The Kernel of Creativity

We use the word a lot, but what exactly is creativity?  It seems like everyone wants more of it from ourselves and our colleagues, but it is not like a faucet that can be turned on at will.  David Allen used a recent blog post to ponder the subject:

“The time and energy required for creating something goes through a cycle, one that is seldom as easy or as immediately evident and as clear as I would like to imagine it is. … I still don’t know much intellectually about the nature of that creative process. What is the underlying principle at work here? Why do we seem to have to work so hard to get the kernel? And my interest in productivity causes me to ask how I can get to it faster, easier, more effectively, with less mess and the frustrations that often accompany it.”

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While reading David Allen’s post, I was reminded of an article from David Perell.  He explored the topic in a post called, The Magic Moment.  In the article he brought up the idea of inspiration.

“The Magic Moment is a moment where you have the freedom to create without the demands of publishing. You can’t predict a Magic Moment. They’re spawned by long periods of incubation, but they strike when the mind is at rest. They’re likely to come when you’re showering, driving, or exercising because that’s when the mind is at rest and you can finally hear yourself think. Like a surfer in the ocean, when a special wave swells up, you have to catch it and ride it to shore.”

Creativity is a large and fascinating topic.   I challenge you to think about your relationship with creativity?  When is it easiest for you to be creative?  When it is hardest?  Finally, what do you do when the moment of inspiration strikes?

 

Malcolm Gladwell – The Fascinatingly Flawed Intellectual

I’m interested in collecting interesting stories, and … collecting interesting research. What I’m looking for is cases where they overlap.

Malcolm_Gladwell_2014_(cropped)I love reading and listening to the works of Malcolm Gladwell.  Perhaps it is because he is an unabashed intellectual who makes his work accessible to all.  It could be that his flair for storytelling keeps me engaged to the very end.  It could even be that we both grew up in Canada!

For my recent Write of Passage assignment, I decided to provide a condensed look at Malcolm Gladwell’s books and share how his ideas may sometimes be wrong, but are always thought provoking.  For example, here is the start of the quick summary for his book Outliers.

“Why do some people skyrocket to success while most others barely get off the ground?  In this book, Gladwell explores an unseen side of success. While the American Dream narrative relates success to hard work and indomitable spirit, Gladwell spends time highlighting how uncontrollable factors such as the month of your birth, fortuitous family relations, and cultural heritage may be more significant.”

Read the rest of the article here.

 

Let’s Be Frank – Leadership Is Not For Everyone

Do you think anyone can be a leader?

A trend I see across leadership courses and books is the assumption that anyone can become a leader if they want to be one.  I concede that everyone should at least be good enough to lead their own lives.  However, leading other people is a skill that perhaps some people will never master.

For the next assignment in the Write of Passage course, we were asked to write an article that challenged conventional wisdom.  So I decided to take on what I consider a flawed  core assumption of many leadership courses.  As I wrote:

“The core flawed assumption may best be expressed with a quote from John Maxwell:

“If you want to be a leader, the good news is that you can do it. Everyone has the potential, but it isn’t accomplished overnight. It requires perseverance.” John C. Maxwell

My two questions are these: Why do we assume that everyone can be a leader?  Also, why are the psychological burdens of leadership rarely discussed?”

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Read the rest of the article here, and feel free to share your thoughts on the topic in the comment section.

Taming Unproductive Habits

Have you thought about your habits recently?

A habit is the name given to an action that we repeat on a regular basis.  Most habits are mundane, such as the steps done in the morning before heading out the door for work.  Others can be self defeating or destructive.  Charles Duhigg wrote the definitive book on the habits in in 2012, which included steps on how to start and change habits.

Recently Darius Foroux wrote an article for Pocket that examined unproductive habits.  This is because he says “The reason I study productivity is because I’m an unproductive person. I truly am.”  In the article he identifies 11 unproductive habits to quit.  Some of them are familiar to those who study GTD, such as:

“Relying On Your Memory
Not writing down your thoughts, ideas, tasks, etc, is insane. Why? Because you’re wasting a lot of brain power when you rely on your memory. When you write everything down, you can use your brainpower for other things. Like solving problems. That’s actually useful and advances your career.”

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Other unproductive habits include overworking, worrying and complainingExplore these and the rest and then see which ones you want to quit.

Get Ready to Unfocus?

officeyogaWe often associate success at work or in a creative endeavor to be the result of focus.  With so many distractions in the world, people search for ways to focus their mind in order to get things done.  While it is important to focus, does this mean that being unfocused is a waste of time?

Not necessarily according to Srini Pillay in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.  Titled, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus, Pillay explains why too much focus can be problematic.

“The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. It can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. This energy drain can also make you more impulsive and less helpful. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.”

Deliberately unfocusing the mind shifts it in ways that are extremely beneficial.

“When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” … Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. … you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too.”

Learn more about the power of “unfocus” and techniques to do it by reading the rest of the article.

When to Use Your First Brain

Memory is fleeting or so we are told.  Everyone has had the experience of forgetting something important.  Both David Allen and Tiago Forte have written about the importance of not relying on your brain to remember information, but instead to put the data into a trusted system.  This process is at the core of most productivity advice.

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However, are their times when we should rely on our biological memory over a database or electronic “second brain”?  In a guest post on Tiago Forte’s Praxis blog, Tasshin Fogleman, a Buddhist monk, argues the value of memorization has great merit in this electronic age.  He writes:

Building A Second Brain (BASB) is an effective default for personal knowledge management (PKM) in the digital era. But outsourcing our creative thinking to a second brain has its pitfalls.

A robust memory can be a useful supplement to digital PKM systems. Contrary to Tiago’s assumptions, memory is not a useless, outmoded relic of our biological bodies. It is an astonishing skill, and we would be unwise to overlook it.”

Fogleman proceeds to share several methods to improve our memory, including Spaced Repetition, Mind Palaces, the Mindful Review, and more.  Read all about them in his guest post.

Library Leadership Podcast

I am an avid podcast listener.  My iPhone has over a half dozen different shows in cue for listening throughout the week during the commute.  However, it had been a long time since I had been interviewed for one.  That changed last week when I was contacted to be a guest on a podcast that is now on my playlist.  It is the Library Leadership Podcast.  If you work in libraries I advise that you add it to your list as well.

Hosted by Adriane Herrick Juarez, the Executive Director of the Park City Library in Utah, she invites notable library leaders on to her show to discuss a wide range of topics.  Some of her guests, Lance Warner, Felton Thomas, Peter Bromberg,  participated in my recent article Go For It! Advice From Library Directors.  She has also interviewed two ALA Presidents, Jim Neal and Loida Garcia-Febo.

Adriane is interviewing me at the end of the month, so I’ll keep you posted on when that episode becomes available.  In the meantime, go ahead and catch up on past episodes of Library Leadership Podcast.

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