The Sydney Story Factory – Pitch

“The Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for children. Volunteer tutors offer free help to tell stories of all kinds. Programs are targeted at disadvantaged children, especially those from indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, but are open to all.

“Sydney Story Factory programs are project-based, and every child walks away with a published piece of work. At the end of a one-off, two-hour workshop, children might have a bound and illustrated chap book to take home. At the end of a longer program, they may have produced a book, zine, school newspaper or short animated film. They might have had an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald, our media partner.

“The Sydney Story Factory is dedicated to developing creativity. There is growing global awareness that the ability to think creatively and flexibly is key to preparing children for a future we cannot yet imagine. All programs at the Sydney Story Factory are designed to nurture the creativity that is innate to every child. Programs will increase children’s abilities to express their thoughts and feelings, and give them new ways of understanding the world around them.

“The Sydney Story Factory is scheduled to open in early 2012 in Redfern, but is already running small pilot programs in local schools.

“The centre will include The Martian Embassy and Gift Shop, a one-stop store selling everything a child needs for space travel and inter-galactic exploration. Children have to walk through The Martian Embassy to get to the centre, and the shop acts as a portal, transporting them to a place where the imagination is without bounds. It also generates money for the centre.

“Writers who support the Sydney Story Factory include Geraldine Brooks, Markus Zusak, Peter FitzSimons, Anna Funder, Leigh Sales, James Bradley, Tom Keneally, Malcolm Knox, Gail Jones, Mardi McConnochie, Debra Adelaide and Michael Robotham.”

via vimeo.com

UTSpeaks: Shapeshifters – the new creatives. Public talk @ UTS Great Hall on 7 March @ 6pm

Shapeshifters - the new creatives

When: 7 March 2012 – 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Where: The Great Hall, level 5, UTS Tower
RSVP: 6 March 2012

RSVP NOW PDF

Is the global innovation movement challenging us to re-discover the innate creativity in all of us?

Can a holistic, trans-disciplinary approach to creativity improve our ability to solve problems, collaborate and share knowledge? How should we translate creative thinking into doing?

The 21st century presents us with a complex and competitive world, where nations are searching for processes that deliver innovation, creativity and solutions to our biggest challenges. Can Australia compete?

In this public forum, dynamic presenters, who embody a hybrid of creative industries and technology, investigate Australia’s position and future in creative innovation.

Forum Moderator – Hael Kobayashi
Hael Kobayashi is the Associate Director, Creative Industries Innovation Centre and the Executive Director, Creative Innovation at UTS. He has more than 30 years experience in film, digital and new media, design and performing arts, held senior management roles with Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light + Magic and DreamWorks Animation. He was a producer for Animal Logic for Oscar winning Happy Feet. For the past seven years Hael has worked with government, education and industry leaders in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia to develop and implement creative economy strategy.

Professor Kees Dorst
Kees Dorst is Professor of Design and Associate Dean Research at UTS’s Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building. He has worked as a designer, consultant, manager of several design firms and editor of a leading design magazine. His research focuses on the way designers think and work. His publications include five books, the most recent being ‘Understanding Design – 175 reflections on being a designer’ (2006) and ‘Design Expertise’ (2009) with Bryan Lawson. Currently he is working on an invited book for MIT Press on ‘Frame Creation – a design-based methodology for driving innovation’.

Dr Jochen Schweitzer
Jochen Schweitzer is Lecturer of Strategy and Marketing at the UTS Business School and co-founder of u.lab, a multidisciplinary innovation hub. He has worked as a management consultant, production-planning engineer and cultural program coordinator in Australia, Europe, Central and South America. He has extensive experience in business planning, organisational transformation and change management. His focus now is on teaching and strategic management research, collaboration, entrepreneurship and innovation with a special interest in design thinking and social enterprise.

Dr Joanne Jakovich
Joanne Jakovich is a Senior Lecturer in the UTS Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building and co-founder of u.lab. She is a design educator and researcher exploring the intersection of collective creativity and cities. She has exhibited work in Japan, Australia, Taiwan and the Netherlands in architectural and artistic contexts. She is the catalyst and producer of a new generation of urban engagement projects spanning entrepreneurship, social innovation and architecture.

UTSPEAKS: is a free public lecture series presented by UTS experts discussing a range of important issues confronting contemporary Australia.

It’s all about the space – MAKE SPACE by S. Doorley and S. Witthoft

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BY ROBIN WANDER

The spaces within Stanford’s popular d.school are as creative as the furniture and fixtures are inventive, and every aspect of the space impacts behavior.

In his foreword for Make Space, David Kelley, the founder of the design school as well as the design firm IDEO, writes, “Regardless of whether it’s a classroom or the offices of a billion-dollar company, space is something to think of as an instrument for innovation and collaboration. Space is a valuable tool that can help you create deep and meaningful collaborations in your work and life.”

As a spectator on the second floor of Stanford’s d.school building, on any given day you might observe a team of students standing at a project table in an active stance – literally learning on their feet. Or you might see a group engaged in a sharing exercise sitting on foam cubes in a circle as if around a campfire. From the overlook you might also be able to peer down at the atrium and see an assembly of executives paired up at cocktail tables doing some cutting and pasting – as in scissors and glue, not keystrokes.

Need an office? Slide a few suspended dry-erase panels together and roll in a table and chair. Swap out the table and chair for a couple of couches on coasters and you’ve got yourself an informal lounge. Need a respite from an open, collaborative environment? Step into the “Booth Noir,” a simply furnished low-tech hiding place tucked in a corner. In each case the environment supports a different kind of learning or exchange of information.

Anyone who has worked long hours in a cubicle, struggled with piles of work on a dining room table or sat through a long lecture knows that many spaces are not designed to unleash personal creativity. Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, co-directors of the Environments Collaborative at the d.school, have re-imagined working spaces, and their students are taking the design strategies for activating creativity, communication and innovation back to their respective departments and beyond. They are learning that the desk you sit at, the chair you sit on and even the light levels in a room can either support or stymie creativity.

Doorley and Witthoft’s new book is a DIY tool to take you from idea to action. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration offers guidance and inspiration when concocting the perfect alchemy of people, place, space and things. The content is the result of more than five years of real-life learning by the d.school and its Environments Collaborative initiative. Since the founding of the first physical teaching space, the d.school has moved four times in as many years, and each location presented challenges and learning opportunities.

As Doorley and Witthoft write in their book, “With each move, we were forced to occupy and modify spaces we would not have instinctively chosen. In responding to the scale and character of each building, we’ve recognized that a tool for designing creative spaces is to create smart parameters that themselves stimulate mindful modification.”

Within the book are case studies on making space and living with it. Real-life profiles include an expansion project at the Nueva School (a K-8 school in the San Francisco Bay Area), the Runway Program for entrepreneurs and an experimental kitchen at the avant-garde restaurant Moto in Chicago. In many of the case studies, the concepts and practices developed at the d.school were applied to encourage new ways of learning, thinking and doing.

The Stanford d.school – formally, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford – teaches design thinking to graduate students from across Stanford University and offers an executive leadership program to executives of Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and teachers and administrators in K-12 education.

The book is available here.

 

The Rise of the New Groupthink – NYTimes.com

By SUSAN CAIN

SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. 

But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.

One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone — and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world’s great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as “A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”)

Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.

Culturally, we’re often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process. Consider Apple. In the wake of Steve Jobs’s death, we’ve seen a profusion of myths about the company’s success. Most focus on Mr. Jobs’s supernatural magnetism and tend to ignore the other crucial figure in Apple’s creation: a kindly, introverted engineering wizard, Steve Wozniak, who toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer.

Rewind to March 1975: Mr. Wozniak believes the world would be a better place if everyone had a user-friendly computer. This seems a distant dream — most computers are still the size of minivans, and many times as pricey. But Mr. Wozniak meets a simpatico band of engineers that call themselves the Homebrew Computer Club. The Homebrewers are excited about a primitive new machine called the Altair 8800. Mr. Wozniak is inspired, and immediately begins work on his own magical version of a computer. Three months later, he unveils his amazing creation for his friend, Steve Jobs. Mr. Wozniak wants to give his invention away free, but Mr. Jobs persuades him to co-found Apple Computer.

The story of Apple’s origin speaks to the power of collaboration. Mr. Wozniak wouldn’t have been catalyzed by the Altair but for the kindred spirits of Homebrew. And he’d never have started Apple without Mr. Jobs.

But it’s also a story of solo spirit. If you look at how Mr. Wozniak got the work done — the sheer hard work of creating something from nothing — he did it alone. Late at night, all by himself.

Intentionally so. In his memoir, Mr. Wozniak offers this guidance to aspiring inventors:

“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone …. I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

And yet. The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has “a room of one’s own.” During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink. Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.

The New Groupthink also shapes some of our most influential religious institutions. Many mega-churches feature extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable activity, from parenting to skateboarding to real estate, and expect worshipers to join in. They also emphasize a theatrical style of worship — loving Jesus out loud, for all the congregation to see. “Often the role of a pastor seems closer to that of church cruise director than to the traditional roles of spiritual friend and counselor,” said Adam McHugh, an evangelical pastor and author of “Introverts in the Church.”

SOME teamwork is fine and offers a fun, stimulating, useful way to exchange ideas, manage information and build trust.

But it’s one thing to associate with a group in which each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it’s another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They’re also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

Many introverts seem to know this instinctively, and resist being herded together. Backbone Entertainment, a video game development company in Emeryville, Calif., initially used an open-plan office, but found that its game developers, many of whom were introverts, were unhappy. “It was one big warehouse space, with just tables, no walls, and everyone could see each other,” recalled Mike Mika, the former creative director. “We switched over to cubicles and were worried about it — you’d think in a creative environment that people would hate that. But it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody.”

Privacy also makes us productive. In a fascinating study known as the Coding War Games, consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared the work of more than 600 computer programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level — but that there was an enormous performance gap between organizations. What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn’t greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed. Sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.

Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that’s most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

Conversely, brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity. The brainchild of a charismatic advertising executive named Alex Osborn who believed that groups produced better ideas than individuals, workplace brainstorming sessions came into vogue in the 1950s. “The quantitative results of group brainstorming are beyond question,” Mr. Osborn wrote. “One group produced 45 suggestions for a home-appliance promotion, 56 ideas for a money-raising campaign, 124 ideas on how to sell more blankets.”

But decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group’s, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this “the pain of independence.”

The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

MY point is not that man is an island. Life is meaningless without love, trust and friendship.

And I’m not suggesting that we abolish teamwork. Indeed, recent studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.) The problems we face in science, economics and many other fields are more complex than ever before, and we’ll need to stand on one another’s shoulders if we can possibly hope to solve them.

But even if the problems are different, human nature remains the same. And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work.

Before Mr. Wozniak started Apple, he designed calculators at Hewlett-Packard, a job he loved partly because HP made it easy to chat with his colleagues. Every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., management wheeled in doughnuts and coffee, and people could socialize and swap ideas. What distinguished these interactions was how low-key they were. For Mr. Wozniak, collaboration meant the ability to share a doughnut and a brainwave with his laid-back, poorly dressed colleagues — who minded not a whit when he disappeared into his cubicle to get the real work done.

Susan Cain is the author of the forthcoming book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

MBA Electives Offer Hands-On Learning – Businessweek

Business school electives have taken a turn for the creative, tackling everything from New York City’s problems to health care to humanitarian relief

After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, MBA students at Wharton launched a course designed to apply business principles to humanitarian crises.

After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, MBA students at Wharton launched a course designed to apply business principles to humanitarian crises.

Many an MBA student has sighed with relief when completing core requirements and moving on to electives. After all, electives are a chance to explore the subjects that interest one most and will be most relevant in one’s future career. Where the core curriculum tends to be rigid and structured, the electives can be whatever professors and students want them to be. Says Benn Konsynski, a professor of information systems and operations management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, “Electives are a venue for experimentation.”

Indeed, professors at top business schools say electives are their opportunity to help business students see beyond the numbers, grow personally and professionally, and even wax philosophical. Electives, adds Konsynski, are a chance to do something a little out of the ordinary. When done well, say professors, electives can get students to work in ways they might not have imagined. There are a slew of MBA electives being offered at top B-schools—too many to name, in fact—that are designed to do just that, and make the world a better place in the process.

At top MBA programs, leadership is the means to that end. While all of today’s top business schools address leadership in one form or another, some of them take a unique approach. For instance, in the Leadership Out of the Box elective offered at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, students analyze Disney’s The Lion King, write letters as an 8-year-old to their adult selves to connect their hopes and dreams from then and now, and consider the journeys of such pivotal figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring is widely credited with launching the global environmental movement.

“This course allows us all to take a time-out in a very hectic curriculum, take a breather from the quantitative work of business, and recapture ‘What’s the dream? How can I be the best self I can be?’ ” says Ella L.J. Edmondson Bell, the associate professor of management who teaches the class.

Class Competitions

While Bell’s students are contemplating how The Lion King’s Machiavellian Scar character represents the dark side in all of them, students in the Leadership Immersion course at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School are participating in Apprentice-like challenges, such as coming up with a new food item to sell in the school’s cafeteria and creating a marketing plan for it. There are winners in the challenges, but on the flip side nobody gets fired by Donald Trump. Instead, everyone, including executive coaches, participates in conversations about the strengths and weaknesses of each team. Two challenges like this, a business simulation, and a customized Outward Bound experience are the highlights of this elective, says Mindy Storrie, director of leadership development at Kenan-Flagler.

Developing the leader within is not always accomplished through the artifice of challenges and simulations. Sometimes it takes place in the muck and mire of real life.

In the case of the Fundamentals of Quality Improvement in Health Care elective at Vanderbilt University, students from the Owen Graduate School of Management join nursing and medical students to focus on process improvements at the university’s hospital. The students track events at the hospital, such as the process of taking umbilical cord blood from newborns to harvest stem cells or the process for discharging patients, and then offer recommendations to make everything run more efficiently.

Similarly, Columbia Business School students in the elective, NYC: Innovative & Entrepreneurial Solutions to the City’s Complex Challenges, spent the fall of 2011 in teams working closely with senior executives in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to offer recommendations for solving some of the city’s problems. They tackled subjects such as education and economic development, and their aim was to help the city implement changes to curb costs and offer a better quality of life to residents.

Technology Development

Just as capturing the hearts of people is an important aspect of leadership, so is creating progress by advancing technology. In his App-cology course at Goizueta, Konsynski gives MBA students the chance to develop four smartphone apps. The students have to decide how the apps will be used, and what design elements to incorporate. Venture capitalists and media representatives are among the judges who vote on whether to invest an imaginary $10 million in their technologies. “They leave the class with a portfolio and not just a certificate,” says Konsynski. “Students will accomplish something they think is beyond their technical skills.”

Technology is not the only hot topic for MBAs. Businesspeople can’t stop talking about digital strategies, sustainability, and emerging economies. In the Digital Strategies for Sustainability in Global Emerging Markets elective at the USC Marshall School of Business, students learn about all three while working on projects for five companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What makes the course unique, says Omar El Sawy, professor of information systems at Marshall, is its focus on all three of these trendy MBA topics, the interactive aspect of working on real-world projects, and the chance to help companies in a part of the world that’s relatively untouched by MBAs.

Greater society is top of mind for most of today’s MBAs. So it should come as no surprise that after a major earthquake pummeled Haiti in 2010, students at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School initiated a special course designed to apply business principles to humanitarian crises. In the Management of Crisis Relief elective, students hear from outside speakers and discuss subjects, such as supply-chain logistics and pricing commodities, through the lens of disaster relief. The class has led to the creation of an executive program for Haitian cabinet ministers who want to reconstruct the educational system in their devastated country.

Keith Weigelt, professor of strategy at Wharton, says more business schools should offer this kind of course. “Businesses have lots to offer in terms of care after disaster hits,” he says. “They can help improve the efficiency of relief efforts.”

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Di Meglio is a reporter for Businessweek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.

 

Teaching Creativity: The Answers Aren’t in the Back of the Book – by Brian D. Cohen

“Genius is the error in the system.” — Paul Klee

When a student asks me, an art teacher, how to do something, I often don’t answer. It’s not that I’m especially possessive of my acquired knowledge; to the contrary, I don’t think knowledge belongs to anyone; it should be shared, or better yet, discovered.

As teachers, we imply there are definite answers and that we possess them. Sometimes teachers play a kind of game in which they encourage students to guess the answer in the teacher’s head. It might be better played the other way around.

Figuring things out for yourself has a high value. Thinking is the best way to learn. But it’s painful and a lot of work, and lengthy uncertainty is uncomfortable.

There are rules, and there is much an art student needs to learn. We must recognize when a rule is a convention or a convenience, rather than a universal law, and we must recognize assumptions underlying what we believe. To learn to apply rule-based solutions without understanding them is incomplete learning.

I think of knowledge as familiarity with facts or formulae; and understanding as the ability to apply the principles of knowledge to new conditions and circumstances. Creativity (I would never limit this term to the arts only) involves understanding and, paradoxically and simultaneously, not knowing; entering a process where ready answers are inadequate to the task, and where the resolution at first uncertain. You can be know a lot about something and be thought to be good at it, yet not know for sure where things are going to come our.

And often when things do come out, and they usually do though it takes a while, they don’t look so good at first. Gertrude Stein, quoting Picasso, said, “When you make a thing, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly, but those that do it after you they don’t have to worry about making it and they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when the others make it.” (from The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.) When you work something out on your own, you often do so awkwardly, haltingly, even blindly, without fully knowing the outcome ahead of time.

The best arts schools are not vocational schools. Students are “trained” to learn the rules and to speak the language of their medium, but more importantly, they are encouraged to develop their own habits of mind and to acquire the discipline of continuing to work in the face of not being able to get the answers right away. They learn how to not give up until they get there.

What else do students learn how to do in arts education?

They learn how their first answer may not be the best. They learn how the last answer may help you get to the next, but it won’t be the next answer. They learn how there might be more than one way of interpreting or doing something. They learn how skill and knowledge in their discipline is a means and a beginning, not an end.

They learn how to live with uncertainty, to pursue outcomes that are not predetermined.
They learn how one must risk the thing one cares most about.
They learn how to look anywhere and everywhere for answers.
They learn how nothing is sacred and everything is sacred.

They learn how to let go of the shore and push off into the middle of the river.