, broken down, measured or improved. Some ancient civilizations even believed creativity (or genius) was a spirit that possessed you and helped you to produce creative work. Perhaps we won’t ever fully comprehend creativity, but over the last half century, psychologists and other researchers have uncovered incredible insights that reveal a little bit about how that magical property works. Aspects of creativity have been identified, measured, even improved. One of the earlier researchers in the field of Creative Studies, Ellis Paul Torrance, created an assessment that measures Divergent Thinking, a critical skill needed to think creatively.

    "The Creativity Crisis"

    In 1958, the first Torrence Tests for Creative Thinking (TTCT) were conducted with Minnesota elementary school students. Since then researchers have followed up with longitudinal studies. The verdict: In the US, creativity peaked in 1990. A Newsweek article, titled The Creativity Crisis, explains the details.

    Science isn’t alone in concluding that creativity is declining. The most watched TED Talk in the last two years is titled Schools Kill Creativity.

    Creativity may be in decline, but what does it matter?

    Faster World, Tougher Challenges

    The world is changing at an accelerating pace, and as things change we must adapt to survive. Adaptation, in essence, is the ability to solve new problems, and the class of problems that we’re beginning to face puts 20th century challenges to shame. The Climate Crisis, Peak Oil, and a Global Water Shortage, are some chief challenges highlighted by the Arlington Institute. For a deep dive into the top ten challenges facing humanity, check out a TED Talk by Stephen Petranek titled 10 Ways The World Could End.

    Creativity is declining, and our challenges are getting bigger and more complicated. It’s like we’ve leaped off a cliff and the ground is rising up to meet us.

    What to Do?

    The pace of change is so fast that we can’t foresee the problems we’ll need to solve tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean we won’t need to solve them. What we need to do is get better at problem solving, and creativity is key!

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  3. "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try."

    -Dr. Seuss

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  4. "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

    - Albert Einstein

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 3 years ago