In France, in 1818, a nine-year-old boy accidentally blinded himself with a hole puncher while helping his father make horse harnesses. A few years later the boy was sitting in the yard thinking about his inability to read and write when a friend handed him a pinecone. He ran his fingers over the cone and noted the tiny differences between the scales. He conceptually blended the feel of different pinecone scales with reading and writing, and realized he could create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so the blind could feel and read what was written with it. In this way Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind. Braille made a creative connection between a pinecone and reading. When you make a connection between two unrelated subjects, your imagination will leap to fill the gaps and form a whole in order to make sense of it. It is this willingness to use your imagination to fill in the gaps that produces the unpredictable idea. This is why Einstein claimed that imagination is more important than knowledge. 
Michael Michalko

Brainstorming Story (Chinese)

This is one of a series of simple stories I used in the past to help get teams brainstorming over various new features. This one modeled a reward system.

“Party’s-R-Us” 是一間美國派對用品備製造商,目前在整個中國大陸擴展其銷售業務。 他們目前的產品,五彩紙屑、手拍和彩帶仍然廣受歡迎,但是銷售在減緩。 為了提高銷售額,他們想要引入具有同樣助興功能的新產品。 他們僱用了我們幫助他們提出新的產品創意。

唯一的限制是產品必須專注於慶祝,因為他們的其它產品類別正在達成銷售目標。 此外,別無限制!

問題:我們能夠給 “Party’s-R-Us” 什麼其他產品發想來執行或表現慶祝?
我們能夠給 “Party’s-R-Us” 什麼其他產品的點子用來表現或表示慶祝?

Disruptions and distractions prompt us to get creative

I heard this story during in an NPR podcast yesterday during my morning run. Beginning with my time at ITRI where the teams were made of people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities I’ve believed that change, disruption, conflict, friction and chaos can help foster great work. It at least spurs ideas and makes for an engaging and fun workplace.

In 1975, jazz pianist Keith Jarrett played a concert that would go down in history. For this performance in Cologne, he used an old, virtually unplayable Bösendorfer piano – the only one available at the venue.Jarrett couldn’t play the ancient piano like he would a new one. It was out of tune, too quiet, the pedals were sticky and the high notes had a tinny ring to them. So instead, he improvised.To cope with the poor resonance, he played rumbling bass riffs. To boost the volume, he played while standing, pushing the keys harder and thereby giving the piece a new intensity. It was by playing in this unorthodox manner that he created a unique work of art.This is not unusual: disruptions force us to find new, creative approaches. After all, as long as our habits and routines are functional, there’s no need to alter them. Novel, potentially far-superior practices are usually discovered in periods of disruption.

From Tim Harford’s Messy, which is all about order and tidiness, or rather, why they’re overrated. In his Ted Talk he gives a further example which anyone involved with design might relate to:

We’ve actually known for a while that certain kinds of difficulty, certain kinds of obstacle, can actually improve our performance. For example, the psychologist Daniel Oppenheimer, a few years ago, teamed up with high school teachers. And he asked them to reformat the handouts that they were giving to some of their classes. So the regular handout would be formatted in something straightforward, such as Helvetica or Times New Roman. But half these classes were getting handouts that were formatted in something sort of intense, like Haettenschweiler, or something with a zesty bounce, like Comic Sans italicized. Now, these are really ugly fonts, and they’re difficult fonts to read. But at the end of the semester, students were given exams, and the students who’d been asked to read the more difficult fonts, had actually done better on their exams, in a variety of subjects. And the reason is, the difficult font had slowed them down, forced them to work a bit harder, to think a bit more about what they were reading, to interpret it … and so they learned more.

We need to deal with the awkward strangers, we need to try to read the ugly fonts, we need to embrace difficult situations, and we need to place ourselves willingly in these environments. It helps us. It helps us solve problems and be more creative.

Imagination is the source of our creativity

Romero Britto designed pig mascot at Fuzhou, Fujian.

Creativity takes imagination one step further and puts it to work – creativity is imagination applied.

Being creative means coming up with original ideas that have value and doing something with those ideas. This is not limited to the arts, but can be in math, engineering, writing or business.

There are two steps to the creative process. The first is generating new ideas and the second is evaluating those idea in order to evaluate, elaborate, refine and maybe ultimately reject them.

Having ideas alone is not enough, these ideas must be applied and evaluated. Of course not all ideas are immediately accepted or celebrated, many will face ridicule or scorn.

It’s important for us all to play and try new things. For both fun and to apply the things we learn to the main activities we perform each day.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Kurt Vonnegut Via.

Barry’s impact on the assembled Goddard employees was immediate; from the moment she arrived, she insisted on abandoning all electronic devices. “They were really flipped out about it,” says Barry. “The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.
Lynda Barry at NASA: Drawing to Infinity and Beyond. Via RUK.

Thinking, particular creative thought requires disengagement. My best work, or really any work that requires thought at all, is generally done without a mobile phone or any screen. Later, after pen has hit paper, these ideas are ready to be solidified with some kind of device with a screen.

Community is critical for creative folks because creating the work is so inwardly focused. … Participating in a community becomes a way to let some sympathetic people into your process so you don’t go crazy, while still protecting the work in its unfinished and fragile state. I see community as people working parallel to one another, sharing information and resources freely with each other. This is how useful information spreads around and how creative people find new opportunities.
Frank Chimero

This idea suggests a solution to the evolutionary paradox that is human childhood and adolescence. We humans have an exceptionally long childhood and prolonged adolescence. Why make human children so helpless for so long, and make human adults invest so much time and effort into caring for them?

The answer: Childhood and adolescence may, at least in part, be designed to resolve the tension between exploration and exploitation. Those periods of our life give us time to explore before we have to face the stern and earnest realities of grown-up life. Teenagers may no longer care all that much about how the physical world works. But they care a lot about exploring all the ways that the social world can be organized. And that may help each new generation change the world.
What Happens to Creativity as We Age?

Creativity is hard work

Despite stories of lightning-bolt revelations, creativity often requires time and effort. We are all creative.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that insight is only one step out of many that creatives move through before their idea can come to fruition. Ideas can only emerge after a foundation has been prepared and left to germinate for a while.

In order to get the best out of the process, it can be better to have a number of projects going simultaneously. This may allow all your ideas to have the necessary amount of time to develop while you work on others. Or after capturing your idea, leave it and come back to it at later date.

One common method which I have is to try to capture as many ideas each day as possible, most aren’t that good or that feasible, but later when I flip through my sketchbook, a solution to a problem might be found.

Where do ideas come from?

If I am having a good day, I’ll set out on my run with a few problems to solve. By the end of an hour I may have a solution to one, three, or none. Problem solving, or ideation, is a conscious effort. In my case it’s best done away from the office and my desk.

I always said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Every great idea came out of work. Everything. If you sit around and wait for a bolt of lightning to hit you in the skull, you may never get a good idea.

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.
— Sir Ken Robinson

A recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,408 technology and education professionals suggested that the most valuable skills in the future will be those that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. In short, people need to learn how to learn, because the only hedge against a fast-changing world is the ability to think, adapt and collaborate well.
The most forward-thinking, future-proof college in America teaches every student the exact same stuff



基於Todd Lubart的研究。

Culture Influences the Amount of Creativity

Work related to creativity has centered on individualism–collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and power distance (Hofstede, 2001; Rank, Pace, & Frese, 2004). Individualism–collectivism characterizes the strength and cohesion of bonds between people, with people looking after themselves in individualist societies and looking after the larger societal unit to which they belong in collectivist societies. Power distance refers to the extent to which power and authority are expected and accepted to be distributed unequally in a society. Uncertainty avoidance concerns the extent to which people feel uncomfortable or threat- ened by unknown, uncertain situations.

In general, collectivism, high levels of uncertainty avoidance and high power dis- tance (hierarchical structure) are negatively related to national levels of inventiveness (Hofstede, 2001). Shane (1992, 1993) exam- ined national rates of innovation in 33 countries, based on per-capita number of patents, and found an advantage for soci- eties with low uncertainty acceptance, low power distance, and high individualism. An acceptance of uncertainty (low uncer- tainty avoidance) may foster tolerance for risk and change. Individualism is associ- ated with autonomy, independence (defin- ing one’s self as unique from the group), and freedom. Ng (2003) provides empiri- cal evidence for a model in which cultural individualism–collectivism influences self- construal as independent or interdependent on others, and this self-concept in turn influ- ences creativity and conformity tendencies. Lack of power, characteristic of nonhier- archical societies, fosters enhanced interac- tions and communication between people at different status levels, such as superiors and subordinates. Finally, hierarchical soci- eties do not tend to embrace change because of the potential redistribution of power that might go against vested interests.

Thus, the classic argument is that cultures showing the creativity-compatible profile on certain dimensions (individualism, etc.) will favor the development and expression of creativity. People from these cultures should show higher performance on laboratory creativity tasks, more creative productions (e.g., more patents for inventions), and greater levels of creativity (e.g., Nobel Prize winners). It is worth noting, however, the simple effects of cultural dimensions. Phases of creative and innovative processes may relate differentially to these cultural dimensions. For example, low power distance, individualism, and low uncertainty avoidance may foster creativity, but hinder idea implementation. Hofstede (2001) sug- gested collecting ideas in certain cultural contexts (e.g., weak uncertainty avoidance, with tolerance for deviant ideas and unpredictable situations) and refining them in oth- ers (strong uncertainty avoidance, senses of detail and precision). In a similar vein, Rank et al. (2004) noted that Schwartz’s value dimension of conservatism versus intellectual autonomy is relevant to creativity. Valuing intellectual autonomy is positive for generating ideas but may hinder implemen- tation and acceptance of creative ideas.
Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Creativity – Todd Lubart

New ideas come into play far less frequently than practical ideas — ideas that can be re-used for a thousand variations, supplying the framework for a whole body of work rather than a single piece.
Art and Fear – by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Negative Emotions and The Creative Process

“Rigor is the key to overcoming obstacles and completing tasks—and good mood doesn’t improve problem-solving, which involves judgments that almost by necessity won’t feel good: critique and evaluation, experimentation and failure. The stress that arises from problems may be unpleasant but it also motivates us to complete tasks, Davis says. In other words, negative emotions are actually beneficial to the creative process.”

Scientists explain how happiness makes us less creative

George Lois: Ideas are the Product of Discovery, Not Creation

I don’t think I create anything. I’m really serious — I discover the ideas.


If you understand how to think… If you have a background of graphic art, and you are a sports fan, and you’re literate, and you’re interested in politics, and you love opera, and ballet’s not bad either, and if you understand people… and you understand language, and you understand that product, and you understand the competitive products… and you put that all together in about ten minutes — the idea’s there.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan