Daily Archives: June 11, 2018


Think Outside the Box

How many times have you said, or been told, to “Think outside the Box?”  We’ve heard this so many times.  Yet, how do we learn novel or creative thinking?  It’s not a typical school subject; it’s not on most MBA syllabuses.  It’s required to compete in the global market yet we’re not preparing today’s children for success.

Too often creativity is misunderstood to mean artistic.  IBM has conducted numerous polls among global CEOs that expound the importance of creative thinking.  Are we to believe these global organizations seek painters, potters and sculptors as executives?  Clearly not.  Creativity needs to be understood as a way of thinking.  That thinking is a discipline called the creative process.  There are many definitions of the creative process; boiling it down to its most simplistic form, the creative process is like a whirlwind of inspiration, iteration, and collaboration that leads to innovation. 

 Children need to learn the creative process to prepare for life, for academic and career success. 

 The U. S. was the world innovation leader from late in the 19th century through most of the 20th century.  Not anymore.   When our schools started reducing art, music and liberal studies in an effort to replicate the success Asian students were having in math and science we lessened the innovative thinking power of future generations.  With the release of the 2016 Innovation Index, Bloomberg now ranks the U. S. as eighth.  We’re slipping because our children are taught to memorize and repeat; to perform well on standardized tests.  We are not teaching children how to learn, how create or how to innovate.  Over the last few decades, the emphasis on performance through standardized testing has become a singular focus in most schools.  This is instilling a fear of failure.

 When did failure become such a bad thing? Ask any successful person if they’ve failed. The answers range from “many times” to “early and often.”  Sir James Dyson recalls that he had 5,126 failures, or iterations, until he eventually invented the world’s best-selling vacuum cleaner.  Even legendary sports icon Michael Jordan says, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  Our children have such a fear of failure that they are no longer exploring new ideas and this cripples their chances of success.

 The National Endowment for the Arts in 2008 and the SMU Meadows Prize Report in 2010 looked at the impact of art education on children.  These studies show positive outcomes such as better problem solving skills, a higher likelihood to attend college, earn a degree, do volunteer work, and hold a full-time job. 

 It’s not just about art and music education in schools.  Those things have been measured because they’re easy.  These typically are the only creative disciplines taught in schools.  When we dive deeper into understanding creativity, we learn that it’s a way of thinking and it drives innovation.  Dr. Paul Torrance studied nearly 400 children from childhood into their careers and proved that creative thinking skills can be learned.  His creativity index is able to predict who will have high performing careers such as entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers. 

 So much energy is focused on the product while little or no time is spent on the process.  It’s the process of creating that gives children space to fail, that teaches them to seek alternative viewpoints, answers or solutions.  If we continue to score every effort and punish the kids who attempt new things, we’ll continue to discourage innovation. Let’s seek out opportunities that allow children to explore, to iterate and to create. For children today, there are very few safe places to fail.

 When children work through the creative process they develop higher self-esteem and take pride in their abilities to overcome obstacles.  There is a light in their eyes that is unmistakable. 

 When our eyes shine with pride, we take on greater challenges and achieve greater things.   When that light is on, failure doesn’t weigh so much.  Let’s awaken our children to the joy of creating.

 

 

 


The Power of Collaboration

Dan M. Age 17, a local high school student – Came to recognize the power of collaboration during his internship at SPARK!   “My internship at SPARK! helped me become a better problem solver and team player. I used to try and do everything myself and now I collaborate with others.  Now I feel like I could either go on to be a fashion designer or a chemical engineer, I could be anything!”

 

Collaboration between coworkers is a powerful tool that leads to innovation.  Collaboration between peers and among disparate partners helps advance art, science, medicine and more.  SPARK! teaches the principles of collaboration found in these famous examples.

 

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A Crazy Art-World Marriage

From 1980 to 1986, renowned Pop artist Andy Warhol and a graffiti prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, collaborated on a number of exciting pieces that actually led them to the position they now have in the art world.

Their working process went on like this: Warhol usually painted first, and then Basquiat entered the scene with his colorful imagery. One of the most popular examples would be the piece titled Olympic Rings, completed in 1985. Warhol actually made several iterations of the Olympic five-ring symbol, to which Basquiat responded with the oppositional graffiti style.

Olympic Rings, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

 

International Cooperation

The International Space Station (ISS) Program’s greatest accomplishment is as much a human achievement as it is a technological one.  An international collaboration of space agencies from the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada all working together on the most complex space exploration program ever undertaken.

The International Space Station Program brings together international flight crews, multiple launch vehicles, globally distributed launch operations, training, engineering, and development facilities, communications networks, and the international scientific research community.  It’s collaboration of a global scale to bring “out of this world” results.

 

The Alzheimer’s Challenge

 

To confront a challenge like cancer or Alzheimer’s is to stand at the intersection of science, medicine, and engineering. Finding solutions will require a combination of expertise and powerful collaborations that very few institutions command. Stanford has created Bio-X which stands literally and figuratively at this crossroads. At Stanford, the world’s leading experts in a wide range of fields are gathered in unusual proximity—working on breakthroughs in human health, while also dramatically increasing our fundamental knowledge about the biosciences.

Other institutions offer interdisciplinary research. What makes Stanford Bio-X so special is its extraordinary faculty and students, culture of collaboration, and can-do, entrepreneurial spirit that encourages risk-taking and delivers phenomenal results.

SPARK! on Collaboration

SPARK! engages children in the creative process, which we define as Inspiration with iteration and collaboration leads to innovation.  SPARK! is literally and figuratively at the crossroads of improving educational experiences for children. Working on a myriad of projects kids at SPARK! bring out their entrepreneurial spirit and can do attitude.  SPARK! is a safe place for risk-taking and innovation.