Tag Archives: creativity

Creativity and Problem Solving Through Low Tech

Creativity and Problem Solving Through Low Tech

As technology takes over more of our lives, there is one skill a machine just cannot compete with…creativity. According to The World Economic Forum’s recently released report, The Future of Jobs, that skill has moved from 10th place in 2015 to #3 in 2020. This is based on information supplied by leading international organizations. They surveyed executives from more than 350 employers in nine different industries.


The top skill on the list now and the one that will be needed in the future is complex problem solving, followed by critical thinking. Both of these require creativity.



Top 10 Skills You Need to Thrive in 2020
future of jobs













When most people think of innovation, they tend to think of high tech first. The basis of innovation is creativity. Some of the biggest moguls in high tech know the value of creativity and problem solving. This is why smart high tech executives send their kids to schools like the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, where kids learn math through knitting, and language through game playing.


When the Waldorf School says they are “old school”, they really mean it. Classrooms have blackboards with chalk, wooden desks with hard copy workbooks and pencils, and book shelves with encyclopedias. Computers, iPads, and iPhones are also frowned upon at home.


A Princeton University psychology department’s research study proved that taking notes with a pen and paper as opposed to typing on a laptop, led to better problem solving skills. The conceptual thinking and note taking study was conducted by psychological scientist and author Pam Mueller and involved 65 college students. Some of them took notes from a TED talk in a laptop and some took notes in long-hand in a notebook with pen and paper.


They were then quizzed on what they learned through both fact recall and conceptual thinking types of questions. They both performed well when it came to the fact recall type of questions, but the ones that used good ole’ fashioned pen and paper out shined the laptop note takers when it came to conceptual questions. It seems that the pen and paper note takers were more likely to remember the conceptual information, even when questioned a week later.


Reading regular hard copy books is also better for problem solving. A 2005 survey at San Jose University by Ziming Liu, found that people were more likely to take shortcuts when they read books on an iPad.


Writing out a hand-drawn mind map is also a good way to look at problem solving. I’ve always liked seeing things spread out where I can see them. That way it makes it easier to see the big picture all at once, which helps your brain form new associations.


Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both limited the amount of technology they would allow their own kids to use. Bill Gates’ kids weren’t allowed to have cell phones until they turned 14. The average age now is 10.


Fractions at the Waldorf School are taught by cutting up apples or pieces of cake into quarters and halves. Learning this way engages both the body and the brain. Findings from a research study in the Netherlands shows that children learn more by engaging the body and the brain at the same time, or kinesthetic-tactile learning.


Brightworks schools base their learning on creativity, and encourage students to follow their curiosity about the world around them. Teachers are called collaborators and classrooms have students of different ages.


I’ve always hired employees on the basis of their problem solving abilities, creativity, and curiosity. These are employees you don’t have to hand-hold, who will find new opportunities for your organization.


CareerBuilder.com gives advice on how to demonstrate your problem solving abilities:


When you’re demonstrating your problem-solving skills on a resume, you should concisely note how you identified the problem, developed a solution, and implemented this strategy.


Some examples of strong problem-solving statements include:

  1. Reduced safety violations 30 percent by installing strategically placed railings on the production floor
  2. Increased customer satisfaction ratings 20 percent by developing new scripts to address common questions
  3. Cut shipping expenses by 10 percent quarterly with customized software solutions


As someone who is a creative, natural-born problem solver, I’m always surprised that it’s not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. But luckily it’s a skill that can be taught. And a very valuable skill to have in your back pocket.










Creativity and Problem Solving Top Job Skills for the Future

Creativity and Problem Solving Top Job Skills for the Future

According to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report”, creativity and problem solving are listed in the top three skills that employees will need by 2020. Critical problem solving is one of the most important attributes that employers look for in a new hire because no organization is without problems, and every industry will eventually be disrupted.


I deliver a keynote speech called “Turning Your Employees Into Problem Solvers“, which I’ve given to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, scientists, engineers, etc. A company’s biggest line expense is payroll, so why not hire the most creative problem solvers possible? As a small business owner, I’ve always hired creative people who have curiosity and enthusiasm. I like having the trust in my employees that they will find a better, more efficient way of doing something that I haven’t found.


In this highly competitive world, having creative problem solvers working for you means seeing things from another angle. This is why brainstorming with a group of people is better than figuring everything out on your own. There is always something you’ll miss. Creative problem solvers are great at finding new opportunities for your organization.


Most companies say they would like to be more innovative, and innovation starts with creativity. If you hire creative employees you’re already ahead of the game. Amy’s Ice Cream in Texas has one of the most creative hiring practices I’ve seen. Here is their job description:


“Pick up a white paper bag. We ask that you take the bag home and bring back something creative. We would like you to express your artistic and creative side through this bag! Decorate it, make it into an object, write an original song on it, fill it with amazing things…the possibilities are endless! Most importantly, have fun and take your time. Show us who you are through the paper bag. It does not have to be artistically brilliant, just creative.”


This has proven to work well for Amy’s. One of their annual events, the Trick Olympics, was started after her employees began doing tricks with the ice cream like throwing it up in the air and catching it behind their back. Now the Trick Olympics is held every year and donates a portion of the profits to a local charity.


One way to hire creative employees is to give them problems to solve when they come in for their first interview. How they react under pressure and how creative they are at solving problems then will give you a good idea of how they will solve problems when they’re working for you.


Once you have your employees, create an environment for them to be creative and trust that they will find the best solution. If they’re not being micromanaged and have a creative environment, they will usually rise to the occasion and surprise you.




Why Associations Need to Innovate

Why Associations Need to Innovate

Associations are a legacy business, like newspapers, and the TV industry. And they have all enjoyed many years of success without being challenged…until now.


Early roots of associations could be found in craft guilds, churches, and trading groups. Guilds were formed to protect the interests of merchants and craftsmen. Guilds provided skills training and lobbying, much like you see in associations today.


But guilds were disrupted during the Industrial Revolution when they no longer served their purpose. Mass production became more important than making a quality product, and we’ve been going down that road ever since.


Like all innovation and disruption, things go in cycles. After the Transcontinental Railroad began linking trade in the East to the West, trade associations sprung up to deal with expanding markets and competition. Associations were back in business and remained unchallenged for decades until the Internet came along.


The Internet has disrupted more than one business. Legacy industries like newspapers and associations are especially susceptible to disruption through technology. Thanks to online content and education, and social networking like Linked In and Facebook groups, new potential members may wonder what your association has that is unique and different. That’s where creativity and innovation comes in.


All aspects of your association can be innovated, from your memberships to the events you put on, to the content you provide. According to Kellen, the association management group, there are numerous streams of income you can innovate, such as:


  • Continuing education
  • Training, workshops
  • Webinars
  • Selling mailing lists
  • Advertising
  • Vendor workshops
  • Sponsorships
  • Vendor programs


Today’s associations are being challenged with members who are looking for more value for their membership dues. By giving them something they can’t get anywhere else, you are increasing your value, and will attract more members.


I will be the innovation keynote speaker for the .org Innovation Summit. Check out this promo video:


The Creativity Gap Between Management and Employees

The Creativity Gap Between Management and Employees

The creativity gap between management and employees keeps getting wider. As a creativity keynote speaker I’m hired to get employees excited about creativity and innovation. By the end of the speech, which is a combination of creativity education, fun creativity exercises and interactive improv, I have accomplished what I set out to do. Employees would comment that they were excited about innovating and coming up with new ideas, and management was happy with the results.


But in private the employees would say, “This is great, but they don’t pay us extra for doing this” or “Nothing is really implemented on a regular basis to continue what we just learned” or “We don’t feel comfortable taking creative risks in the office”.


As I sat at lunch or dinner with the management team I would hear something totally different. I asked management if they would be willing to have some kind of plan to compensate employees for generating new ideas that made the company more money. I was told on more than one occasion that “They don’t really want compensation. It’s part of their job”. As far as being comfortable taking risks, management was sure they provided a safe environment for that, but employees would tell me otherwise. Obviously there is a gap there in communication.


The think tank Workforce Institute at Kronos did some research into workplace culture and found that management and employees don’t agree about workplace culture and how to create a good workplace culture. If they don’t even agree with the basics, how can they move on to become a more creative and innovative environment?


In the research study about a quarter of the executive team felt they shaped the workplace culture, while almost a third of the employees felt they were the ones who determined it. This was especially true with millennials, where about 40% felt like they were in charge of the workplace culture and that employees held more power.


Employees who come up with valuable ideas are an asset to the company. Some ideas improve the bottom line, some save the company money, and some improve the way the company does business. Having a creative and innovative workforce is extremely valuable to a company.


An idea doesn’t have to be a product. It can also be an idea for a marketing campaign, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was for the department store Montgomery Ward. Employee Robert May originally wrote the story as a poem for a Christmas marketing campaign to drive customers into the store. When May fell on hard times, the company gave him the rights to the beloved character he created.


To get good ideas, you have to go through some failure. Creativity involves a lot of failure, and employees must have the trust of management to be allowed to fail. Creativity doesn’t involve spending money. Coming up with a new idea is totally free. Until someone decides to implement it and spend money, management has nothing to lose.


It would be a good idea for management to set up a way to test new ideas without putting a lot of money into them. Having team-building exercises and real world scenarios where new ideas are put into action help employees see that they are allowed to make mistakes and fail without risking their jobs.


Have a smaller version of the new idea that can be tested out first instead of spending a lot of time and resources on an idea that may not work. Get management involved at that point to make sure everything is on the right track.


Studies have shown that employees who are involved in creativity are more satisfied with their jobs, especially if they are rewarded and appreciated for it. And the ones who are allowed to follow what they’re personally passionate about are more likely to stick with it until they come up with a great idea. This is why Google and 3M have always allowed employees in the past to spend a certain amount of their work time on ideas they find interesting.


Other companies are starting to realize that giving employees some slack time for play is a good idea. Apple’s Blue Sky program allows employees to take time to develop projects of their own. They got the idea from Google, who got the idea from 3M.


And then there is Linked In’s InCubator which does basically the same thing. Employees are encouraged to come up with ideas, then form a team around it and then pitch the idea to management. This is in addition to hackdays where employees take one Friday off a month to work on creative projects.


MicroSoft launched The Garage, which has at least 50 projects going every month. Some of those projects result in patents, which trickles down to a monetary bonus for those employees who are working on them.


Iconic companies like Procter and Gamble have a solid management innovation system in place. When I was the innovation keynote speaker for their International Engineering Summit I saw that first hand. Engineers already have the skills it takes to invent new products and generate innovation. P&G works hard to keep those valuable employees happy so they will stay with the company.


Innovation is at the heart of what P&G does. Here is what it says on their website:” For more than 175 years, innovation has been in our DNA. It’s how we drive growth, prevent the commoditization of categories, reduce costs and deliver value”. They go on to praise their research and development team of almost 8,000 employees from around the world for their contributions to innovation.


Keeping employees happy is vital to a workplace culture. One way to keep them happy is through creativity and a mutual trust and understanding of their value. Ultimately both management and employees should be on the same page if creativity and innovation is going to be a cornerstone of the corporate culture. Creativity is fun and makes the office a place to look forward to instead of dreading it. When employees are excited about coming in to work on Monday, you know you’re on the right track!






Creativity and the Value of Improv

Creativity and the Value of Improv

Creativity shares some of the same rules as improv. For one thing, every idea is the best idea you’ve ever heard. There’s no judging and no denying. And that’s the beauty of it. Companies and organizations that are worried about the costs of innovation, need not be worried about creativity. It’s the first step in innovation, and ideas don’t cost anything until they are implemented. Creativity should be practiced by everyone who wants to keep a steady stream of ideas ready to go. It’s a good thing to practice on a consistent basis. It’s also a lot of fun.


When you’re in the middle of doing improv, your analytical brain shuts off. You literally don’t have time to analyze what you’re saying. It’s more like reacting on the fly. When someone labels you as a character in a scene, you can’t deny it. You just have to roll with it and own it. You might fail miserably, but that’s okay. It’s a numbers game. Eventually you’ll hit gold.


I remember a late night improv class where everyone was punchy and wanted to go home. My teacher, who was one of the best in the business, was known for pushing people as hard as he could. One guy in the class was an accountant and was always trying to be logical. My teacher constantly fought to get him out of his head so he would just react and be in the moment. He was suppose to be doing some kind of activity in an office cubicle, but he kept going to something logical like typing or inputing data on the computer. The teacher pushed and pushed until the guy finally screamed out of total frustration, “I’m cooking peas!” The class roared with laughter and it was the breakthrough he needed. From then on he pushed the envelope, even if it didn’t make sense. He learned that he was never going to get the laugh by being logical. By the way, he went on to become an in demand commercial actor.


Charles Limb is a musician and neuroscientist who studies the effect of improv on the brain, and believes that musical improv could eventually lead to a new and improved treatment for hearing loss. Limb is Chief of Otology/Neurotology and skull base surgery at University of CA, San Francisco and a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, who does cochlear implant surgery on patients who have lost their hearing, so he has a special interest in helping to perfect hearing.


He studied jazz musician John Coltrane and how he could improvise masterpieces on stage. Not just a little improv, but over an hour of pure jazz improvisation. Limb and his collaborator Allen R. Braun started putting musicians through sensitive imaging machines to find out how a musical improv genius does it. One thing they’ve learned is that they are able to deactivate the self-censoring part of the brain while they are in the middle of doing improv, and also shut off their inhibitions, both critical traits of improvisors and creatives.


You’re also able to shut off inhibitions after a couple of drinks. Psychologist Jennifer Wiley wanted to know if being intoxicated helped people become more creative, so she set out to do some research on the topic at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She recruited a group of willing participants into her lab and gave some of them vodka cranberry drinks and some without the vodka. Then she had them do a series of problem solving exercises. She found that the people who had the alcohol were able to do the exercises better and faster than their sober counterparts.


Teamwork is a big part of improv. To come up with great ideas in a brainstorming group you have to be willing to give the other person credit and back up their ideas, no matter how bad they are. Make your fellow improvisors look good, and you’ll look good. Do that by taking their ideas and adding to them. That’s also very important for creativity and a good way to be a prolific creativity team.


One of the first things you learn in improv is the game “Yes…and”. One person starts a sentence. “Purple is a beautiful color”. Then the other person adds information to it. “Yes, and, it’s the color of royalty”. So, instead of shutting down someone else’s idea, you treat it like it’s the best idea in the world and add information to it. You advance the scene this way instead of trying to advance your own agenda. As my teacher used to say “Bring something to the party”.


This is how creativity should work in an organization. It’s the way to come up with great ideas together and make teamwork work. Instead of shutting down ideas because they may be stupid or crazy or not work, you rejoice in those ideas. You can always edit them later, but never in the idea stage. Be wild and crazy and say “Yes…and!”


Listening and observing are two other traits that are important for improv and for creativity. The best improvisors are able to read their fellow actors almost as if they could read their minds. Attention to detail is needed in improv and in creativity.


I like hanging out with smart, creative people. I’m okay at coming up with ideas on my own, but when surrounded by people who aren’t afraid to generate a lot of ideas and keep a good, interesting conversation going, it stimulates my brain to become more creative. Hang out with people who have a diversity of opinions and backgrounds and you’ll expand your thinking.


When I lead an audience through an improv game there is always the tendency to try and make it perfect without making mistakes. But the mistakes are usually what ends up making the funniest scenes and the most creative ideas. If you want to be more creative you have to be willing to jump off the cliff and say “yes…and!”






Why Play is Important for Creativity

Why Play is Important for Creativity

Most of the articles out there about play involve children and how important it is for their development. But what about adults? I guess adults don’t really have to incorporate play into their lives, but how boring would that be? According to Plato “Life must be lived as play”. And if you want to be more creative, play is absolutely essential.  

As a creativity keynote speaker I always incorporate play into every speech or workshop I do, whether it’s improv or creativity games. Play helps you relax the neurons in the brain so you’re able to make connections your unrelaxed, analytical brain would never even think of.   It usually takes a while to get people out of their comfort zones. I notice that many don’t want to look silly in front of their boss or co-workers. They don’t want to fail. That’s human nature.   Creativity is all about trial and error, and that means you will fail a lot. It’s much easier to laugh at those failures and learn from them. After all, that’s what kids do when they play.  

Watch how kids experiment through play, and how totally engrossed they can get in a game or putting together a toy castle. Kids can turn an empty box into a spaceship or use it as a counter in a store. They make up their own rules as they go along. And they fall down a lot. But they learn from it.

What I notice in doing creativity exercises and improv with a large group is that once the first person jumps in and starts having fun, others want to join in the fun. One person is always willing to jump off the cliff and take some risks. Once people in the audience see that the reward for taking risks is having fun, it makes it okay to try it.   Kids play for some of the same reasons adults do – to relax, have fun, develop better social skills, express yourself, and strengthen imaginations. When I teach creativity it’s all for the end result of business and making money from it. But it all starts with play.   Here is why these elements are important:  

  • Relax – Have you ever wondered why you tend to come up with your best ideas at the end of a long day, when your brain is exhausted? Or when you’re out having a couple of beers with your co-workers? It seems there is something to that. A psychology professor at Albion University did a study where he gave analytical and insight-based problems to over 400 students at different times of the day, and found that students did better on problems that involved insight when they were tired. Having a couple of drinks has been shown to increase creativity also for the same reason. Focusing and concentrating too much on a problem can block the creative process for problem solving. When you’re more relaxed you’re more likely to come up with ideas that aren’t the first ones that pop into your head. Those tend to be much more creative an unique.


  • Have fun – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Being bored and boring is a bad combination. Life is full of stress, and stress is a creativity killer. It can actually make the brain smaller. A study on rats showed that the hippocampuses in their brains shrank after chronic exposure to stress. Play is a great way to relieve stress. A recent study conducted at the neurology department at Ohio State University by assistant professor David Beversdorf, proved that student’s stress levels affected tests that were creativity based. According to researcher Sergio Pellis, free play in children “changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of the brain”. This is critical for problem solving. And problem solving is a big part of creativity.


  • Develop better social skills – Anyone who’s played an improv game knows it’s mostly a team sport. If you want to get better at brainstorming, improv is a great way to bounce ideas off of each other. It teaches you how to work together to solve problems. You can’t spend your time worrying about what you’re going to say next because you have no idea which direction the conversation will go in. It allows you to just roll with whatever happens and sometimes the most creative things come out of the unexpected. It’s an element of comedy and an element of creativity.


  • Express yourself – Many great ideas never see the light of day in business meetings because many people won’t speak up for fear that others won’t like their ideas or will think they are stupid. And sometimes they are right. When those ideas get shot down quickly in a meeting, those same people are hesitant to shout out any more ideas. When you are in the middle of a playful improv game that’s less likely to happen since everyone is shouting out stupid, silly answers. Play helps people express themselves better because it’s all in good fun, and there are no wrong answers. I purposely want people to be as silly and outrageous as possible. The more outrageous the better.


  • Strengthen imaginations – Reality sucks sometimes. A lot of times. It seems like a never ending cycle of paying bills, pleasing the boss, pleasing clients, traffic, waiting in lines, waiting on hold on the phone, and just getting through the day. But in your imagination you can be anywhere and anyone you want to be. A rock star. An astronaut. On a deserted island. Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Without imagination we would have no inventions. Imagination has allowed us to advance as a society and have a better life. Escaping reality is very good for relieving stress and vital for creativity.

  So, the next time you want to feel more creative and generate some new ideas, add a little play to your life.  

Are You a Genius?

Are You a Genius?

What do you think of when you hear the word genius? If you’re like most people, you think that person probably has a high IQ. But IQ test scores only measure problem solving and reasoning. It doesn’t measure creativity, and it doesn’t account for savants.


It’s been reported that artist Andy Warhol had an IQ of only 86. And the real life Rainman, Kim Peeks, had an IQ that is well below average, yet he was able to read two pages at once (one with his left eye and one with his right) and could remember every piece of music he’d ever heard.


Stephen Wiltshire was a mute, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old and sent away to a school for children with special needs. Unable to speak, he was able to communicate on paper through drawings. Finally by the age of nine he spoke his first word, “paper”.


His drawings of landscapes got progressively better, and now he is able to draw a detailed landscape of a city after seeing it only once. After a brief helicopter ride over Tokyo, he drew a detailed and accurate picture of the city.


Psychiatrist Darold Treffert, who specializes in savant syndrome, believes that Wiltshire is able to tap into excess reserves of creativity through unique wiring between the left and right brain.


The study, “The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein’s Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence”, which was published in the journal Brain, showed that the genius’ left and right brain hemispheres were unusually connected.


Studies have shown that the more different parts of the brain interact and connect with each other, the more likely it will be that that person has a higher IQ and is more creative. This makes perfect sense, since people who are classified as geniuses, in IQ or creativity, usually have a wide variety of interests and are more curious.


Members of Mensa, also known as the “high IQ organization”, also have a wide variety of interests, in subjects like literature, science, language and the arts. The qualification for membership is that you must score in the top 2% of the population on their standardized intelligence test. There are more than 100,000 members worldwide and range in age from 2 to 102. (yes, there is a 2 year old mensa member!)


Even a society like Mensa doesn’t claim to represent true genius, which is the merging of intelligence, creativity, and outstanding achievement. True geniuses have an incredible ability to focus on a task with blinders on. They will explore all angles and cast a wide net to solve a problem. A genius knows they may have to fail a lot over and over again in order to find the right answer. Their intensity and passion for a topic or a project keep them energized and constantly searching for answers.


But just having a high IQ isn’t an indicator of success. University of Michigan Professor of Psychology, Richard Nesbitt, thinks that curiosity is a better indicator. Also, being flexible, open minded, and having a tolerance for chaos and change helps.


Charles Darwin’s cousin Sir Francis Galton had a very high IQ. Much higher than Darwin’s. Galton had a great career as a scientist, but unlike Darwin, he never went on to master any of the fields he went into.


Darwin, on the other hand, focused on one passion and pursued it with vigor. He loved collecting biological specimens, and it became his life’s work. He was able to endure all of the hard work and learning because it wasn’t work to him. This is common among many people who dedicate their lives to something they want to master, until they rise to the top of their field.


Another genius, Leonardo di Vinci, was an extremely skilled painter, inventor, artist, scientist, engineer, architect, cartographer, anatomist, botanist and writer. He wasn’t just someone who dabbled in all of those fields, he actually mastered them all. Even if he had only painted The Mona Lisa and Last Supper, he still would have been a genius.


Da Vinci grew up poor and had no formal training. This may have been a blessing because he was left to his own devices and didn’t have to rely on what the scholars said. He was self taught and studied what he found interesting. He observed the world around him, and spent a lot of time outdoors studying nature, keeping detailed notes of everything. He called himself a “disciple of experience” because he learned about life by observing it and experiencing it.


He came up with theories and constantly tested them, using scientific method before it was invented. He was a creative genius who never wanted to copy anything someone else had done. As an inventor he came up with unique ideas like the anemometer (an instrument for measuring the speed of wind), a revolving bridge, which could quickly be packed up and moved, and scuba gear.


Like most creative geniuses, he would work on multiple projects at the same time, or what psychologists call “diffused attention”. Creative geniuses tend to have a variety of interests and are easily bored.


Sir Francis Galton was the first to put together a study on whether people inherit their genius or not. In his book “Hereditary Genius”, he argued that genius is something you are born with. But that argument has been challenged, most recently with Malcolm Gladwell, who says that genius is a product of years of hard work, dedication and practice.


Philosophers have wondered for centuries whether genius is born or made. Though a person may be born with some of the traits of genius, true genius requires an enormous amount of study and hard work to excel in an industry and reach the pinnacle. Geniuses are also able to come up with ideas no one else has ever thought of. So, it’s not just having the skill, but also coming up with innovative ideas.


This is why I believe creativity is something you have to work hard at to master. If you’re born with incredible genius genes, great. If not, there’s still hope if you really want to master something and rise to the level of genius.




Primitive Creativity and Innovation

Primitive Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation cover such a wide spectrum, it’s hard to say when it all actually started. Since the beginning of mankind we have had a propensity to come up with new ideas, and constantly improve on existing ideas. The need to create is built into our DNA.


Some of the most primitive ideas generated by mankind were the controlled use of fire, farming, language, tools, and the wheel. Creativity and innovation were used to create the first tools to hunt animals, farming to grow food, fire to cook the food, and devices to build shelter. But the art that decorated their caves was purely aesthetic. Creativity and innovation continued long after basic needs were met.


This didn’t happen overnight, but over thousands of years of evolution. The most dramatic burst of creativity occurred between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago with a sudden increase in brain size, which was favored through natural selection. This brought about an increase in more complex tools and art. It’s possible that a larger brain allowed for more memory capacity or more complicated pattern recognition, which is needed for innovation.


As population growth hit a critical mass, creativity and innovation began exploding since more people were generating more ideas and connecting to each other, which also improved the chances of coming up with great ideas. The more ideas you are exposed to from more sources, the more chances you have of combining ideas and improving existing ideas to generate new and innovative ones. Today we would call that crowdsourcing, the practice of engaging the collective wisdom of a group in order to solve problems.


Population growth wasn’t the only reason creativity and innovation progressed, but was just one factor, along with social and biological changes.


As an inventor who speaks on inventing and innovation, I usually get at least one person who says that everything that could be invented has been invented. That’s not even close to the truth. We haven’t yet scratched the surface of innovation. With the invention of so many devices that keep more people than ever connected and sharing ideas, I predict a new explosion of innovation in the coming years. We can’t even imagine now exactly what the future holds. But it will be interesting.



3 Reasons People Resist Change and How to Fix it

3 Reasons People Resist Change and How to Fix it

Change is something that’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. As a business owner, if you wait for change to happen, your competition is going to eat your dust. Getting stuck in the same old tired ideas that aren’t working anymore is a formula for failure.


As a keynote speaker and consultant, I’m hired by corporations to encourage their employees to change and think differently. I stand on a stage and cheerlead for them to try something new and break out of their old patterns of thinking.


But the truth is that we all resist change, including myself. Patterns become so engrained in our brains that, unless we constantly create new pathways, new connections, new experiences, and new ideas, those neural patterns are doomed to stay stuck in neutral.


Are there people who spend their whole life stuck in neutral? Sure. But they will never be innovators. Companies, individuals, countries, communities, and organizations that stay stuck in neutral risk developing brains (and companies) that are deeply embedded in sameness. By using the same neural pathways over and over again, it gets harder and harder to get out of that rut. Kind of like a car that gets stuck in the mud. If you keep your foot on the gas, all you do is dig yourself deeper into that rut. Neural patterns in the brain work the same way.


Change is Hard Work


So, one reason people resist change is because change is hard work. If you want to grow new neurons and build more connections, you’ll have to work those areas of the brain that are weak. Just like a weak muscle, weak neurons require a lot of work. And not everyone wants to work that hard.


This is why I disguise my creativity and innovation “work” as play. When we are playing we get lost in the moment and we’re much more likely to suspend criticism and simply have fun. It becomes easier to try something new and experimental.


Fear of Being Different


Another reason people resist change is because they fear being different from everyone else. The worst thing I hear from organizations is “that’s the way it’s always been done”. As an outsider I can instantly see when something doesn’t make good common sense. As an outsider I can question those things without fear of retribution. But for those in the organization who have to live with those bad choices every day, sometimes it’s safer just to go along and not rock the boat. It takes courage to buck the trend and stand up for change.


Not in Their Best Interest


The third reason people resist change is because it doesn’t work in their best interest. If someone is in a good, cushy, high paying job, radical change may not be in their own best interest. Why upset the apple cart and risk losing that sweet gravy train? Again, as a consultant on the outside looking in, it’s baffling the amount of money that’s being wasted on stupid, stuck in the mud decisions.


I have a friend who takes over failing companies and turns them around to make them profitable. One of the first things he does is eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse in the company’s budget. He eliminates duplication, like having two vice presidents, both with big salaries. Neither of those people would ever complain or instigate change because it’s not in their best interest.


Management can help their employees adjust to change by letting them know what’s going on and being honest about how the change is going to impact them. Also, involving them in the change will help ease them into it and give them permission to speak their minds about it without fear of punishment. Change is not only inevitable, it’s vital for growth.


Can Creativity Be Automated?

Can Creativity Be Automated?

The topic of artificial intelligence taking over the world has been something fiction writers have been talking about for years. But should we be worried about robots taking over our jobs? I mean, they are already capable of cleaning our floors, like the Roomba, and they can drive our cars. But those are manual tasks. What about creativity? Can that also be automated? And should actors, speakers, writers and artists be worried about losing a job to SpeakerBot 2000?



Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist from Rice University believes that day may be closer than we think. In fact, he believes that within 30 years, artificial intelligence could put half of all humans out of a job. “We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task”, said Vardi. Then “what will humans do?”


And he’s not the only one who thinks that. Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey, are University of Oxford researchers who have estimated that 47% of all US jobs could be taken over through automation by 2033.


It’s not all bad news though. Automation has raised productivity in the industrial sector, but the bad news is that it has also raised unemployment.


So, does that mean that robots will be able to take over all jobs? What about jobs that involve creativity? Most experts say that creatives are relatively safe from being replaced by a machine. Osborne and Frey have concluded through their research that 90% of creatives don’t have to worry about losing their jobs to robots. Other things maybe, but not robots.


That doesn’t mean robots couldn’t eventually evolve into a creative force to be reckoned with. But for now, robots lack complex problem solving, empathy, and intuition, all elements that can be used by a creative person to do their job. But, we’ve been wrong about robots before. So maybe artists shouldn’t take them for granted.

Why Creativity Gets Better With Age

Why Creativity Gets Better With Age

Aging, in general, gets a bad rap. Though it’s true that as you age your body slowly goes through changes and all vital organs begin to lose some of their function. A seventy year old may not be able to compete physically with a twenty year old in a marathon, but there’s one area where they could run rings around someone decades younger… creativity. And creativity gets better with age.


Let me see if I can sum it up in a simple, non technical way. Much of creativity is about making connections. You need a wide range of connections in order to cross-polinate those ideas into new ideas. So to put it another way, the older you get, the more “stuff” you have in your brain to connect.


Because you’ve done and seen more, learned more and lived more, by the time you reach your senior years you’re better able to see the big picture. As Steve Jobs put it “Younger people don’t have enough dots to connect”.


So, am I looking forward to getting older from a creative point of view? You bet! But just getting older doesn’t make you more creative. Creativity is something that needs to be constantly used, like a muscle. The more you use it and challenge yourself, the better it gets.


Here are some ways to challenge your creativity:


  • Expand your social circles – You can learn something from everyone. If you only hang out with people who are exactly like you, that’s all you ever learn. Expand your circle to include people who are drastically different from you, with different backgrounds, different ages, different career paths, different cultures.


  • Read constantly – No matter how much you read you will never tackle it all in your lifetime. But make an attempt to. Become a living sponge and absorb all of the knowledge the world has to offer.


  • Keep an open mind – Learn to see both sides of an argument. Engage in conversation with people you disagree with. This challenges you to think beyond your own world view.


Once you begin to see the endless possibilities the aging brain is capable of, the more exciting creativity itself becomes. It’s like a book that’s never completely finished.

A Week of Creativity and Innovation

A Week of Creativity and Innovation

Every year fifty countries around the world take one week to celebrate world creativity and innovation week. This takes place between April 15th through April 21st in communities and organizations who want to think differently.


World creativity and innovation week was started by several Canadians in 2001 who were shocked by a newspaper headline that Canada was having a creativity crisis and they knew they could do something about it. So they started a creativity movement that caught on around the world.


If you ask me I think that there is an ongoing creativity crisis, especially right now. And not just in Canada. I’m not sure if it’s that most people don’t know how to be creative or that the process of what you have to go through to be creative is just way out of most people’s comfort zone.


But I do feel like many people are stuck in neutral and need new and innovative ideas to get out of it. Many companies are stuck in neutral without the skills to generate new ideas that might help them become more competitive.


World creativity and innovation week is at least starting a dialogue to get more people to realize that people can step outside their comfort zone and do something different, even if it’s just for one week.


The thing about creativity is that once you start and find out how much fun it is, you want to keep it going. It’s like a muscle that needs to be used every day or it suffers from atrophy.


The world creativity and innovation organization is completely run by volunteers who are interested in connecting people from all over the world to become more creative.


If you want to join in the movement set aside the week of April 15th, which happens to be Leonardo di Vinci’s birthday, and do something different. Anything. Creativity starts with one step.


Do Creative People Think Highly of Themselves?

Do Creative People Think Highly of Themselves?

A recent study on creativity showed that people who are highly creative tend to score low on tests of humility and honesty. After spending most of my life in the entertainment industry and being surrounded by creative people, I’ve run into plenty who thought highly of themselves and would score low on honesty. But I’ve also been around plenty of creative people who are also very honest and humble.


I would have to say that the ones that are still humble are less likely to make it to the A list though. Being creative and making a great living from your creativity seem to be two separate things. Unfortunately some of the most creative people never make great money at their craft and remain very humble and honest.


The study, which used the HEXACO model of personality structure, said that the people who scored low on humility and honesty were more likely to bend the rules for their own monetary gain and had a sense of entitlement. So, does this mean you have to be arrogant and dishonest in order to make a lot of money with your creativity. I hope not. And certainly the most creative people, whether they are writers, actors, artists, etc. don’t always make a lot of money.


There is another piece here besides just creativity. In today’s world you also need to be a good pitch person. And that requires a different set of skills. Most creatives are not very good at the business side. It helps to have both.


Creativity means putting yourself on display for others to judge. That means your ego will take a beating and you have to be pretty confident to keep doing it for the long haul. You have to have a thick skin to keep taking that beating over and over again. Maybe this helps to explain why creative people think highly of themselves. You have to believe in your own creativity before others will.


Robots Can Inspire Creativity in Kids

Robots Can Inspire Creativity in Kids

Okay, so kids think robots are cool. But it appears robots are now able to help kids be more creative. This is according to Latitude, an international research firm. They asked kids around the world to write and illustrate a story that answers the question “What if robots were a part of your everyday life in and out of school”?



The goal of the study was to help educators and others see the relationship between learning and play among children. It covers both high tech and low tech solutions. The study had about 350 kid innovators between the ages of 8-12.



Kids blur the line between technology and human learning, whereas adults tend to see technology as separate. But here’s what I find fascinating. Robots, in the kid’s eyes, would support and encourage them without judging them. Interesting.



So, does this mean an end to the human teacher as we know it? After all, robots can teach for hours and hours without getting tired or having to take a break. Robots don’t need a lunch hour. And, I would bet they don’t make anywhere close to a teacher’s salary. And they never call in sick.


Kids also said that the robot teachers inspired them to be more creative and to take more risks. It makes sense. After all, a big part of taking risks is the knowledge that you won’t be judged. This is a great lesson for every human teacher that wants to inspire their students to become more creative and innovative in everything they do.


Teachers can inspire creativity in their students by allowing them to play and experiment. Play is how kids learn to be creative. They learn by trial and error, curiosity, working with others, and by letting them make their own mistakes without judgement.


Come to think of it, that’s exactly how adults can be inspired to be more creative too.





Why China Lacks Creativity

Why China Lacks Creativity

As someone who’s been a victim of Chinese counterfeiters, I’m one person who wishes the Chinese were more creative and not just copycats. But it wasn’t always like that.


One of the most important innovations in history came from China. Ts’ai Lun, the inventor of paper is considered to be one the top ten most influential people in history. It’s hard to even imagine a world without paper. Before paper, most books were made of bamboo, which made them quite heavy to carry around. There were a few books written on silk, but only the wealthy could afford them. Papyrus was used in the Western world, which was more advanced than China.


After the invention of paper, China became one of the most productive civilizations on earth. This continued for seven or eight centuries. Other inventions, such as gunpowder and the compass pushed them even higher up the scale.


But these days creativity in China has been replaced by a rote system of learning. Chinese children are good at memorizing, reciting, and repetition, but not good at using their imagination.


The “gao kao” test hangs over the heads of all high school students like a cloud. It’s a grueling, stressful test that high school students must take to get into college. But it’s much more than that. It basically determines what path they will take in life, what college they get into, what kind of job they’ll get, who they marry, and how much money they’ll make. No pressure there, huh?


This is one reason Chinese students are programmed from an early age to memorize answers instead of working on problem solving and coming up with their own solution. Parents and teachers spoon feed them answers and they parrot them back. There is so much riding on this one test that there is no room at all for creativity.


But the Chinese do understand that in order to compete in a global economy they’ll have to do more than just repeat lines.


At the same time it’s hard to convince people in a strict, formal educational system that play is just as valuable as study. In order to be creative you have to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to fail. That is a very hard pill to swallow when you’ve spent your whole young life avoiding it at all costs. Decades of doing things one way and doing it so strictly makes change uncomfortable. But China will eventually get to the point where they will either have to change or be left behind by innovation.

4 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Kids

4 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Kids

Ahh, what did kids do before XBOX and Wii? What did kids do before computer games? Well, they probably had a much stronger imagination. And imagination is important to a child’s cognitive development. Studies show that children who have imaginary friends are more likely to be more creative and better able to solve problems.


As it turns out, the things that you are able to do for free with your children are also some of the best for them, like engaging them in creativity. Here are some ways to encourage creativity in kids that doesn’t cost a lot of money:


  • Make-believe – A few items from the closet, like hats, purses, and common household items can be transformed into characters with a little imagination. Get your child to come up with stories based around those characters and act them out. Kids love it when adults join them in their make-believe storytelling. This helps to strengthen their communication skills and builds confidence.


  • Reading aloud – Creativity is about making associations between different kinds of ideas and creating something new from them. Reading and hearing stories stimulates their creativity by getting them to be exposed to new things. Also, reading aloud to your kids helps improve their listening skills. It can be entertaining and educational.



  • Encourage independence – Allow kids to make as many independent choices as possible. Kids and adults will tend to stick with things that excite them. Let them choose the hobbies, books, games, and activities they want. Then give them the tools and encouragement they need to succeed.



  • Forget about results – Studies show that children from a results-oriented culture like China tend to be less creative because they are so pressured to focus on memorizing information and passing tests.  Creativity is a process of it’s own with no test at the end. Let kids experiment without deadlines or the stress of actually producing anything at all. They will learn more about creativity through the actual trial and error process.


Kids are naturally curious and open minded. Challenge them and nurture that curiosity, and allow them to make their own mistakes, while keeping them safe.


Innovation and Creativity

Innovation and Creativity



After spending the day speaking to several different groups about innovation and creativity I realized how hard it was to convince people that they are both important. Even though creativity and innovation are two different things, they also go hand in hand. To be innovative you have to be creative. If you want to come up with ideas, you have to think outside of your own head. (a better way of saying ‘think outside the box’)


And coming up with new ideas that no one has ever thought of before requires going outside your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to go way out of that comfort zone, and that’s scary for many people. All of us tend to get stuck in a rut. Even the most creative people fall into patterns that work for them. It’s human nature to follow the path of least resistance. It works for some things, like finding the fastest, most efficient way to get to work in the morning. But the process of creativity means taking roads you’ve never taken before. And that can mean it might just take longer to get where you’re going. People tend to want instant results and creativity takes its time.

Read More…

Conformity Kills Creativity in Kids

Conformity Kills Creativity in Kids

Remember in school when you were told that you couldn’t color outside of the lines? I remember it vividly and got in trouble for even questioning why we couldn’t.


I understand the reasons for rules, especially as a kid when you seem most powerless against the all powerful adults who just don’t understand. I know you need to show up for class on time, pay attention, do your homework, and don’t disrupt the class. But when it comes to your imagination, there really aren’t any rules.


I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, even in grade school, but was discouraged by my teachers to pursue it. It seems my experience wasn’t unusual. Even though America is the land of opportunity and entrepreneurs, our current school system doesn’t give students the tools or the encouragement to take creative risks. Guidance counselors never gave me option of being an entrepreneur. They kept trying to steer me in the direction of college, which was neither a financial option for me nor of any interest when I just wanted to jump into the world of entrepreneurship and find my own path.


Student creativity has been in serious decline for the past few decades, according to Kyung Hee Kim, Professor of Education at the College of William and Mary. She found in her study of creative thinking, “that children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” This makes me sad for all of the children who are having their creative dreams stifled before they even get a chance to blossom. It sets them up for a lifetime of conformity and a fear of failure.


Durham, NC teacher Turquoise Parker is inspiring her students to learn how to use critical thinking by asking more questions. This is a great way to set students up to become more creative and to look at everything from a different perspective. It’s a great way to get kids to consider alternative interpretations and unpopular views.


As a kid who insisted on coloring outside the lines, I’m now an entrepreneur and small business owner who is in a position to hire those future employees. I don’t pay as much attention to what’s on a resume, but value someone who is curious, willing to learn, and a problem solver.


The job market of the future is changing, and will require more critical and creative thinking. I hope I can do my part to spread the message that more creativity is needed.




Teenager Uses Creativity to Give Homeless Kids Hope

Teenager Uses Creativity to Give Homeless Kids Hope

I love to hear stories like this. Hope for Creativity was started by a teenager who recognizes how important creativity is, and that everyone should have access to the tools to make it possible. It doesn’t take much, but for those who are homeless, art supplies would be considered a luxury. Here is Moira Landry’s story:

by Chris Cassidy

It’s a familiar scene that plays out hundreds of times on the streets of any major city every day. But for Moira Landry, it was a brief but life-changing event.

About five years ago, she was on a weekend trip to New York City with her mother when a woman asked if they could spare a few dollars for lunch.

“I gave it to her,” said Moira’s mother, Melinda Hanlon. “Then Moira asked why she had so many bags. And I said, ‘Well, she probably carries everything she owns.’ She kind of pondered on that and said, ‘I want to help those people.'” Read More…

Positive Mood Seems to Boost Creativity

Positive Mood Seems to Boost Creativity

A new study shows that happy people are better able to be creative:

Article by Robert Preidt

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) — People who are seeking creative inspiration should try to look on the bright side, the results of a new study suggest.

Canadian researchers used happy or sad video and music clips to put participants into different moods and then had them learn to classify sets of pictures with visually complex patterns.

People in a happy mood were better able to learn a rule to classify the patterns than those with sad or neutral moods, said Ruby Nadler, a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario, and colleagues. Read More…

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Make Creativity a Habit

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Make Creativity a Habit

Working writers and other artists know that you have to “work” at being creative. Writer’s block isn’t an option when you are being paid to crank out scripts, novels, or articles. So you have to make creativity a habit every day.


It’s no different for entrepreneurs. Every day is a new creative challenge. How can we balance our budget? Get more customers? Create new marketing strategies?


  • Stretch your brain – Facing a blank slate is daunting, but you have to start somewhere. Warming up your creative brain is similar to a runner stretching. Stretch your brain with new knowledge, new music, new input. Do something different every single day. Whether it’s driving down a new road, watching a new TV show or listening to a different point of view, try to stretch your brain as much as possible.


  • Set a goal – Come up with 10 new ways to get more customers. Setting a goal forces you to focus on the task at hand. Don’t edit yourself. Just reach the goal of 10 new ideas and keep the ones that make sense.


  • Keep an idea file – This should be for new products, new services, new markets and new ways of doing business. Put all of your research and notes into the files as you come up with them. You may not need it now, but keep it handy for the future. You never know when trends are going to change and you want to be ready to change with it. Be ready with new ideas.


  • Get in your creative “zone” – What gets you in your creative zone? Is it a ritualistic cup of coffee or a certain kind of music? I found that writing a page of “stream of consciousness” nonsense will spur me to start writing. Do something. Anything. But just get started.


  • Brainstorm with others – There’s no reason you have to create all by yourself. Brainstorm with someone else to get your creative juices flowing. Sometimes talking it out takes you on a completely different path that you hadn’t thought of. And input from someone else may give you ideas you wouldn’t have come up with yourself.


The bottom line is just to get in the habit of doing it every day. The more ideas you come up with, the better your chances of having one of them be brilliant.