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The Importance of Creativity, Dreams, Play and LeaDership in K-12 Education


K12 playground: Creativity is the least important, most important attribute and totally absent in the U.S. Federal Department of Education. ~ Karen Ellis



10,000 Hours: there's a limited pool of great talent in America. Life is about more than being seen. You need to live it to have something to say.

"The important lesson is that when you do things for your own fun, nothing stops you from ultimate creativity and genius." ~ Steve Wozniak


Founders: The house hippie.
Someone who can see into the future and bend the company to his or her will. It's hard to find an original, someone strong-willed enough to lead minions into a future frequently only they can see. The history of success is one of great leaps of faith, big risks. Adult supervision makes the trains run on time, balances the books, but makes your company moribund. You've got to find a way to keep the crazy innovators in charge.

The surprising truth about what motivates us


THE Visionary

Execution is important, but it's secondary to inspiration. The idea is king, never forget it!

You must be easy to follow!



The 2nd follower is a turning point: it's proof the first has done well.

Now it's not a lone nut, it's two nuts. AND THAT BRINGS #3 AND SO ON.


THEN the first follower with a crucial role:

S he publicly shows everyone how to follow.

If you've learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let's watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons:
A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he's doing is so simple, it's almost instructional. This is key.Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it's not about the leader anymore - it's about them, plural. Notice he's calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership

. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy 2010-02-11
( I gave this short 3-minute talk at the TED Conference yesterday and got a standing ovation! They call it “How to Start a Movement” )


Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers - not the leader.
Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we've got momentum.

This is the tipping point! Now we've got a movement!
As more people jump in, it's no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there's no reason not to join now. They won't be ridiculed, they won't stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you'll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they'd be ridiculed for not joining.
And ladies and gentlemen that is how a movement is made! Let's recap what we learned:
If you are a version of the shirtless dancing guy, all alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you. Be public. Be easy to follow!

But the biggest lesson here - did you catch it?
Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he'll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:

  • It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.
  • There is no movement without the first follower.
  • We're told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.
  • The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.
  • When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

The power of the niche: “niches within the network where you have the particular assemblage of influential people and their followers.” When influence is layered — when its fabric is made stronger by tight connections across a smaller network — it's more predictable, and more powerful. [Twitter] Spreading a conversation is not the same as affecting it.

The extent to which ideas spread through Twitter's network catch on and have impact. One binary that might actually be relevant in that regard, Christakis suggested: influencer versus influence-ee. “If we're really going to advance this field, we need to figure out how to identify not just influential people, but also influenceable people,” the professor noted. “We need not just shepherds, but sheep.” And “if we're going to exploit online ties,” Christakis said — say, by creating communities of interest around news content, and potentially monetizing those communities — then “measures of meaningful interactions will be needed”: We need metrics, in particular, to determine “which online interactions represent real relationships, where an influence might possibly be exerted.”


Creativity: An Undervalued Leadership Skill
How often do we describe leaders as creative? The modern leader has to have a lot of differing traits that all help them do his/her best to lead others and make decisions successfully. Is your work atmosphere conducive to innovation, or does it prevent it?

The secret to raising creative kids is easier than you think

What would happen if children were just left to be bored from time to time? How would it affect their development? The apparent stifling effect of watching TV on imagination is a concern, as imagination is important. Not only does it enrich personal experience, it is also necessary for empathy—imagining ourselves in someone else's shoes—and is indispensable in creating change. The significance of boredom here is that children (indeed adults too) often fall back on television or—these days—a digital device, to keep boredom at bay. Some years after my study, I began to notice certain creative professionals mentioning how important boredom was to their creativity, both in childhood and now.

Page reach for Facebook pages is zero


How many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page” is dead. Officially. Facebook is no longer the social media channel for you to use to “engage” with your customers, but a means to advertise to your customers. 'There is zero organic reach, we are now a media platform.' 'Don't bother with any posts to your pages if they are not driving a call to action, and are part of a paid advertising campaign.' That's why abandoning your Web site and posting just to a Facebook page is a really horrible idea. Marketers can now buy their user information in the form of “targeting options” that include behaviour and location from home. Yes this means that Facebook knows where we are and what we are doing at all times. Brands who have been playing by the rules in producing content for the Facebook ecosystem, will now have to do an about face and start using it like any other paid media channel. Without the Adspend on Facebook, your marketing messages are simply not being seen anymore.

Creativity: Attract people through the Arts which pulls people to learning.





The neuroscience of creativity. According to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, the brains of creative geniuses and people with schizophrenia are similar in surprising ways. They both have an extremely active precuneus, or area that facilitates daydreaming and free association.

A 1998 review of dozens of creativity studies found that overall, creative people tend to be more driven, impulsive, and self-confident. They also tend to be less conventional and conscientious. Above all, though, two personality traits tend to show up again and again among innovative thinkers. Unsurprisingly, openness to new ideas is one. The other? Disagreeableness. “Highly creative people tend to run counter to the popular ways of doing things. They tilt at windmills and go against the grain,” says Rex Jung, a neuropsychologist who studies creativity at the University of New Mexico. “Think of Steve Jobs—a prickly personality to say the least.”


Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? Changing Education Paradigms


I know exactly what you mean by creativity!
Symphony! there must be a qualitative idea behind the majesty of that symphony, like when the choir is at their peak. The very idea of an ode to joy gets to the nut of cosmic creativity. Symphony has a great deal to do with the creativity of the cosmos, everything, in fact.

Creatives / Great Artists



"Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we've hit the wall. We have no idea what to do next." ~ Jonah Lehrer

How did he come up with that? That's what we always say about great art, that's its intrinsic appeal. Its differentness, alongside with its encapsulation of humanity. You won't hear any of the foregoing from businessmen. But every great artist will testify about frustration and insight, and if you haven't been tempted to give up, your work is not worth a damn.
The spontaneous combustion of ideas, the instant insight, and it's always instant, after the debilitating frustration. Brilliant artworks you admire come after a huge period of frustration and the insight comes instantly! This is why teaching to the test is hurting us. Critical thinking, analyzing concepts: Creatives/ great artists - are champion analyzers.
Because in the arts, asin science, we only care about the end result.
If you keep on doing the same thing over and over, you're never going to break through. If you're frustrated, don't put your nose to the grindstone, face the impediment. Work with it. But know the solution will be instant. Maybe a few moments or weeks after you've determined to give up.

"SMART CREATIVES" build teams, companies and corporate cultures around people they call “smart creatives.” Problem-solving ninjas are digital-age descendants of yesterday's “knowledge workers,” a term coined in 1959 by Peter Drucker, the famed management theorist. Smart creatives, the authors write, are impatient, outspoken risk-takers who are easily bored and change jobs frequently. They are intellectually versatile, typically “combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair,” the authors note. “They are a new kind of animal,” Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Rosenberg write. “And they are the key to achieving success in the Internet Century.”


April 2013 Stanford is offering a free online course on creativity, and you can enroll It's one of five Stanford MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that will launch in April. Related Content:

State of Creativity Forum 2012


Everybody has an interest in education.


The Value of Science - Creativity starts from your Vantage Point which determines everything that you see. Story Telling forms one of the underlying structures of reality, comprehensible and responsive to those who possess what we call narrative intelligence.

Bret Victor invents tools that enable people to understand and create. He has designed experimental UI concepts at Apple, interactive data graphics for Al Gore, and musical instruments at Alesis.

“creators need immediate connection with what they are making”. He believes that “ideas start out tiny, weak and fragile” and in order to develop and mature, the ideas need an environment where the creator can nurture them. Bret's talk made me realize that getting frustrated with using the tools, especially at the introductory level,> really shouldn't have this kind of power over the students' ideas.


Study Finds Spatial Skill Is Early Sign of Creativity
A gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.
The study looked at the professional success of people who, as 13-year-olds, had taken both the SAT, because they had been flagged as particularly gifted, as well as the Differential Aptitude Test. That exam measures spatial relations skills, the ability to visualize and manipulate two-and three-dimensional objects. While math and verbal scores proved to be an accurate predictor of the students' later accomplishments, adding spatial ability scores significantly increased the accuracy.
The researchers, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said their findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to focus more on spatial ability, to help identify children who excel in this area and foster their talents. “Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don't capture with traditional measures used in educational selection,” said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.”
Years later, the children who had scored exceptionally high on the SAT also tended to be high achievers — not surprisingly — measured in terms of the scholarly papers they had published and patents that they held. But there was an even higher correlation with success among those who had also scored highest on the spatial relations test, which the researchers judged to be a critical diagnostic for achievement in technology, engineering, math and science. Cognitive psychologists have long suspected that spatial ability — sometimes referred to as the “orphan ability” for its tendency to go undetected — is key to success in technical fields. Earlier studies have shown that students with a high spatial aptitude are not only overrepresented in those fields, but may receive little guidance in high school and underachieve as a result. (Note to parents: Legos and chemistry sets are considered good gifts for the spatial relations set.)




"Student questions are the seeds of real learning." Why curiosity is essential to education

Captain Crunch


Used Vintage 1960's Cap'n Crunch Bo'son Whistle Blue Phone Phreaker 2.6khz free calls


Captain Crunch the man who made apple possible. Perhaps you don't know John Draper aka "Captain Crunch" but, if you're using a MacBook or an iPhone today, it's because of him. He and his blue box were a fundamental inspiration for Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in making Apple. The Zuckerbergs, Brins, Pages, not to talk about Apple itself owe their wealth to Captain Crunch.
John Draper, otherwise known as Captain Crunch. Draper was working as a US Air Force radar technician when, in the late 1960s, he discovered how to make free long-distance calls using a toy whistle packaged in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal. The whistle emitted a tone at precisely 2600 hertz - the same frequency that was used at the time by the US's biggest phone network to route international calls.

How did you get the name Cap'n Crunch?
I got the name while talking on the 2111 conference. It was about a week before I discovered how blue boxes work, and I had used the box to dial kp- 604-2111 -st which was some kind of special conference line setup. People were using handles like "Mark Brenay", and "Marty Freeman". Nobody had taken the name "Cap'n Crunch" which was the origin of a toy whistle that emitted a 2600 Hz tone if one of the holes was glued up.
How did you discover that the whistle could be used to control the phone switches?
I actually didn't discover it. Some blind kids Dennie, Jimmie, and a few others had known this for quite some time. So although I used the name, I can't really take credit for figuring it out.
How do Blue Boxes work?
Blue boxes are nothing more then a device to generate pairs of tones, and a single 2600 Hz tone. They had 12 keys, plus a single button (or a key)

On Nov 17, 2017, a mainstream article broke that the 'hacker hero' has been banned from multiple conferences after 'decades of inappropriate behavior'. Draper's activity has long been an 'open secret' within the community, but had not been called out like this before. John Thomas Draper a.k.a. Captain Crunch John Thomas Draper (born March 11, 1943), also known as Captain Crunch, Crunch, Crunchman, or @jdcrunchman on Twitter, is noted for his historical activity related to telephone systems and phreaking, a reputation that he allegedly used while enticing victims. However, the past two decades or more have carried a different reputation, one that has long been considered an 'open secret' in the Information Security community; his predilection for much younger males. While the stories have been floating around for that long, there were essentially no victims who would go on the record for varying reasons, until November 2017. Three days after the first allegations were published, The Daily Dot covered Draper's reply in which he both denies the allegations while admitting that he "might have had an erection" during the workouts.


K12 USA or China - Who is Smarter?
For the first time, research shows that

American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it.



  • Life is a possibility opening game

  • The greatest violence is the mediocrity of routine.
  • The noun GENIUS is related to the Latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, "to bring into being, create, produce."
  • It's the creativity in perception that reveals possibilities.
  • Creativity is More Important than Knowledge. ~ Einstein
  • Creativity is the least important, most important attribute and totally absent in the U.S. Federal Department of Education. ~ Karen Ellis
  • "A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." - Creativity
  • "The good news is the ear has 30,000 channels to the brain, the bad news is that they're all nonlinear. -- M.B. Sachs"

Brain Architecture Underlying Consciousness itself


Series on the Brain
Monthly episode will examine different subjects of the brain, including perception, social interaction, aging and creativity.



2015 The Schoolification of the World.

2011 Three new reports have been released by the NEA's Office of Research & Analysis. The reports explore how factors such as arts education, age and generational characteristics, and personal creativity have affected arts participation patterns in the U.S. Based on independent analyses of data from the NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, the reports add significantly to what is known about arts participation in America. The reports are:

  • Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation, by Nick Rabkin and E.C. Hedberg, NORC at the University of Chicago
  • Age and Arts Participation: A Case against Demographic Destiny, by Mark Stern, University of Pennsylvania
  • Beyond Attendance: A Multi-Modal Understanding of Arts Participation, by Jennifer Novak-Leonard and Alan Brown, WolfBrown

Press Release: Three NEA Monographs on Arts Participation: A Research Digest, to complement these reports. The Note summarizes and reflects upon their key findings.

Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums
The School System as we know it, is an inheritance of the 19th century from the Bizmarkian model of german schooling that got taken up by the english reformers and the religious missionary, then in the U.S. as a force of social cohesion, but a model that works against us.
Radical innovation sometimes comes from where you have huge need, unmet latent demand and not enough resources for traditional high cost solutions that depend on professionals, to work, which is what schools are all about. There are not enough teachers who can get learning to people.

Drop Out - Four-year drop-out rate, the percentage of ninth-graders (about 31 percent nationally) who do not receive diplomas four years later.

Creative ways to go Raise money for your idea / business start up / project.

Probing the achievement gap
Dr. Ronald Ferguson of Harvard University, research indicates that half the gap can be predicted by economics: Even in a typical wealthy suburb, blacks are not as well-to-do; 79 percent are in the bottom 50 percent financially, while 73 percent of whites are in the top 50 percent. The other half of the gap, he has calculated, is that black parents on average are not as academically oriented in raising their children as whites. In a wealthy suburb he surveyed, 40 percent of blacks owned 100 or more books, compared with 80 percent of whites. In first grade, the percentage of black and white parents reading to their children daily was about the same; by fifth grade, 60 percent to 70 percent of whites still read daily to their children, compared with 30 percent to 40 percent of blacks. He also works with teachers to identify biases. His research indicates that blacks and whites spend the same amount of time on homework, but blacks are less likely to finish. "It's not laziness," he says. "It's a difference in skills." He adds that he doesn't "want to be another one of those people lecturing black parents. I tell them we in the black community -- we -- need to build stronger intellectual lives at home."

Schools rewarded for creative thinking

2010 CREATIVE SCHOOLS School Innovation Awards
in honor of their unusually creative spirits. 20 programs best met the criteria of innovation and “demonstrable success in engaging students' interest, boosting achievement levels, and /or inspiring community involvement.”

The following 10 schools and districts have been chosen as winners.

Element Song

Creativity Killers


Standardized Education
Trends and an even more recent educational technology initiative, that of using cell phone flash cards to help students learn organic chemistry nomenclature, structures, and reactions. CITE: Pursell, David P. J. Chem. Educ. 2009, 86, 1219.
Excerpts [snip] Traditional Approach
A traditional approach to organic chemistry instruction includes lecture, discussion sections, and laboratory. Students rely on course texts for substantial supplementation and reinforcement of course topics presented by the instructor. [snip].
Even with outstanding texts and the engaging multimedia resources that often accompany them, students often feel overwhelmed with the pace and content of introductory organic courses. As noted above, students may then resort to memorizing as a means of survival. The notion of memorization depends on one's perspective, but for the beginning organic student the nomenclature, functional groups, structures, and reactions are often viewed as part of "the infamous, dreaded 'orgo', a marathon of memorization."
To assist students with the task of memorization, all of the texts noted above consolidate nomenclature, functional groups, structures, and reactions into callout boxes that focus student attention. In addition, students often make their own flash cards for these topics. [snip]
Electronic, Web-based reaction flash cards are a relatively recent development, offering an unlimited variety of reactions, reagents, and products drills, often providing feedback to students (and instructor) to guide further study effort. [snip] The Web-based reaction flash cards have been shown effective in enhancing student ability to learn reactions ... . The disadvantage of the Web-based flash cards is that they require a desktop or laptop computer and students miss the learning opportunity of creating their own flash cards.
New Educational Technology Approach [snip]
[snip] With the advent of the iPhone and other handheld devices, students can access this organic course content 24 hours a day. This 24-hour-a-day access is likewise available with "podcasts" that are appearing in instructional efforts in many disciplines ... .
As students migrate to the versatility, mobility, and convenience of cell phones-they can listen to music, watch videos, text or call friends, email, surf the Web, play games-all on a pocket-size device, the previous allure of the laptop computer is rapidly waning. A challenge for educators is to capitalize on the pervasive use of cell phones by younger students for educational purposes. [snip] [Many More Excerpts]

einstein's eyes

Creativity and Einstein's Brain


The genius, Einstein, died April 18, 1955 at Princeton Hospital in Princeton, N.J. Thomas Harvey, performed the autopsy on Einstein and put the brain in a jar of formaldehyde. You can read about this in Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain. by Paterniti. My mom told me that she new two sisters Joan and Nona Piwosky. Nona's first husband. Mr. Levin had Einsteins eyes.

Astrocytes are "star-shaped"

In the 1980s, most scientists still believed all the important work in the brain was done by neurons. And researchers had already learned from other samples of Einstein's brain that he didn't have a lot of extra neurons. But Diamond was fascinated by another type of brain cell, called a glial cell. Glia means glue. And the assumption back then was that glial cells were just glue holding a brain together. The term neuroglia was coined by the German pathologist Vichow in 1856. Literally, it means "nerve glue" and he used it to mean a sort of putty in which the nerve cells were embedded. The term glia has now come to be used as a broad term including the major non-neuronal cells of the CNS: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells.

Diamond wanted to see if there were more of the glial cells known as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes in Einstein's brain. So she counted them and found that there were, especially in the tissue from an area involved in imagery and complex thinking.

Astrocytes could be involved in learning, memory and even genius. The neurotransmitter is glutamate, a chemical messenger often used by neurons. The chemical message is passing from one astrocyte to the next. They found abnormally high numbers of astrocytes in the parts of Einstein's brain involved in imagery and mathematical ability.

"Those Fabulous Octopus Brains" Everybody loves cephalopods—that class of animals containing octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish. But why? What makes these non-fluffy, non-mammals so appealing?
LINKING cephalopod neurobiology to cephalopod behavior, and asking what it really means to call a species "intelligent". It'll get you caught up on what we do, and don't, know about cephalopod smarts—and what studying these amazing creatures means for the future of human technology, and our understanding of the human brain.

Creativity is
Akin to Insanity

Creativity compared to Schizophrenia, are essentially the result of the same problem.

  • Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia.
  • Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.
  • It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to “think outside the box”, say experts from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.
  • In some people, it leads to mental illness.

But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms. Associate Professor Fredrik Ullen believes his findings could help explain why.

  • He looked at the brain's dopamine (D2) receptor genes which experts believe govern divergent thought.
  • He found highly creative people who did well on tests of divergent thought had a lower than expected density of D2 receptors in the thalamus - as do people with schizophrenia.

The thalamus serves as a relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning. The professor believes this is what's behind the “creative spark.” It's essentially a barrage of unfiltered information running rampant through the mind. This explains why creative people can see connections in order to solve problems that ordinary people miss.
UK psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society Mark Millard said the overlap with mental illness might explain the motivation and determination creative people share. “Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives them on to make changes. “Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It's like looking at a shattered mirror. They see the world in a fractured way.


Howard Bloom of the International Paleopsychology Project
705 President Street - Brooklyn, NY 11215
phone 718 622 2278 - fax 718 398 2551
Big Bang Tango - See Tango Masters Incarnate 9 minute flash presentation that explains the cosmos by uncovering the cosmic rules beneath biology's mask.

Amara D. Angelica
Inventor, Writer, Earth Goddess, Computer Wonder Women, Singularity University. and Kurzweil newsletter:

Bruce Damer and EvoGrid the movies :-) digitally evolved entity into a creature of chemistry.


Don Davis shows us the first pictures from space EVER! and also ESA satellite COBE pictures a lot of work, travelling to pristine dark sky sites on both hemispheres! One can travel by magic to the edge of the red shifted visible universe and perhaps detect bright IR sources near us at the 'redshift limit' of that location...while being able to survey from there a lot of the universe unobservable to us, but it will be the same far flung fractal webs of galaxy clusters going on forever...

Space Colony art from the 1970's images 4,5,8(inverted) 9,10,16

Bob Lefsetz explains the role of the artist and music - art and creativity - in culture and the way technology and the Labels have both changed the music business forever.

.'Father of LSD' Dies at 102 Research chemist who synthesised LSD and had the world's first 'acid trip' on his bicycle. Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD here in 1938

Laurie Marshall, Artist and Arts Integration Specialist
"Educating world Citizens for the 21st Century"
Please feel free to circulate this summary of the most important insights I gained from the two day symposium with the Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C. Oct. 8th and 9th. The conference, put on by the Mind & Life Institute, was co-sponsored by the education departments of Harvard, Stanford, Penn State, UVA, U.of Wisconsin, U. of Michigan, GW University as well as the American Psychological Association. The format was a conversation between panelists. I won't always credit who said what, although the Dali Lama's voice is unmistakable.
The 20th Century was the Century of Murder. 250 million people were killed in its wars. Let's make this the CENTURY of COMPASSION. We need resilient, adaptable and caring citizens who respond with kindness to frustration instead of aggression.

What is Charisma?

Charisma is a sense of personal magnetism that some people have. It's from the Greek, and it generally refers to a gift, to something freely given, something you didn't necessarily have to earn or deserve. But it's this talent, or unique capability that you have. It came from the gods, really. The power of genuine charisma is that personal connection is being able to project naturalness and warmth. There is an attractiveness that leads some people to be able to get others to follow them by their personality.
Charisma and genuineness seems you have to work from your deepest passions to have charisma. Passion is usually an attraction cue, confidence is an attraction cue and so is conviction. All communication in the cosmos boils down to attraction and repulsion cues.

The Rise of the New Groupthink

By SUSAN CAIN 1/13/12 author of
" Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking."

SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. But there's a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They're extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They're not joiners by nature.
One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone — and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world's great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as “A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”) Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community. Culturally, we're often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process. Consider Apple. In the wake of Steve Jobs's death, we've seen a profusion of myths about the company's success. Most focus on Mr. Jobs's supernatural magnetism and tend to ignore the other crucial figure in Apple's creation: a kindly, introverted engineering wizard, Steve Wozniak, who toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer.

Rewind to March 1975: Mr. Wozniak believes the world would be a better place if everyone had a user-friendly computer. This seems a distant dream — most computers are still the size of minivans, and many times as pricey. But Mr. Wozniak meets a simpatico band of engineers that call themselves the Homebrew Computer Club. The Homebrewers are excited about a primitive new machine called the Altair 8800. Mr. Wozniak is inspired, and immediately begins work on his own magical version of a computer. Three months later, he unveils his amazing creation for his friend, Steve Jobs. Mr. Wozniak wants to give his invention away free, but Mr. Jobs persuades him to co-found Apple Computer.

The story of Apple's origin speaks to the power of collaboration. Mr. Wozniak wouldn't have been catalyzed by the Altair but for the kindred spirits of Homebrew. And he'd never have started Apple without Mr. Jobs. But it's also a story of solo spirit. If you look at how Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of creating something from nothing — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself. Intentionally so. In his memoir, Mr. Wozniak offers this guidance to aspiring inventors:

"Most inventors and engineers I've met are like me ... they live in their heads. They're almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone .... I'm going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team."

The New Groupthink
Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has "a room of one's own." During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

MYTH OF MULTITASKING People whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

Many introverts seem to know this instinctively, and resist being herded together. Privacy also makes us productive.

Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink.

Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question. SOME teamwork is fine and offers a fun, stimulating, useful way to exchange ideas, manage information and build trust. But it's one thing to associate with a group in which each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it's another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They're also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion.

In a fascinating study known as the Coding War Games, consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared the work of more than 600 computer programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level — but that there was an enormous performance gap between organizations. What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn't greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed. Sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.
Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that's most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that's challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you're the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”
Conversely, brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity. The brainchild of a charismatic advertising executive named Alex Osborn who believed that groups produced better ideas than individuals, workplace brainstorming sessions came into vogue in the 1950s. "The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question," Mr. Osborn wrote. "One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets. "But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The "evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups," wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. "If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority." The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others' opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group's, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this "the pain of independence." The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that's what the Internet is, too. It's a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.
Studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.) The problems we face in science, economics and many other fields are more complex than ever before, and we'll need to stand on one another's shoulders if we can possibly hope to solve them. But even if the problems are different, human nature remains the same. And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy. To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.
Before Mr. Wozniak started Apple, he designed calculators at Hewlett-Packard, a job he loved partly because HP made it easy to chat with his colleagues. Every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., management wheeled in doughnuts and coffee, and people could socialize and swap ideas. What distinguished these interactions was how low-key they were. For Mr. Wozniak, collaboration meant the ability to share a doughnut and a brainwave with his laid-back, poorly dressed colleagues — who minded not a whit when he disappeared into his cubicle to get the real work done.


PBS TeacherSource: Creativity and the Brain:Good summary of what science has discovered about the human brain and creativity.

The Invention Dimension! A web site created by MIT Press to support inventions, inventors, and display MIT books. There are a couple neat games to test your knowledge of innovation. There is also some very useful information in case you decide to invent something.

Educated Earth: Sir Ken Robinson makes and entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity.

Expert Magazine: The article discusses how people, specifically business professionals, believe that they are incapable in capable of being creative even though everyone is capable of being creative in one way or another. Stephen Manallack says that leaders can be more creative by innovating new ideas into the business, speaking up when they have new ideas, and being confident in themselves.

German Gestalt Psychologists: Lewin and Köhler The site hosts three videos of the experiments on ape intelligence and insight. The videos show completed behavioral sequences with no evidence of the "insight" behavior described in The Mentality of Apes .

Classics in the History of Psychology: by Animal Intelligence by Edward L. Thorndike (1911). Chapter 2 describes the cat in the puzzle box experiment and Chapter 4 describes an experiment on the intelligence of monkeys.

On Creativity: Collection of pages on varied aspects of creativity and the creative process. Includes a number of definitions, levels of creativity, characteristics of highly creative individuals, brainstorming techniques, creativity studies, etc.

Creativity in Science and Engineering: Creativity occurs in all areas of human endeavor. Some of the greatest examples of the 19th and 20th centuries are in scientific discoveries.

Creative Thinking: Includes a page listing tests of creativity and pages on various class activities.

Oxford Journals / Brain: This article by Timothy D. Griffiths is about how creativity is studied, theories about creativity and the brain and how creativity is defined.

Creativity: Enchanted Mind: Features tons of information about the scientific study of creativity, also creative-thinking puzzles, techniques to improve creativity, humor, and more.

Psychology of Creativity: Definitions by theorists and students, online student projects, and links to other sites.


Creative Thinking & Lateral Thinking Techniques: Techniques include random word, random picture, false rules, role-play, challenge facts, escape, analogies and wishful thinking.

Brainstorming: Brainstorming tips & definitions, creativity puzzles & quotes, and many useful links to other creativity-related websites.

Psychology of Creativity: Features an introduction to creative thinking, a creativity quiz and test, java games, humor, quotes, and lots of useful links.

Techniques for Creative Thinking: Collection of articles describing games and activities to jolt the mind out of the humdrum.

Mathematik: Contains easy-to-navigate collection of mathematical proofs, postulates and discoveries that bend the mind and pick at the mental blocks.

The Lateral Puzzles Forum: Features lots of lateral thinking problems that can only be solved creatively.

Children and Education


Ezine Articles: Creativity: Top 10 ways to increase your creativity

Brainy Child: This website informs adults about methods that can stimulate children's creativity. Various links lead to articles on methods of stimulation.

Creativity Portal: This website is full of resources and links about fostering creativity with children. The website has links to articles and resources.

Creativity Institute: This website provides links to articles from around the world on child creativity and creative development.

Creativity Portal: This site has many links and many ideas to inspire creativity and to reach new heights in the creative process.

Creativity and Madness: A reading list with many creative concepts.


Jenni Idea Management: Gives special ideas to get the creative process going.

Mind Tools: This is a site that gives readers ideas on how to enhance his or her creativity. It also gives ideas on how creativity can make life easier and better.

The Science of Creativity: Tips for better creativity, word games and "fresh eyes" activities.

Language is a Virus: Writing prompts and other creativity boosting activities for the written word.

Becoming Creative: Six steps on how to be more creative.


Waterfire Providence: Waterfire is a sculpture of 100 bonfires by Barnaby Evans on three rivers downtown of Providence.

Just Creative Design: Jacob Cass has created a gallery of 192 creative advertisements that are sure to get your attention.