Final Creativity Reflections

FEB 22

“The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman:

This read was fun because I already have the book and love this stuff ūüôā Because I am very interested in the learner experience it’s kith and kin to UX. I did love how he said he never solves the problem he is asked to solve (because it’s a symptom of something else). Wow that is SO true to my experience in what I do with designing learning and training solutions in the space I work in. Coworkers know I also emphasize discovery of needs and goals. I loved seeing that emphasized by Don and believe it’s the mark of someone who’s been around the block a few times. “In the real world problems do not come in nice, neat packages. They have to be discovered.” Yes! Don also said “There is no substitute for direct observation of and interaction with the people who will be using the product.” Again yes! I’ve discovered that in our own product as I visit university students as part of evaluations and focus groups and learn so much from them. Users are the true experts.

FEB 27

“Getting Beyond Better” by Sally R. Osberg:

This reading had a fairly heavy impact on me. The lotus shoes story was disturbing and I quickly shared the whole things (along with Google pics) with my wife. We’d heard of it a little, but overall it was new to us. But by heavy impact I mostly mean in terms of broadening my thinking. My wife caught on to this as well, early, from just the lotus story: she said this “gave hope” for societal change in terms of harmful practices that many just don’t think about or are set in certain ways.

I loved that Sally said that when going about to evoke change, it’s important not to move to extremes. She also, importantly, noted that objection to something (status quo, bad, gone wrong), no matter how strong, is rarely enough to make a difference. Strong rejection can even reinforce the status quo. Again, this resonates. We see this with scientific evidence¬†given of the fallacy of incorrect notions around vaccines and climate change. This compellingly sets the stage for the rest of her paper, full of other wisdom such as “Alternatively donning the hats of expert and apprentice allows us to see what others don’t.” This is a rare paper I know I want to reference back and read again (and maybe again).

MAR 1

Empathy Guide; Standford d.School, Bootleg Boot camp – “Empathy” on pg. 4; IDEOU¬†video.

Designing for empathy. Wow. Yes. I spent 10 years designing learning and teaching it to adults online, mostly synchronously. I learned to communicate Рespecially listen Рreally, really well. And by that I learned that instruction is SO much about listening very well. Good instructional design is definitely within the realm of listening and being acutely sensitive to others. Yes this is empathy. As I now talk with learners who use what my company designs I see this manifestation of empathy pay dividends.

I also loved (from the video) “Assumptions are limiting. Emotion is motivating. Common ground is unifying” Emotions can include “empathizing with visceral experiences.” “Direct personal involvement, particularly when several team members engage together, is a good way to bond and create common ground. We do this not just to know, but to feel.”

MAR 6

“Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

This was definitely more of a long slog as we left behind the pure creativity and design stuff and got into business stuff (which is second nature to my career in the private sector), and in a black/white text book format no less ūüôā (I’m a sucker for multi-media)¬†I did absolutely love how they said “Out of desperation, we decided to talk to some potential customers” lol! Imagine that. The case-study type nature of much of the reading was great, but again a slog after the treats of so much of the previous reading/videos. Design thinkers always make the best media – what a surprise!

MAR 8

Standford d. School, Bootleg Boot camp – Read “Problem Defining” pg. 5; HBR – “Are You Solving The Right Problem?”

A welcome return to Bootcamp Bootleg! Although it was sparse reading and basically addressed “define the gap” in my way of thinking. HBR included this Einstein gem “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it‚Ä̬†which is more of the same as the previous empathy conversation. More great reminders to “ask¬†questions until you get to the root cause of a problem.” What is greta about this article is it’s actionable: it provides a framework, step by step, to apply it’s thinking. I love that.

This, by the way, is also an excellent way to sum up the frustration I felt in my creativity group working thru making and implementing a “product.” Little to no interested in research and defining problems and gaps, in a rush to make something that may or may not be helpful.

MAR 13

Standford d.School, Bootleg Boot camp – Read “Ideate” on pg. 6;¬†Google Ventures Product Design Sprint;¬†Google Ventures, How To Avoid Group Think:

This set of reading centered mostly on ideating and sprints – something I am very used to working for an agile dev design shop. The google article is perfect and very, very similar to what we do at LO. We don’t do those exercises everyday, but they are important. The article on groupthink is also spot on. It’s also an important way to be inclusive of introverts.

MAR 15

“Make Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky – Execution Section;¬†“How Brainstorming Questions, Not Ideas, Sparks Creativity”;¬†Google Ventures, How To Design Without a Designer on your Team:

Probably my favorite part of these readings was this from IDEO: when team members have an idea of how something might look or function, they’ll simply have a prototype built and start tinkering – despite what stage of the development process they’re in. This type of innovation-supporting rapid-prototyping is clever. Co.design’s¬†Warren Berger idea of asking more questions is just more of what we’ve been learning: to not assume and dig, dig, dig. Most useful to me was this: “Good data can come from organized user studies or surveys, but it can also come from support tickets.” This is obvious and does happen but sometimes overlooked.

MAR 20

“Innovator’s Method” by Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer; Video about IDEO’s prototyping process;¬†Standford d.School, Bootleg Boot camp:

Prototyping is something I’m super familiar with from my career and something my company does well, thanks to an AGILE mindset. The Bootleg piece this time around was just review for me. The most interesting was IDEO’s shopping cart exercise (video). I was so excited to see what they’d turn out. And so let down!! I could not believe how disappointing their design was. I don’t want to get into all the details of why I thought and felt that, but needless to say I am not surprised in the least that shopping carts look the same today 15 years later. Maybe it’s a good reminder to temper expectations that everything can be redesigned now with today’s technologies, materials, culture, needs etc. Perhaps it’s wise to keep an open mind and figure you won’t always succeed, and to revisit things from time to time in the future, in a set of different circumstances, to try again?

MAR 22

Standford d.School, Bootleg Boot camp – Read “Test”;¬†Google Ventures, User Interview

Bootcamp’s Test piece was again very simple but good to have stated. The idea of user interviews is an old one I recognize but crazy enough, I never see done! I think it’s obvious it’s a good idea. This goes back to knowing users and their needs, not assuming, discovering pain points and gaps, etc. etc. I’m glad to have watched this and will keep it for future use.

MAR 27

HBR – “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything”

Iterative design, MVPs, etc. are again the world I live in. But it’s interesting how so often you never have something explained, everyone assumes everyone knows everything in the common parlance, so everybody ends up with loads of swiss cheese holes in their knowledge ūüôā So I enjoyed reading this. One thing I appreciate about lean: it counters the assumption that you can semi-accurately forecast lots of things years out. You cannot. I love that about lean. Finally the bravado and “selling” of ideas on false premises are done away with and we get down to the brass tacks of the real world and discovery.

APR 3

HRB, “Choosing The Right Customer”;¬†Ideas on selling when a school is your customer:

I found¬†What Education Entrepreneurs Miss When Selling to Schools a frustrating, low-value read. I shared very little in common with my experience, each week working with institutions of higher education that are both clients and prospective clients. Perhaps that’s part of the problem – the author never specifies if “schools” is K-12 or higher ed. I assume it’s K12. The author is a professional blogger so I hate to say it but I don’t have a lot of confidence in her really knowing this subject. I would focus, in higher ed, on the idea that “selling” is an incredibly long, glacial process and sales is more “business development.” Selling is truly relationships, relationships span time and conferences and many FTF touch points, and yes, from this comes a knowledge of needs.

APR 10

Monetization Strategies for EdTech Business Models;¬†“Outlining the Competitive Landscape”:

I love the petal diagram. And I think what I like most is how inspiring its “out of the box” (literally) thinking is: a petal is great and I see the reasoning behind the five areas, but what about other shapes and ideas? This is something I’d love to play around with someday. Definitely goes in my mental filebox to munch on…

Regarding business models, one of the core ideas: “For existing and aspiring edtech entrepreneurs, it‚Äôs critical to think carefully about your business model from day one.” I always thought this was bonehead basic start-up 101?

APR 12

“Intro to Startup Metrics;¬†“16 Startup Metrics;¬†summaries of dead companies, and learn from the mistakes of past founders:

Intro to Startup Metrics was an immediate pleasant surprise I thought it would be about basic accounting – ROI, EBIDA, etc. things I feel comfortable with. This was about something else entirely! The idea of a dashboard grid as described, that is tailored to the business, is fantastic.

16 Startup Metrics I feel mixed about. It was all important/essential stuff and great to have, but it was overload and felt more suitable for either reference or the beginning of a deeper course of study, but not between the two as an article – I’m not going to remember most of it in a way that familiarizing myself is very useful. It did answer some good questions around things I already recognized.

Autopsy is a GOLD MINE. Not something to quickly skim over, but an incredible reference to then dig deeper into what are effectively case studies.

APR 17

“The Only 10 Slides Your Pitch Deck Needs”;¬†Different types of financing for your startup;¬†Examples of Pitch Decks:

The Only 10 Slides You Need is absolutely perfect because the last thing an entrepreneur needs is a random goose-chase for building a deck – a framework like this is instant no-more-worries. I appreciated working with this framework myself. The financing article is old news to me. And the example of pitch decks is another goldmine – score!

 

I would be remiss if I did not reflect on one more:¬†Guest: Curt Roberts, Kickstart Seed Fund. This was one of the most valuable parts of the class to me! After the first third of class. I LOVED Curt’s talk. I took good notes and have already shared with several people.¬†https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JFquEXki0zUMg3jI2fh_pEScwSOrCuvmmny7OTPVPvw/edit?usp=sharing

“Observing”

I’m documenting¬†efforts to observe the educational context we wish¬†to influence for a project to create math instruction that is more oriented with multi-media. I decided that it made a lot of sense to observe (and sort of interview) my math-whiz teenage son Alex. So we sat down this weekend and discussed his trigonometry math instruction and homework, which he showed me on his laptop (seen below). I was looking for answers to these questions:

  • How is the instruction designed and delivered?
  • How is he receiving it? It is working well, poorly, somewhere in between?
  • What about it is working or not working?

I took a bit of an ethnographic approach and had him show me things while I asked lots of open-ended questions. Here is some of what I learned:

Alex quickly focused on a specific resource – a helpful youtube video that he felt was done really well. He said that the explanations of “the why” were helpful, and that primarily because of this he instantly understood it. He said examples were not needed over coming weeks because he already understood from one viewing – he didn’t even watch it additional times. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the instruction itself or because the concept was easy, and it was only a two minute video.

But I could see something of what he meant. The instructor focused on showing the idea, drawing out multiple examples, showing three different examples and building out drawings while gesturing with his hands (such as rotating his fingers to show rotation). Alex said the trig concept made more sense when the instructor drew in lines and angles – because previously all the teachers did was just tell how to do it¬†but didn’t explain why and how it works. This seemed both key, obvious, and inline with what we are trying to achieve. The instruction not only showed things (dual coding), but gave relevant background information that explained “the why” as well. I’m sure there is much in the literature about this, but it was wonderful to see it played out in front of me.

 

“Understanding”

In class we are exploring a way of delivering math theorems instruction that is more visual in nature, among other things. To explore and understand this, the first place I stopped was – out of habit – Google Scholar. I then began exploring resources at the HBL Library. ERIC surprised me by how well it worked. The second resource I found was a study on “Visual Theorems” – bingo. I continued working in this way that was familiar to me.

But I also decided that I needed to do more. I realized that I probably am missing a lot so I met with the BYU Education librarian Rachel Wadham. She is fantastic! She is very welcoming, accommodating, and accessible. It’s invaluable to have someone as knowledgeable as her to point me in the right direction, and to supplement where and how I am looking.

I also spoke with my teenage son, who is a couple grades advanced in his mathematics ability. I bounced our ideas off of him and got a good feel for what may work and what may not work. This was invaluable as a different type of “research” into initial exploration and understanding of our topic.

 

My “Most” Innovative Thing Ever Produced

In the early 2000’s I worked for a kitchenwares company and invented a toaster design. I say invented because my company patented my design (for themselves) though I’m pretty sure they never did anything with it. I don’t think I can put a finger on my “most innovative” thing I ever made, though this felt like an innovative thing for me, and meets the “socially useful” definition of innovative instead of creative (whereas I’ve had many creative creativities!)

My¬†earliest iteration of the toaster design would have¬†(if physically produced) simply opened below when done to allow the toast to automatically slide out onto a plate, paper towel, etc. instead of popping up. I don’t recall what purpose I proposed that it would have served. But it was pretty dang cool, and matched a need our company had: unique new kitchenware designs, instead of the same old stale products. Other designs I created (pictured below) had a functionality where the¬†toaster swiveled to release the toast – which, looking back, seems foolish because in my opinion these versions were much¬†work for little gain. My designs stemmed from my artistic tendencies – I love drawing and it was fun for me to doodle and imagine new things on paper. I loved letting my mind wander to think of new things. This was reward enough, but my motivation was reinforced by the recognition I got for it (always the case for my drawings, more so in a professional job). This made it a sort of individualistic and socially creative endeavor: I mostly worked alone, but fed on the positive feedback of others to motivate me. And motivation is tied closely to creativity.

Reading Reflection: “Group Flow” by Sawyer, “How to Kill Creativity” by Amabile

Turning attention to creativity in a group context, the hints from “solo” creativity now surface: that creativity is a blood brother to motivation. To me this is both unsurprising as well as somehow disappointing. As I read through both articles it felt like I kept getting hammered by the same idea: it’s motivation, motivation, motivation. Even when an explanation for group creativity wasn’t motivation, it still seemed to be round-about motivation. For example, Amabile cited “Resources” as a threat to creativity. Too much time (as a resource) and a task isn’t challenging enough. Too little and the pressure feels like no freedom. Like this example, many if not most of these seem like a blend of Deci and Ryan’s Self-determination Theory and Cs√≠kszentmih√°lyi’s Flow theory.

Another example is an activity in which I participated, to think of ideas to promote creativity at a university. I thought of these ideas:

Pre-test and vs. goals
Personalization (especially where a learner can pick their own paths) – mind opening
Flipped learning – in-class group activities to experiment, etc.

All of these seem like variations on motivation! Which brings me to a question: what does the research say on the relationship between creativity and motivation?

 

Observing a Group’s Creativity

Inspired by my ongoing research and learning about creativity, I ordered The Storymatic Kids cards. These are cards with simple words or phrased, that when randomly drawn and combined prompt players to develop stories using them on the spot. Tonight my family used them together with a family that are friends of ours and newly arrived in the United States from Africa. The cards are great for creativity and good for developing English skills are well.

Each person drew cards and took a turn making up and telling a story, encouraged by others. This encouraging environment went a long way toward greasing the wheels of creativity. For example, there was much laughter during the storytelling and applause after each one was finished. This helped break down barriers of nervousness and made it a fun activity for everyone.

In this setting, there was no “power-structure” and next to no organization – whoever wanted a turn next merely needed to speak up. This openness, and the aforementioned encouragement, led to a nice variety of storytellers; many different individuals (mostly children) got to take a turn. The more they repeated doing this, and the more they saw others try different things when storytelling, the richer the stories became. This was an interesting “proof” of the power of group creativity: the stories became richer as more were told, not because each person created them alone in a vacuum.

Reading Reflection: ‚ÄúThe Sociology of Creativity‚ÄĚ Chapter 11

In reading about the sociology of creativity, a few things struck me as interesting. One was about the idea of fields of intermediaries (people) who decide what’s accepted or not. Could the field be wrong in not recognizing creative genius until after certain individuals are deceased? Sawyer says “Well, not really.” and goes on to describe that creative “geniuses” are actually typically recognized before or not long after death, after all. In other words, it may not be always obvious but they do tend to get it right. And a person’s reputation as a genius tends to persist and remain unchanged. The difficulty I have with this, which merits more cognitive exploration on my own part, is the idea that the identity of creativity is so seemingly narrowly pigeon-holed.

It’s also interesting to note the magnitude of influence of a creator’s audience. This gets back to what is an interesting tension between creativity and others influencing the creator. Creativity is not purely individualistic in a vacuum but also a sociological endeavor.

Assessing Creativity of Others with ECCI-i

I’ll keep this brief.¬†Dr. Robert Epstein has a test that measures “skills that help people express their creativity” – creativity skills that lead to creative output. I’m equating this to mean creativity. It’s the¬†Epstein Creativity Competencies Inventory for Individuals (or ECCI-i). It’s been used on a lot of people for a long time and is scientifically legit. I used the test tonight on several people including myself.

The test and the results were disheartening and difficult for me to take seriously. In terms of the test, I have a hard time believing that a test which asks me the same handful of specific/random questions in different ways – like how much I¬†rearrange my physical desk’s desktop, or if I keep a recording device next to my bed specifically for flashes of inspiration at night (seriously?) – is a serious measure of my creativity.

In terms of the results, I scored unspectacularly: 56%. I’ve always identified creativity as a core strength of my own, ever since I was little. I don’t feel threatened by an unspectacular score; rather, it came as no surprise and felt like a complete validation of my feelings about the test as I rolled through it. It was not surprising.

I’m no expert and trust Dr. Epstein to know his business. Apparently there’s a lot more for me to learn here, if I take the time to explore it.

4/15 EDIT:

It turns out I only discussed my own scoring but not that of my wife and daughter. Oops! My wife Mindy scored 41% and my daughter Abby scored 54%. As I’ve reflected on this I stand by my initial gut-check: that the test seems a rather incomplete assessment of creativity, based on what I know about creativity and these individuals, and that I’m sure there are also things I am missing in terms of what I am understanding. My daughter, especially, is someone I’d classify as more creative than most people I know. I think this test pigeon-holes into too specific of things.