Sweet solitude

Does working in a group increase innovation? Or do too many cooks make a boring broth?

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switzerland1Does group work encourage creativity? Not according to the art and writing instructors that I surveyed determine which classroom environments induced creativity. Encouraging students to work in groups is suppose to improve creativity, but most instructors observed the opposite result.

More unique ideas surfaced when the learners worked on projects individually. Students collaborating in groups did not seem able to piggyback on each others’ ideas to produce elaborate and sophisticated products. Sometimes everyone followed a leader’s instruction, but the leader rarely was the most creative person. Others spent time in long discussions. Then, under time pressures they put together something that had already been done before and therefore was already familiar to the group. In a few cases, the  disagreement between members caused the end product to appear piecemeal and shoddy.

Brainstorming has been touted as the way for groups to multiply innovative thinking in the workplace. Groups sessions produce more…

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Mentors and money

How do you attract a mentor as a writer?

Write about what?

Telemachus_and_Mentor_cropIn the epic poem the Iliad, Telemachus father Odysseus was absent twenty years; first at war and then wandering on his long route home. Meanwhile his Telemachus grew to an adulthood without a father. Having pity on the youth, the goddess Athena disguised herself as an old man, took on the pseudonym “Mentor”  and became his guide. For the novice in writing finding an appropriate mentor with seems almost essential, but most of us are not as lucky as Telemachus.

Often an aspiring author seeks to further their experience and searches for someone of standing to help them. But, mentors are real people, not deities with immortality and powers.  A voluntary mentorship takes time away from an author’s own productive work. Why would they want to enter into this kind of relationship? One obvious answer is for the ego boost. It is a great self-esteem builder to have someone select…

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Wanted mentors: Dead or Alive

What can you learn from dead people?

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Old_Man_with_Water_StudiesIn the city of Florence, Italy stands the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore with a massive brick dome, a masterpiece in its day, built without the wooden framework required to hold up a dome while the mortar dried. Yet, it took centuries before anyone could build a larger one. The architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, was a goldsmith by trade who learned the secrets of architecture by examining  the work of Roman builders who died centuries before him.

In the sketch book of Leonardo da Vinci is the diagram of a unique machine for lifting heavy weights to great heights. He didn’t invent it. Filippo Brunelleschi did. However, da Vinci observed and recorded this machine in use long after its real inventor died and so he is often credited with inventing it (King 2000).

“Describe the person who influenced you the most.” That is a generic writing prompts that students (and the…

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What kind of childhood?

What influences in childhood lead to creativity?

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Club_03_VorbereitungenAccording to a review on the childhood of exceptionally creative individuals–“The growth of creativity in a young person suggests the effects of powerful nurturing and support” (Piers 2000).  But this research suggests does not occur most of the time.  Contrary to the view of  psychologists, like Maslow, who see creativity resulting from an enriched environment, that is not what many creative people record.  Rather than recalling a caring and supportive situation in childhood, their own recollections indicate a harsh, far less than ideal environment.

Many creative individuals recall stern, and almost cruel parenting in which acceptance was not unconditional, but based on performance. Their talent was not encouraged but demanded by another family member (usually the father). They described their upbringing as “more correct than warm” (Gardner 1993). Often childhood experiences of actors and writers appear in their creative works. Conflicts in the home actual contribute to the ability to…

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Beyond Self-Confidence

What do others not like about creative people?

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800px-2445_-_Milano_-_Università_statale_-_Adolfo_Wildt_(1868-1931)_-_Sant'Ambrogio_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall'Orto,_22-Feb--2008Now that innovation is essential to business, the educational institutions are attempting to encourage rather than quash creativity. With the revival of creativity as a money-making traits comes the recurring discussion of the how difficult creative people are. So what exactly makes creative people unlikeable for much of the population? Recent research at the University of North Carolina (Silvia et al, 2011) pinpointed the offensive characteristic–arrogance.

Similar to other research, Silvia’s study used college students who self-reported their creative abilities and personality traits. A lot of the traits measured using the five factor model did not seem to matter. Creative people described themselves as both extroverted and introverted, emotional and rational, conscientious and unconcerned.  The agreeableness did not seem to have a bearing on creativity either, except for one aspect.

Highly creative students scored lower than average on the honesty-humility scale. They were simply more arrogant.  According to the study “This…

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Conforming to divergency

When does being different become ordinary?

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punk_edited-2My first experience with creative problem solving competitions involved a group of rather ambitious second graders. Rather than opting for the easier non-competitive primary challenge they insisted on a difficult one. They spent hours trying to build structures out of fragile materials such as thin balsa wood sticks and pasta that actually withstood some weight. Then, they had to come up with a performance to tie everything together. We largely ignored practicing for the spontaneous problem solving challenge.

They built a sturdy structure that received a higher score than students in grades above them. But, they scored last in the spontaneous problem solving challenge.  Afterwards we brainstormed on what went wrong.  They had been give a question, “What would you take on a trip to the moon?” Only one answer had been given more than the minimum point, and as they recalled only one answer had been completely “out there.” One girl…

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Creative wiring

What is the difference between men and women’s brains?

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Tape_cubby_roseWhen it comes to creativity, evidently women’s appearance is important, far more than it should be. You will the large percent of  singers, actors, dancers that are women. Their numbers continue to grow because their career is typically shorter than for males. It begins declining in their mid-thirties because the bias against age is greater for women than men. It doesn’t take much thought to realize this is due to the premium placed on women’s appearance. According to a number of studies on creativity, this third decade is the peak time for creative production. But, moving from singer to songwriter, dancer to choreographer and actor to director becomes much more difficult for women than men. Also, many men continue careers in performance, and never make the switch into producing.

That is only one tiny fraction of the answer to the question “Why as there so few well-known creative females?” There are…

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To make or to show?

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Originally posted on Write about what?:
? People often split creativity between the arts and sciences, placing painters, writers, composers, dancers and actors on one side, and biologist, chemists, mathematicians, psychologist and physicists on the other. There is another dichotomy apparent…

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Is creativity in men and women different

Is the difference what you think it is?

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Yearn to be recognized for creative achievement? Over forty? You may be too late – unless you are female.  Creative production in a variety of fields – mathematics, medicine,  physics, psychology – increased until age 30 -39 and then hit a decline according to H. Lehman.[1]  D. K. Simonton  found the same to be true among composers and musicians and referred to it as the “swan song phenomenon.”  Later works by noted composers were considered less original even though they were often more popular with the audiences.[2] However, these studies used predominantly male populations for data.

Geoffrey Miller found that the peak age of creative output for most writers, painters and musicians was in their thirties and forties. However, Miller took his studies of  bit further due to interest in culture rather than creativity. Most of the earlier findings were based on populations that were primarily or exclusively…

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How is creativity killed?

Creativity is discouraged when we let our feelings get in the way.

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chronic waste c2If teaching students to be creative is one of the highest goals of education, we have a problem. The United States as a nation is becoming less creative. Unfortunately, the scores on are getting lower on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. Initially after this test gained wide-spread acceptance in schools, scores rose. This is a normal result known as the Flynn effect, which also occurs on IQ tests. In fact, IQ test have to be normed repeatedly or else the general population scores slowly increase.

The scores for creativity increased in a fairly linear manner until the 1990’s. Then, the slump started. The biggest decrease in is the skill of elaboration–the ability to expand and add details to a creative concept.[1]

What caused this decline?  Increasing electronic communication has been blamed. According to Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University , the constant checking of phone texts and…

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