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‘Up in the Air’ Takes Flight with Destructive Innovation

airplane wing towards clouds

Up in the Air” provides and example of creativity and innovation being applied in a destructive and dehumanizing way. CTC is contracted to go to other companies and fire people though they never use that term. The position is no longer available, or there is no longer a position for you at this company are phrases they would use, and they offer re-placement services in theory. Newly hired Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) proposes a way for CTC to save thousands of dollars by moving from an in-person firing process to a virtual firing process.

Her innovation would allow a person to sit at a computer in Omaha to fire someone anywhere else in the world. The person that would do the job would have a script that he or she could follow, which would make the job easier theoretically. Long-time downsizer Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) sees his whole lifestyle collapsing in front of him and confronts his boss, Craig Gregory, (Jason Bateman) and Keener.

Gregory instructs Bingham to take Keener on the road and show her the ropes. He does so reluctantly, but through their partnership, it becomes apparent that a human connection is important in both their work and in their lives.

Firing someone is a personal (for the one being fired) and destructive consequence of capitalism. In the United States, it’s a devastating blow to one’s identity and social network. To have it be done by someone who isn’t a part of the company is bad. To do it over a conference call akin to Skype is like breaking up using a text. It’s a cowardly act that causes psychological harm to both people involved in the transaction. The lack of respect in dealing with the elimination of an employee’s position and hence, his or her employment, in such a way is underscored by Keener’s and Bingham’s girlfriend’s reaction to Keener’s boyfriend dumping her via text. It is further underscored and remarked on by Gregory when Keener quits with a text and he says the act is because of the lack of respect in the younger generation.

Keener’s idea was innovative and would result in a windfall for CTC, but the human cost would’ve been too high. There are certain actions that should be done face-to-face because human empathy can help cushion the blow. Creative efforts don’t always result in something good. Be sure to find a way to make your creative efforts beneficial for as many people as possible.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories” for positive creativity. Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The Creative Spark: Make the World Better

man with fireworks

It’s in you; it’s in me. The creative spark is what humanity is made from. We’ve used it to advance. We’ve used it to live longer. We’ve used it to make beauty and to improve everything from transportation to entertainment. We’ve also used it to be destructive. From the falsification of data to the improvement of killing techniques and from the justification of social ills to the increase in devaluing technologies, creativity isn’t only for the good, it can be used for bad.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Knowledge

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

Creativity is often defined as the generation of something new and valuable. In order to be creative, you have to know what came before; otherwise, what you create may have already been invented.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert in your field or domain. Some studies show that expertise at a certain level inhibits creativity. You do need to have enough knowledge to understand if what you have is truly new.

However, knowledge in a single field isn’t enough. Creativity requires the combining of two or more ideas to come up with a new idea. Steve Jobs likened it to connecting the dots. A person has as many dots as he has knowledge about different subjects. Creative people weren’t more intelligent, he said, they just had more dots.

Velcro’s inventor George de Mestral was an engineer and avid hiker. When he noticed burrs on his clothing, he wondered how they could attach themselves and looked at them closer. Under a microscope he saw the tiny hooks. The idea from Velcro sprung up from there. It took the knowledge of engineering and hiking as well as curiosity and a new way of seeing for de Mestral to innovate the zipperless zipper.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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Is the Creative Personality a Result of Genetic Predisposition for Needing Newness and Needing Stability?

Let your dreams be bigger than your fears

Csikszentmihalyi says that the creative personality is made up of seemingly opposite character traits. Creative people are extroverted and introverted. They are energetic and restful. They are smart and naïve. In all, he lists 10 different pairs of personality traits that many people would consider contradictory. Creative people have access to these modes of being and use them when the situation calls for it.

It is possible that these diametrically opposed traits come from the underlying genetic predisposition homo sapiens have regarding creativity. Human beings want safety and security; most of the population avoids risk taking. However, people also need to engage in finding the new and creating. It’s how the human race has survived. Taking risks is an important part of creating something, but the wrong risks could threaten your tribe’s existence.

It’s this constant push and pull that creative people face. Business say they want creativity, but they ignore new ideas and promote those who maintain the status quo. The give resources to the old products and leave research and development to flounder. When someone comes up with a way to change the corporate culture for greater profitability, the risk is seen as too great and that person is often ridiculed, especially if the change would’ve resulted in people losing their jobs or having to change their skills.

Even people who are interested in creativity will choose what they know over what they don’t. It takes a concerted effort or an ironclad argument to get people to change. When facing the effort it takes to introduce new patterns or changes that could fail to an organization and the associated risks, many people would rather hide their ideas and continue as if nothing will be different. Creative people would rather control the direction of the change, even if that means they aren’t really in control of what happens.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Positive Creativity.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Disney Fox Merger Sounds Death Knell for Creatives

Book cover for Penguinate! The Disney Company

The official merger of Disney and Fox has sounded the death knell for creativity. While scooping up Fox’s assets is the right business decision for Disney, it is one that writers, movie makers, ad executives and other creatives should fear.

With Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Fox, and its own studio, Disney will own an estimated 40% of the box office. The merger allows Disney to exercise economies of scale and negotiating power not seen this side of Wal-Mart.

Writers already face enormous competition to get their stories read. Every indie writer out there who wants to see their stories on the big screen has just had their chances reduced by one major player. Making a living as a writer is difficult enough without having Fox’s ability to seek out new storylines withdrawn from the market.

Looking at Disney’s upcoming movie slate, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King are remakes of animated films. Dumbo will have to lose the crows. Will Smith will have to do his own genie thing because it would be ridiculous to copy Robin Williams. Other than that, these three films look to be Xerox photo copies of their animated counterparts. We’ve already seen them and we’re going to see them again.

The sequels list is longer. With Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home (though not as far as you might think), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX on the slate, there is hardly any room for an original idea. While sequels can bring something new to franchise, they don’t require as much risk taking or creativity to make.

Which leaves Disney with Artemis Fowl and with DisneyNature’s Penguins as its only non-sequel, non-remake movies coming out in 2019. With 11 films left on the slate, Disney has one new story that will probably flop and a documentary to offer. Take a moment to ponder that.

Even if Disney remains true to form and let’s Fox operate the way Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm have, Fox was depending on its Avatar sequels and X-Men films to keep it in the black. Films Disney was already on board with.

Creativity will have to come from film makers with smaller budgets who, despite lacking marketing savvy and budgets for said marketing, have a film hit big. Like writers, these smaller film makers will have to find a way to cut through the noise of modern media and its giants to harness the power of going viral, and they’re going to need you to help. It’s going to be an uphill battle for creative people to get out there, but it always has been.

(Full disclosure: I own Disney Stock ad will go see all the Disney/Marvel/Pixar branded movies they make.)

For more thoughts on the Disney company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” For more on creativity, buy “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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‘How To Fly a Horse’ Debunks Creativity Myths

Kevin Ashton’s “How to Fly A Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery” delves into and debunks the myths of creativity. By using existing scientific research and deftly chosen examples comb from history, Ashton creates an exciting and surprising read for anyone who has ever doubted their own creative abilities. The creative beliefs challenged by Ashton include:

The Creative Leap

Creative thinking is just thinking. There’s no leap, it’s just that creative people take more steps to get to a solution. Less creative people stop when they have something they think works, even if it’s not the best, or even a very good solution.

People and Organizations Want Creativity

People and organizations say they want creativity, but creativity is seldom rewarded. Ignaz Semmelweis lost his job and his life when he challenged the medical field to wash its hands, even though he could show that washing hands saved the lives of women and children during childbirth. The others who came before him to suggest the same thing were ignored or ridiculed.

Robert Galambos lost his job at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research for suggesting the Glia cells in the brain were important, and idea commonly accepted now. Galambos was a famous neuroscientist, who with Donald Griffin, proved bats use echolocation to navigate in the dark and had worked at the institute with his boss, David Rioch for 10 years. None of that mattered; he and his new idea were kicked to the curb.

The Eureka! Moment

The actual “Eureka!” moment that the story comes from is based on a falsehood. The displacement of water would be too small for Archimedes to determine whether gold had been combined with another metal to make the king’s crown. (Its buoyancy is what matters.) Sitting in the tub would probably not have mattered. Even if it did, the story says that Archimedes got into the tub while thinking about the problem. He hadn’t relaxed; he was actively pursuing a solution. The “Eureka!” didn’t come like a bolt of lightning; it came from a series of thoughts.

The Incubation Period

Tied to the “Eureka!” moment, incubation is also something that scientists haven’t been able to see in research the phenomenon. It’s a commonly accepted step in the process of creativity, but it may not be real. While incubation hasn’t been disproved, it has fallen out of favor. Some scientists are changing the name to “implicit cognition.”

Ashton address other issues like brainstorming, the role of rejection, what credit for an idea has to do with anything and why people get credit, and how people fear new ideas. Not only is Ashton’s books one of the best I’ve read on the subject, but it also uses clear stories told in an entertaining way and offers up lessons, hope and encouragement for people who want to be more creative. If you want to be more creative, get “How to Fly a Horse.”

For more on creativity, follow my blog. Purchase “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Exterior and trouble accepting new ideas

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

In a story about Ignaz Semmelweis, the survival rate of children and their mothers, and handwashing included in his book “How to Fly a Horse,” Kevin Ashton points out that even in a “field as empirical and scientific as medicine… Creation is seldom welcome” (74 – 76). People need creativity and change, and they resist it at the same time. It’s part of the dichotomy of being human.

When Walt Disney wanted his imagineers to envision and create a haunted house for his theme park, they all came up with the same idea: a decrepit, run-down building that had ghosts. Walt didn’t like it. He didn’t want a run-down building ruining his pristine park.

According to Sam Gennawey’s “The Disneyland Story,” Ken Anderson, the original lead on the Haunted Mansion as we now know it, wanted to hide the run-down mansion behind trees native to Louisiana. Walt didn’t go for it.

Harriet Burns built three models for Walt to choose from. The imagineers put the pristine building behind the other two decrepit versions. Walt chose the beautiful building every time. He wanted guests to feel welcome in his park; that meant everything had to be clean and in good repair, even the haunted mansion.

Walt was working with some of the most creative people in the planet. Imagineers knew Walt, had experienced his success and demeanor first hand. Even when he told them, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside” (Surrell, Jason, “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic,” p. 13), they insisted on trying to convince him that a haunted house needed to look a certain way.

“Everyone expects a residence for ghosts to be run-down. But Walt was always looking for the unexpected,” (Genneway, p. 180) said Claude Coats.

When those who consider themselves creative and create for a living have trouble accepting new ideas and ways of doing things, everyone else has even greater problems to accept the changes that come with innovations. It’s okay. We just need to realize that creativity is just as necessary for the advancement of humanity as being wary of the change that it brings is. As soon as we can embrace our seemingly opposed sides, we can see they are working together to make us more successful, as long as we don’t let one win over the other all the time.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company” officially releasing on April 14, 2019.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Journal

Journal and iPhone

Leonardo da Vinci wrote his backwards. Walt Disney is rumored to have had one by his bed, so he could jot notes down as they came to him at night. They help with feelings and can be used for different reasons. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and Frida Kahlo are other creative people who kept journals. If you want to improve your creativity, a creative journal can be a big help.

Popular stories about solutions to problems and creative leaps forward often feature some sort of relaxed state of being. The person is drifting off to sleep, in the shower, out for a walk, or driving a vehicle and the idea presents itself. Far too often people complain that these ideas fade quickly. They can’t remember them, and they didn’t write them down.

Keeping a journal and a pencil with you at all times, or using a recording device to make notes when your hands are otherwise occupied, will allow you to capture these ideas. More importantly, by keeping a journal that tracks ideas and inspirations, you’re telling your brain what you find to be important. Write it down, or transcribe it later, and keep these ideas together. When you’re ready to work on something, go to your idea journal. If you experience a block, the idea journal can help.

If you want to find a form of journal taking that gamifies ideas, check out Takeo Higuchi’s Idea Marathon at our archive website. Higuchi’s method provides a way to keep track of and have ideas while scoring points!

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Get “Penguinate! Positive Creativity: Improve your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Old Creativity and New Creativity collide in ‘Happy Feet’

In “Happy Feet,” every penguin has a heart song that he or she uses to find a mate. If the songs work together, the penguins marry and have eggs. The heart song is so important that a penguin isn’t a penguin without it. When Mumble is hatched with feet that compel him to dance, his father is worried and upset. He admonishes his son to keep his feet still; he knows other penguins wouldn’t understand.

Time proves his father right. His dancing is seen as an afront to the Great ‘Guin, and Mumble gets blamed for the lack of fish. Mumble doesn’t think that the accusation makes any sense. Mumble is ultimately banished from the penguin community. He goes to find the real culprit responsible for the missing fish – people. In the end, it’s Mumble’s happy feet that save the penguin community from starving as humans take an interest in the him, and after he teaches his penguin community to dance, the penguin colony on the ice.

Singing and dancing are creative acts, but if a person or penguin keep singing the same song, the act loses its creativity. Creativity must be something new. In the case of “Happy Feet,” it’s the dancing that is creative, and because it’s new, it threatens the status quo. Mumble, its initiator, gets punished for his creativity. When he returns to the community, his new creative act saves the penguins.

People rely on creativity to continue to adapt and grow, as a species and as individuals; people are also threatened by anything that’s new. It’s the paradox of creativity: human beings need it to survive and embrace it in words, but fear the change that comes with it and reject it out of hand. Creativity can be great and terrible. It’s up to us to embrace the innovations that will solve current problems and to encourage those creative acts that bring more beauty and true enjoyment, like dancing and singing, to life.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Call to Action: Create

Waving stuffed penguins

Create Something Beautiful

We are confronted with ugly every day, and I don’t want to give it more space here. Bringing beauty into the world is hard. It’s much easier to give in to our baser natures and create from that. Turn away from your normal reaction and do something different. Do something beautiful; create something beautiful.

Create Something Peaceful

Even if your insides are in turmoil and your brain is spinning, take a deep breath and exhale deeply. Grab hold of the emotions and find the peace within. Bring that peace to your creation process. You may consider doing something to release your frustration, and that’s okay. Then dig deeper and create something that will bring others peace.

Create Something Fun

Haven’t we’ve been entertained to death? Consider the number of shows that thrive on the horrors of mankind. We need to counteract that. It’s time to create something fun. Bring to life something that will bring a smile to people’s faces. Don’t go for easy. Creation shouldn’t be easy. Instead, go for the funny that is difficult and transcendent. Create something that your neighbors’ children, your significant other’s grandparents, and you find funny. Maybe it’s a cat video. Whatever it is, choose something that’s funny without giving in to the easy jokes.

Create Something with Love

Show your love through your creative work. Baked goods are nice, too.

Create Something Inspirational

Beautiful landscapes and inspirational quotes are nice, but it’s time for you to become the inspiration. Do something truly inspirational. Create something that inspires you. Put your heart and soul into something that will lift humanity to greater heights. It’s time to shine your light. Bring it on. #penguinate