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A Crash-Course on Creativity

Still screenshot from the video - a different way to look at creativity We've talked about how people with different type preferences approach creativity before, and I'm really looking forward to seeing David Goldstein again at this year's APTi Conference to hear his thoughts on the topic.

What I wanted to invite you to think about today is this:

What would the book cover of your autobiography look like? 

Design a cover, and write a 200-word bio / synopsis.

That, my friends, is the first assignment in the Stanford-sponsored Crash Course on Creativity.

Lead by Tina Seelig, neurophysiologist, she wrote "inGenius"* and gave a TED talk, in case you prefer the visual. In this video, you'll see an assignment she posed to students around the world ("Make something valuable out of stuff that's been thrown away. You have 2 hours.") and different country's responses. She also explains the difference between a "puzzle builder" and "quilt makers". You guessed it - one needs all pieces to fit to make one picture, the other leverages available resources to create something fascinating.

Culture is like the background music of any community.

Is the culture in your family, your organization, your team encouraging you to create puzzles, or quilts?

*(affiliate link)


Think Like A Traveler


Think Like A Traveler

When you visit a new place for the first time, your perception processes are on high alert. You're more aware, more in-the-moment, more tuned-in. In terms of type processes we're looking at your Sensing or Intuiting function, where you're looking to experience your new surroundings (extraverted Sensing Se), review similarities to other places you've visited (introverted Sensing Si), infer deeper meanings and universal themes (introverted Intuiting Ni), as well as foresee potential opportunities and connections (extraverted Intuiting Ne).

What if you could keep that higher state of awareness switched on all the time?

Ok, not ALL the time, because we all know our brains have to filter out many things to help keep us sane. But when you want and need it? Say, when trying to come up with innovative solutions?

Because if you can do that, if you can have a higher state of awareness that people around you have, you will spot more opportunities and those opportunities will have value for you.

This is a quote from Tom Kelley, CEO over at IDEO - A Design and Innovation Consulting Firm. These are the guys who transformed patients' experiences in hospitals by actually lying on a gurney and realizing that staring at an artificial light-strobed ceiling is more conducive to worrying than relaxing. He gave an "entrepreneurial thought leader lecture" at Stanford, and this 4-minute video just really stood out. Love this guy, his energy, his passion, and his experience shine through.

You see, it all goes back to awareness. Observe your surroundings. Know what your perceiving function is, and then check back to the type processes linked above to learn how to practice switching them on.

Whether you're an expat, national, or international traveler - have some fun along the journey. Yes, the destination is going to rock, but the time you spend getting you there can give you great insights and valuable knowledge. After all,

You are the world's undisputed expert of your own experiences.

Use them.

Image by Patrick Ng, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


As our Economy changes, so should our Leadership skills


As our Economy changes, so should our Leadership skills


Inspired by a chat on facebook about why we seem to focus on empowering women instead of empowering everyone, I did a little digging and found this TED talk. Hanna Rosin is the author of the book "The End of Men - and the Rise of Women". She argues that the new economy requires different skills. The marketplace has shifted from a manufacturing to a service-based economy, and traditional male characteristics of size and strength simply don't matter as much anymore. Instead, skills like focus, communication, and ability to navigate a fluid workplace are in higher demand. Future leaders will have to know how to foster creativity, create teams, and listen - and according to Rosin, these are all skills that come more naturally to women. Looking through the type lens, I can't help but wonder if future leadership skills will be more closely associated with Feeling function-based behaviors. Generally speaking about 75 % of women have an F-preference, compared to about 75 % of men reporting Thinking, if I'm not mistaken.

"Men are the new ball and chain"

You can't change thousands of years of gender roles over night. Even now that we're beginning to talk about them, the process is still scary and painful. Women have been outperforming men for a few years, e.g. in terms of achieving college degrees. Yes, there is still a wage gap and women's representation in C-suite jobs isn't where it should be to properly show equal representation.

But men's self-image may be impeding them from adapting to the new requirements. Men are more likely to see themselves as providers and less likely to get their butts to college to re-train or enhance their skill-sets. Rosin even argues that it begins as early as childhood; she cites a "boy crisis" where boys do worse in school than girls. In a short video her own 9-year-old daughter explains why that is: boys simply don't listen or follow instruction! The result: Rosin sees women going forward to higher positions, being the primary breadwinner, while men stay at home. More than that, she cites statistics of multiple countries where the desire for a first-born son is on a steady decline.

What are your experiences with boys' and men's performance? Are you seeing your middle-management / manufacturing jobs disappearing? Are your executives urging you to get trained in the art of creativity, innovation, and communication to enhance your chances for success?

Image by FaceMePLS, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


Come Up with New Ideas in 5 Simple Steps


Come Up with New Ideas in 5 Simple Steps


Everyone's creative. We can all come up with ideas and build something, bring something new into the world.

Make babies. Not necessarily the crying pooping sleeping human sprog-kind, but something you nurtured and grew inside your mind. Here's how.

We talked about creativity yesterday, and here's where I got the inspiration: Maria Popova's post about this book, "A Technique for Producing Ideas" by James Webb Young, ca. 1939.

Young outlines 5 steps to idea creation, and I think they combine all eight functions beautifully and effectively.

1. Learn voraciously

Or, as Young put it, "gather raw materials". He compared it to the kaleidoscope - with every turn you get new images. The more colored shards you add, the more diverse images you'll receive. You need to fill up your internal library with notes, and they can come from experiencing the real world and interacting with it (Extraverted Sensing), engaging and empathizing with other people (Extraverted Feeling), as well as searching your memory, reliving the past (Introverted Sensing), or envisioning the future (Extraverted Intuiting).

aka "what"

2. Digest the material

Look at what you've learned, dissect it, play with it, examine it. The functions you can use for analysis are introverted Thinking (logical, precise) and introverted Feeling (liking, disliking, valuing what's more important).

aka "what if"

3. Let it simmer

Young called this portion "unconscious processing", meaning leave it alone, go away and occupy your mind with or do something else. I love this part. It's terribly exciting and kinda scary on the one hand, because what if the idea gets lost and doesn't come back? Well, maybe it wasn't meant to be.

aka "hmmm"

If it does come back and you're lucky, it's with a noticeable:

4. Eureka!

Or "a-ha" as Young and Oprah called it. This is very much an Introverted Intuiting word. See the lightbulb? It's bright and sparkly and awesome!

aka "whew"

5. Now go do something with it

The creation part of creativity. Make sure the idea works. Put it to practice. Share it with others. Write that sucker down. The processes used here can be Extraverted Thinking as you plan and execute the idea logically, as well as Extraverted Feeling, where you take other people's reactions and the potential impact on harmonious relationships into account.

aka "how", "when", and "who"

Isn't creativity beautiful?

Image by Andres Nieto Porras, Flickr, Creative Commons License. 


So you think you're creative


So you think you're creative

Photo by fmpgoh
Photo by fmpgoh

According to MBTI statistics(1), about 60 % of the US population have Sensing preferences. That means taking in information through the 5 senses, usually in concrete, detailed, present-focused ways. In type language, its opposite preference Intuiting has often been described with terms like future-focused, comfortable with ideas, themes, patterns. Creativity is often inferred from these descriptions, and here's why I think there's more to creativity than ideas. 

Creativity to me means bringing something forth that is new, an unexpected combination, something that may not be alive but that makes me feel alive, infuses my senses, makes me think, feel, be. A blog post, a poem, a picture, a sculpture that touches my soul.

Creativity is often called "right-brain", because the left hemisphere supposedly deals more in concretes. From Dario's research we've learned that neatly dividing the brain into four quadrants of Sensing, Intuiting, Thinking, and Feeling is simplistic and, I might add, disrespectful of the complexities that are human nature.

In Type language, every function comes in two ways or attitudes. Let's look at Intuiting. We all have both of these functions: Introverted Intuiting Ni and Extraverted Intuiting Ne. Different types use them in different ways, and we all have them.

What is Ni?

Think of a big library with millions of clips and notes that you've accumulated throughout your whole life. The librarian has given up on the index card system a long time ago, and yet magically, new information still gets filed where it belongs. Ni takes a lot of knowledge and stores it until you need it again. You won't know where it came from, but it's there, it feels right, and it often is right, too. You use Ni when you're foreseeing the future, when you just know, when you see how this or that is going to play out. When you grasp the meaning of something and can summarize its essence.

What is Ne?

To stay with the library image, Ne is the scribbler that takes your notes down and gets more and more excited the more he scribbles. New ideas, connections, relationships, themes, patterns keep bubbling up and it's hard to keep 'em down! They're so exciting! You use Ne when you're envisioning the future, when you're improving on an idea, and find new connections.

Knowing the significance and having thoughts and ideas about how to improve the future isn't creativity. It is probably the first part of the process, but it's not actual creation in the sense of the word. The differentiating factor is actually doing something with those ideas.

And that's where Sensing and other functions come in.

Albert Einstein (INTP):

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

In my opinion, creativity is a combination of all functions. There isn't one without the other. More on that tomorrow.

(1) MBTI(r) Type Tables International, CPP Inc 2009, Schaubhut, Nancy A. and Thompson, Richard C.

Image by glans galore, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


1 Comment

What's in your toolbox?

20121224-203513.jpg I love the hammer quote. It reminds me to stay open and try not to jump to conclusions. I'm learning a lot about it just by listening to Kahneman's audiobook, "Thinking Fast and Slow". Fascinating how much we think we're in charge and conscious, when really it's numerous automatic functions in "System 1" running the show.

I also love the quote for the variety of options it implies. Coaching taught me differentiated thinking and asking questions in a way that gently gets to the source of the issue. There are often more than one solution to approach a situation, you just have to look for them.

It could be an indication of my Intuiting preference that I prefer having a choice, or perhaps a freedom-loving SP temperament shining through. But I do love the Generalist role, and knowing a little bit about many things. Eating at a buffet, trying all those good-looking dishes.

Now, should you grab a chainsaw without learning the basics? Hell no. Even though it's possibly the most powerful one, it's just another tool.

Use 'em wisely.

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Dare to Dream

20121224-202228.jpg I'm already looking forward to Elizabeth Murphy's presentation at the Dallas Chapter of the Association for Psychological Type at the end of the month. She's famous for her work with kids and families, having co-developed an indicator you can use with your children 8 years and up. Here's more info on the MMTIC.

From her last talk I remember her saying that kids with Sensing preferences tend to use the colors that would correspond to what they've seen in the real world. As in, a purple sun or a green cloud would probably not be on the books. Kids with Intuiting preferences, on the other hand, might be more open to using various shades.

I've been asking myself if growing up and living in the real world with bills and stuff has stifled my options a bit. Maybe it's time to explore the whole gamut again!

What would you do if you could create your life?