Archive for the ‘education’ Tag

Morning-after thoughts

Many thoughts whirring around this post-election morning.  The popular vote was closer than I’d expected, and I have so often been on the losing side of these exercises, so I worry some about those who counted on McCain.  They’re angry and uncomprehending this morning.  They number in the many millions, and they’re very different from me, and we’ll continue to live and work side by side, but the rift remains.

A tough young lady in line ahead of me at the polls yesterday had on a t-shirt proclaiming, “There’s a reason they call it the White House.”  Make no mistake, this kind of thinking still persists in all its mean-spirited ignorance.

As noted by several pundits and columnists recently, the trend in the past eight years has been to dis the intellect.  Liberals and democrats have been scorned for their thinking and research in favor of a cowboy, shoot-from-the-hip, my-country-right-or-wrong attitude.  I was shocked a couple days ago to be talking with a respected business person in my town, who rejected the idea of offering an ‘education moment’ in meetings, because the word ‘education’ turns people off.

Oh my, that hurt.  It’s true enough, I suppose.  Education, to so many of us, means irritating grade school teachers, interminable boredom, and an irrelevant waste of time.  So many of us have not submitted to education since high school, and are proud of it! 

But the truth is that learning is liberation; education draws out the very best in us, and ignorance keeps us enchained.  With Obama’s victory, perhaps we have a chance to renew our respect for education.  It surely is the only way we’ll heal the deep divide between the red and blue states and “create a more perfect union.”

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Practice, practice, practice!

Perhaps the biggest change that’s needed in the general mindset about creativity is that it is something that must be practiced to operate at optimum capacity.  We think of creativity as something that comes in short bursts, a ‘muse’ that travels on its own schedule, over which we have no control.  We regard ‘creative people’ as mysterious demi-gods; we’re convinced they are born with this attribute and simply have been blessed with more gifts than other mere mortals.

But the fact is, if a human can breathe, s/he can create.  It is part of every individual’s basic humanity. 

I consider creativity to be very like physical fitness.  A hundred years ago, Americans didn’t worry terrribly much about physical fitness:  our lifestyle did not require special attention to it; we still retained a general fitness resulting from an active lifestyle.  But in the mid-20th century, physical fitness became the issue it still is today.  We had to learn to practice fitness, to make room for it in our daily lives, or suffer the consequences of ill-health and discomfort.

 Likewise, we’ve evolved as a nation in our creativity.  From our earliest days all the way through the second World War, a pioneering spirit was the main characteristic of Americans.   Since then, however, we have become couch potatoes (to put it succinctly).   It’s ironic how exponential technical improvements in communications and production have led to a paralysis in individual creativity.  We’re overwhelmed by the technology, and feel dimished in its presence.  I believe, however, that this reaction is temporary.  As soon as we completely assimilate the realities of the internet age, our native creativity will once again assert itself.

The ‘creative person,’ the one we revere as uniquely blessed, seems to be so only because s/he is immersed in creative practice.  If we want a flat tummy, we do sit-ups.  If we want to nurture creativity, we have to practice it.  Absolutely anyone can learn to be creative.  And, as with physical fitness, that practice must be regularly maintained.

I appreciate the comment submitted yesterday by Jeff …. When advocating for creativity research and practice, the first obstacle we face is tremendous fear.  To the soul that has buried its creative impulses, change and challenge are terrifying.  We prefer to remain in our winter of discontent than to awaken to raw spring.  This is understandable, though not sustainable in the long run.  Those of us urging a return to creative practice do well to offer approaches that are gentle in the extreme, to ease people out of their fears with  appropriate compassion.

I’ll suggest some of these gentle practices in upcoming posts.

Call to creativity

It’s surprising that the word creativity is not featured in the tag clouds.  I notice the call to creativity everywhere in business these days, and wonder that there is not more discussion or instruction about it.  Perhaps everyone assumes it’s one of those givens, like being good.  People are expected to be good and we don’t spend much time examining the details. 

The fact is that our old ways are inadequate to deal with the issues we now face.  We use the word creativity to summarize the combination of iconoclasm and bright thinking we seek in business today.  Yet one is hard pressed to find training or analysis in what it is to be creative.  Many many books are available on the subject, but the average business person has little access to customized instruction.  We do webinars and courses in technical aspects of commerce.  We attend workshops on leadership, management, employee relations,  organizational development and all those aspects of our working lives that depend so much on our personal creativity.  But how many of us truly understand the power and effectiveness of a creative world view; how many of us exercise the precepts of creativity on a daily basis?

The truth is that we are not educated to do so.  We cannot even adequately define the term.  Education generally focuses on assimilating the world, and does its best to forget that the Self is a major source of knowledge as well.  My hero, Eric Booth, points out that there are three ways to learn:  through information coming from others, through personal experience, and through self-examination. 

Industrialism required the subjugation of the individual.  The information age requires effective personal creativity.  It behooves us to study into the cultivation of creativity: how this basic human ability is accessed, practiced and put to profitable use.