Category Archives: Creativity Around The Web

A collection of striking stuff from around the world

Creativity Becomes An Academic Discipline (Not Surprisingly)

by Laura Pappano

The world may be full of problems, but students presenting projects for Introduction to Creative Studies have uncovered a bunch you probably haven’t thought of. Elie Fortune, a freshman, revealed his Sneaks ’n Geeks app to identify the brand of killer sneakers you spot on the street. Jason Cathcart, a senior, sported a bulky martial arts uniform with sparring pads he had sewn in. No more forgetting them at home.

Cyndi Burnett teaches Introduction to Creative Studies at Buffalo State College. Brendan Bannon for The New York Times

Once considered the product of genius or divine inspiration, creativity — the ability to spot problems and devise smart solutions — is being recast as a prized and teachable skill. Pin it on pushback against standardized tests and standardized thinking, or on the need for ingenuity in a fluid landscape.

“The reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative,” says Gerard J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, which has the nation’s oldest creative studies program, having offered courses in it since 1967.

“That is why you are seeing more attention to creativity at universities,” he says. “The marketplace is demanding it.”

Critical thinking has long been regarded as the essential skill for success, but it’s not enough, says Dr. Puccio. Creativity moves beyond mere synthesis and evaluation and is, he says, “the higher order skill.” This has not been a sudden development. Nearly 20 years ago “creating” replaced “evaluation” at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives. In 2010 “creativity” was the factor most crucial for success found in an I.B.M. survey of 1,500chief executives in 33 industries. These days “creative” is the most used buzzword in LinkedIn profiles two years running.

Traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about “process skills,” strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.

Annoyed by restroom doors that are always broken? Matthew Lahue, a junior, designed the Bathroom Bodyguard.

Creative studies is popping up on course lists and as a credential. Buffalo State, part of the State University of New York, plans a Ph.D. and already offers a master’s degree and undergraduate minor. Saybrook University in San Francisco has a master’s and certificate, and added a specialization to its psychology Ph.D. in 2011. Drexel University in Philadelphia has a three-year-old online master’s. St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C., has added a minor. And creative studies offerings, sometimes with a transdisciplinary bent, are new options in business, education, digital media, humanities, arts, science and engineering programs across the country.

Suddenly, says Russell G. Carpenter, program coordinator for a new minor in applied creative thinking at Eastern Kentucky University, “there is a larger conversation happening on campus: ‘Where does creativity fit into the E.K.U. student experience?’ ” Dr. Carpenter says 40 students from a broad array of fields, including nursing and justice and safety, have enrolled in the minor — a number he expects to double as more sections are added to introductory classes. Justice and safety? Students want tools to help them solve public safety problems and deal with community issues, Dr. Carpenter explains, and a credential to take to market.

The credential’s worth is apparent to Mr. Lahue, a communication major who believes that a minor in the field carries a message. “It says: ‘This person is not a drone. They can use this skill set and apply themselves in other parts of the job.’ ”

On-demand inventiveness is not as outrageous as it sounds. Sure, some people are naturally more imaginative than others. What’s igniting campuses, though, is the conviction that everyone is creative, and can learn to be more so.

Just about every pedagogical toolbox taps similar strategies, employing divergent thinking (generating multiple ideas) and convergent thinking (finding what works).The real genius, of course, is in the how.

Edwin Perez’s FaceSaver keeps your phone from falling. Cyndi Burnett

Dr. Puccio developed an approach that he and partners market as FourSight and sell to schools, businesses and individuals. The method, which is used in Buffalo State classrooms, has four steps: clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing. People tend to gravitate to particular steps, suggesting their primary thinking style. Clarifying — asking the right question — is critical because people often misstate or misperceive a problem. “If you don’t have the right frame for the situation, it’s difficult to come up with a breakthrough,” Dr. Puccio says. Ideating is brainstorming and calls for getting rid of your inner naysayer to let your imagination fly. Developing is building out a solution, and maybe finding that it doesn’t work and having to start over. Implementing calls for convincing others that your idea has value.

Jack V. Matson, an environmental engineer and a lead instructor of “Creativity, Innovation and Change,” a MOOC that drew 120,000 in September, teaches a freshman seminar course at Penn State that he calls “Failure 101.” That’s because, he says, “the frequency and intensity of failures is an implicit principle of the course. Getting into a creative mind-set involves a lot of trial and error.”

His favorite assignments? Construct a résumé based on things that didn’t work out and find the meaning and influence these have had on your choices. Or build the tallest structure you can with 20 Popsicle sticks. The secret to the assignment is to destroy the sticks and reimagine their use. “As soon as someone in the class starts breaking the sticks,” he says, “it changes everything.”

Dr. Matson also asks students to “find some cultural norms to break,” like doing cartwheels while entering the library. The point: “Examine what in the culture is preventing you from creating something new or different. And what is it like to look like a fool because a lot of things won’t work out and you will look foolish? So how do you handle that?”

Chanil Mejia and Yasmine Payton present their big idea, a campus chill spot, in Introduction to Creative Studies. Brendan Bannon for The New York Times
Bonnie Cramond, director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development at the University of Georgia, is another believer in taking bold risks, which she calls a competitive necessity. Her center added an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in creativity and innovation this year. “The new people who will be creative will sit at the juxtaposition of two or more fields,” she says. When ideas from different fields collide, Dr. Cramond says, fresh ones are generated. She cites an undergraduate class that teams engineering and art students to, say, reimagine the use of public spaces. Basic creativity tools used at the Torrance Center include thinking by analogy, looking for and making patterns, playing, literally, to encourage ideas, and learning to abstract problems to their essence.

In Dr. Burnett’s Introduction to Creative Studies survey course, students explore definitions of creativity, characteristics of creative people and strategies to enhance their own creativity.These include rephrasing problems as questions, learning not to instinctively shoot down a new idea (first find three positives), and categorizing problems as needing a solution that requires either action, planning or invention. A key objective is to get students to look around with fresh eyes and be curious. The inventive process, she says, starts with “How might you…”

The view of creativity as a practical skill that can be learned and applied in daily life is a 180-degree flip from the thinking that it requires a little magic: Throw yourself into a challenge, step back — pause — wait for brilliance to spout.

The point of creative studies, says Roger L. Firestien, a Buffalo State professor and author of several books on creativity, is to learn techniques “to make creativity happen instead of waiting for it to bubble up. A muse doesn’t have to hit you.”

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Check Out This Creative Transformation Of Old Flip-Flops (Bathroom Slippers)

Have you ever wondered what to do with those old flip-flops that you might wear at the beach, but are now useless because they have broken straps? Why not save them up and cash them in for 41 cents per kilo with Ocean Sole, a business making something useful out of these discarded items of footwear.

However, you may have a little trouble cashing in your stockpile of flip-flops because the business is owned by Julie Church who lives in Kenya.

Church came up with the idea of turning these non-biodegradable slippers, which seem to turn up everywhere, including beaches, into something that could be sold to make a profit. In 2013, her company turned about 50 tons of the carelessly discarded footwear into useful items such as animal ornaments and jewelry.

Julie Church who lives in Kenya

These plastic flip-flops, which are endangering the world’s oceans, turn up everywhere in the world. Some branded versions of the cheap footwear, even end up in Kenya, but have been originally discarded on U.S. beaches or other far reaching countries.

Not only is Church’s business, which is starting to reach global customers, a very profitable business, but she claims that she is helping to teach merchants about the dangers to the environment of the products they sell.

According to the Kenyan businesswoman, people are not responsible when discarding their old worn out flip-flops and other plastic items, because they tend to just throw them in the world’s oceans or rivers, instead of disposing of them correctly. She added that the world’s oceans contain about 50,000 items of plastic per square mile, according to United Nations estimates.

Although Church is making a good business from discarded old footwear and turning them into brightly colored animals, such as bison’s or dolphins, she aims at training her artists to create new footwear from the discarded old flip-flops.

One of Church’s carver artists, Jonathan Lenato, who produces colorful dolphins from the old, worn out flip-flops, believes that his finished product is helping to educate people of the dangers of just throwing their old footwear and plastics away anywhere.

The 30-year-old carver went on to say that although his friends wondered why at first he was using his skills to carve items with dirty old flip-flops, they have now come to realize the importance of his work to help save the environment.

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I Didn’t Lose My Creativity; I Just Misplaced It

by Kristi Parker Johnson

I’ve always been a very creative person, but lately I feel like my creativity is lost. I have no idea where it could be. I’m sure I put it somewhere for safe-keeping but, as is my usual with keys, Christmas gifts and passwords, I can’t remember where.

My creativity first emerged when I was young girl. I started writing poetry and short stories when I was 6 and won some children’s poetry contests when I was 7. When I was 9, I started a neighborhood newspaper — The Yucca Trail News. My newsroom was my parents’ bedroom; my desk was a folding card table where I banged out news tidbits on my mom’s old black Underwood typewriter. The news stories consisted of mostly gossip from the ’hood, such as this breaking news report from June 1973: “Derek and Joey rode their bikes to 7-11 yesterday. The Slurpee was good, said Derek. Kathleen and Kristi asked them to bring back some candy but they didn’t.”

In junior high, I was chosen for the school’s annual staff. The selection process was arduous. Applicants had to maintain A averages, have good writing skills and submit several recommendation letters from teachers and other adults. I was honored to be chosen because I felt I had really earned my place on the staff. As a socially awkward, perpetually shy teenager who never won any sort of “popularity contest,” I learned the value of my talent and passion for writing.

Even after I married and started a family, I continued writing and being creative. I wrote poetry mostly and created arts and crafts projects with inexpensive supplies like white men’s handkerchiefs and paint pens. I also took great pride in creatively decorating our homes using garage sale finds, hand-me-downs and antiques of questionable quality. I like to think I was the first to have a country-themed decorating scheme. My homes were country before country was cool.

In the early 1990s, I was offered my first newspaper job based on some short essays I sent in to the local newspaper. I didn’t think I wanted to be a journalist, but I did like to write. So I took the job.

Fast forward 20 years, and here I am, still working in the newspaper business. Over the years, I advanced from beat reporter to investigative reporter to editor. I even started my own weekly newspaper in the Hill Country.

See, I enjoy creating things, through writing, artistic endeavors and businesses. I love making something out of nothing. My creativity has taken me far in life and given me so many wonderful and interesting experiences.

But the older I get, the harder it is to tap into that creativity. I believe several things are to blame, mainly age and experience. When I was younger, I had bright stars in my eyes and was not yet touched by the realities of life. I believed in romance and fairy tales and thought everything was grand and wonderful. If it wasn’t, I thought it could be if only I wished and prayed hard enough.

As I grew older, I lost my youthful optimism. The cool stars in my eyes slowly dimmed and faded away, replaced by the warm, comfortable voice of reason. My life now is steady and stable, for the first time, and I’m married to a wonderful, loving, hard-working man. My romantic angst-ridden days are over and, it seems, so are my poetry writing days.

Maybe my creativity is not so much lost, but redirected. I just need to figure out what path it decided to take. As with other aspects of getting older, such as not being able to do the things I used to do, I’ve got to adapt and make the best of what I’ve got.

Now if I could just find those Christmas presents I bought last summer for the grandkids, I’d be good.

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