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- 07/09/14--19:24: _Nobody Should go to...
- 07/09/14--23:16: _Google CEO: Is the ...
- 07/11/14--19:19: _Everybody has a pla...
- 07/12/14--19:41: _Your Business Doesn...
- 07/12/14--21:56: _3 Secrets Behind Tu...
- 07/12/14--22:09: _Money doesn’t alway...
- 07/12/14--23:51: _Inspire the Innovat...
- 07/13/14--00:33: _The Best Business B...
- 07/13/14--04:47: _How Business Leader...
- 07/13/14--04:58: _Has ‘Disruptive Inn...
- 07/13/14--06:49: _The Secret of Self-...
- 07/13/14--07:25: _4 Steps For Piercin...
- 07/13/14--07:35: _Designing Developme...
- 07/13/14--08:39: _श्रद्धांजलि हुल्लड़ ...
- 07/19/14--21:07: _Is Your Company Doi...
- 07/19/14--21:31: _Global Nomads: Key ...
- 07/20/14--05:39: _World's Most Powerf...
- 07/21/14--19:59: _Can Creativity Be L...
- 07/21/14--20:19: _5 Scientifically Ba...
- 07/21/14--20:23: _80 terabytes of arc...
- 07/09/14--19:24: Nobody Should go to Bed With a Hungry Stomach 07-10
- 07/09/14--23:16: Google CEO: Is the 40-Hour Workweek Really Necessary?
- 07/11/14--19:19: Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face 07-12
- 07/12/14--19:41: Your Business Doesn’t Always Need to Change 07-13
- Do your customers really want you to change? The offerings from privately-held Berger Cookies in Baltimore have been the same for 179 years. The company’s continued success shows that people crave consistency. When you taste your favorite cookie, you don’t want to suddenly discover that the recipe has changed.
- Will change alienate your base? Earlier this year, executives at Sirius Satellite Radio decided to capitalize on the renewed interest in singer-songwriter Billy Joel by creating a temporary channel dedicated to him and his music. But it replaced one that had played music of the 1930s and ‘40s, prompting those customers who enjoyed classics from the likes of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwins to cancel their subscriptions.
- Will you confuse people? If you bounce from one strategy (say, low prices) to another (full service) and back again, people won’t know what you stand for. The recent failures of mass market retailers Sears and J.C. Penney are clear examples of the problem with inconsistency.
- What is the cost? When remaking or radically changing your offerings, you must always weigh the risks against the rewards. This is a lesson Starbucks learned the hard way in the late 1990s. To expedite its expansion, the company made several tweaks: For example, it started shipping its coffee in flavor-locked packaging, which was more efficient but also eliminated most of the aroma; it also streamlined store design to gain economies of scale. But the result was “the watering down” and “commoditization” of the Starbucks experience, founder Howard Schultz later reflected. The company struggled, and its stock price fell, until Schultz came back and reversed those decisions.
- Will the change make you vulnerable? When you add to, or alter, your offerings, you can open the door to competitors. For example, Cadillac decided to offer a smaller car, the Cimarron, in the early 1980s. The diluted management focus, coupled with the car’s poor sales, hurt the brand and allowed competitors — especially luxury imports — to gain market share.
- 07/12/14--21:56: 3 Secrets Behind Turning a Great Idea Into a Big Business 07-13
- 07/12/14--22:09: Money doesn’t always give the best incentive 07-13
- 07/12/14--23:51: Inspire the Innovation Monster Within 07-13
- 07/13/14--00:33: The Best Business Book I’ve Ever Read 07-13
- 07/13/14--04:47: How Business Leaders Can Strengthen American Schools 07-13
- Influencing policy. "We know that policy often stands in the way of innovation and education," says Rivkin. "Business leaders can wield a great deal of influence in policy—especially local policy—and local policy is where all the action is in education." In Denver, for example, business leaders partnered with educators to lobby for an increase in taxes to support education.
- Building on proven innovation. "There's no shortage of success stories in particular schools and districts," Rivkin says. "The problem is that they tend to get bottled up in individual localities." Since business leaders are often adept at scaling up innovations that work, why not leverage that expertise? ExxonMobil, a founding sponsor of the National Math and Science Initiative, helped to scale two projects: one focusing on improved training for science, technology, and math teachers, the other on improving advanced placement test results in the same areas.
- Reinventing the local education ecosystem. Many communities have programs to support children and education—but they're often not coordinated, resulting in gaps and redundancies in service. This a fertile area for collaboration. "What you see in some places are business, civic, and education leaders partnering to create a strategy to support kids from cradle to career," says Rivkin. In Cincinnati, the Strive Partnership serves as a central clearing house for aligning goals with the metrics and decisions to meet those goals. "This fosters a sense of collective responsibility but individual accountability," says Rivkin. As another example, the GE Foundation sponsors Developing Futures, a program that partners with seven school districts where GE has major operations to upgrade management talent and processes at the district level.
- 07/13/14--04:58: Has ‘Disruptive Innovation’ Run Its Course? Not Yet…07-13
- 07/13/14--06:49: The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning 07-13
- How motivated am I to do the learning task, and how can I increase my motivation if I need to?
- If my confidence in my ability to learn this material sags, how can I increase it without becoming overconfident?
- Am I resisting material that is challenging my preconceptions?
- How am I reacting to my evaluation of my learning?
- How can I create the best, most distraction-free physical environment for the task?
- What is the best way to go about this task?
- How well are my learning strategies working? What changes should I make, if any?
- What am I still having trouble understanding?
- What can I recall and what should I review?
- How does this material relate to other things I’ve learned or experienced?
- Students answer two or three reflective questions on the reading or podcast.
- They write about what they learned by doing an assignment.
- They re-do the same or similar problems to the ones they miss on their homework and exams and explain the proper procedure.
- They describe their reasoning process in solving a “fuzzy” problem – how they defined the problem, decided which principles and concepts to apply, developed alternative approaches and solutions, and assessed their feasibility, trade-offs, and relative worth.
They reflect on a graded exam by answering questions like these:
- How to you feel about your grade? Were you surprised?
- How did you study for the exam? Did you study enough?
- Why did you lose points? Any patterns?
- What will you do differently to prepare for the next exam?
- 07/13/14--07:25: 4 Steps For Piercing Through the fog of Nascent Idea 07-13
- 07/13/14--07:35: Designing Developmentally Appropriate Writing Assignments 07-13
- 07/13/14--08:39: श्रद्धांजलि हुल्लड़ मुरादाबादी 07-13
- 07/19/14--21:07: Is Your Company Doing Training Wrong? 07-20
- 07/19/14--21:31: Global Nomads: Key Players for Global Growth 07-20
- 07/20/14--05:39: World's Most Powerful Countries: Where Do India Stands? 07-20
- 07/21/14--19:59: Can Creativity Be Learned? 07-22
- 07/21/14--20:19: 5 Scientifically Backed Ways to Seem More Powerful 07-22
- 07/21/14--20:23: 80 terabytes of archived web crawl data available for research 07-22
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Has Ambitious Goals for the United Nations
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shares his ambitious goals and hopes for his legacy.
Some of our favorite excerpts:
"Our vision is that by 2030, another 15 years from 2015, that we will have abolished the whole of extreme poverty. There should be nobody left behind. There should be nobody who goes to bed every night with a hungry stomach. And there should be no women and children who'll be dying from preventable diseases.
And we have to abolish at least HIV/AIDS transmissions from mother to children, and polio and measles. And there are several major killers which we really want to abolish. And by that time, we should also give universal access to energy. And there should be nobody who is suffering from lacking safe drinking water. Those are some very important visions which we will set by the end of next year."
Google CEO: Is the 40-Hour Workweek Really Necessary?|
"I totally believe we should be living in a time of abundance," said Google CEO Larry Page. "If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy -- housing, security, opportunities for your kids -- anthropologists have been identifying these things. It’s not that hard for us to provide those things."
Digital technology has already revolutionized the mobile work environment. Will it do the same to the traditional workweek? Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page believes it could. Page and Google co-founder Sergey Brin talked about the changing face of work culture last week with Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, at a CEO summit in Silicon Valley.
The hour long conversation covered a range of topics, but as the discussion veered into machine learning and machines taking on more jobs held by humans, Page speculated that not everyone necessarily needs to work a 40-hour workweek.
"I totally believe we should be living in a time of abundance," he said. "If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy -- housing, security, opportunities for your kids -- anthropologists have been identifying these things. It’s not that hard for us to provide those things."
A Disconnected Idea?
"The amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small," Page continued. "I’m guessing less than 1 percent at the moment. So the idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people’s needs is just not true."
When we asked tech industry analyst Rob Enderle if Page’s comments had any potential for real-world application, he said they struck him as disconnected and borderline delusional.
"Given that folks at Google routinely work 60- and 70-hour weeks, and given that Google is at the forefront of the type of robotics development that will inevitably cost people jobs, hearing Page hold forth on what the workweek should look like is peculiar," Enderle told us. "It actually makes me wonder if the guy can think strategically at all."
Page said the continued dominance of the 40-hour workweek, especially in Western culture, might have more to do with social customs than with financial needs.
"A lot of people aren't happy if they don't have something to do," he said. "They need to feel needed and wanted."
Enderle's reaction: "What people need is to make a living."
More People Working Less
Page stopped short of saying that Google itself might lead the way in greater segmentation of its employees’ hours. But he did say that a bigger-picture solution to unemployment could be creating ways for companies to fill one full-time-equivalent position with two people.
"That way, two people have a part-time job instead of one having a full-time job," Page said. "Most people, if I ask them would you like an extra week of vacation, 100 percent would raise their hands. Two weeks or a four-day work-week? They'd raise their hands. Most people like working but they also want more time with their families or their interests."
A nice thought, but not one with strong ties to reality, according to Enderle.
"Employees generally don’t want half a salary, even if it means having twice the free time," he said.
Your Business Doesn’t Always Need to Change
How Business Leaders Can Strengthen American Schools
Business has long recognized the connection between an effective school system and a qualified workforce—by some estimates, the private sector invests $4 billion annually in efforts intended to improve public education.
“STUDY AFTER STUDY HAS SHOWN THAT A COUNTRY’S LONG-TERM PROSPERITY DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF ITS HUMAN CAPITAL”
OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME
The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning
View at the original source
Designing Developmentally Appropriate Writing Assignments
Is Your Company Doing Training Wrong?
Global Nomads: Key Players for Global Growth
Statistics show that companies are becoming more selective about whom they send abroad and where they send them. At the same time, more international companies are opting for shorter assignments.
These are some of the findings presented in the "Global Thinking" study by IESE's International Research Center on Organizations (IRCO), in collaboration with ERES Relocation Services in Spain. The report was written by IESE professor José Ramón Pin and researcher Pilar García Lombardía.
As for where expat workers go, the study notes that the United States, China and the United Kingdom are the world's top expat destinations. These three countries together account for 44 percent of overseas assignments.
Meanwhile, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Spain are all emerging as important destinations for globalization. Looking forward, China, India and Brazil are identified as presenting particular challenges for human resources (HR) departments.
Four Types of "Expatriate-able" TalentWith all these changes afoot in the global context, the authors note that HR departments should become strategic partners of senior management to best identify "expatriate-able" talent in their organization. The types of workers to send overseas may be divided into four categories in order to help think strategically about their careers. (See table below.)
1. Ready and Willing: Self-Designed Careers. To a large extent this category corresponds to "global nomads": people with an international lifestyle who see mobility as a way to satisfy both personal and professional goals in their lives. This emerging group of workers is key for HR to incorporate into strategic planning.
Global nomads tend to be young and flexible, willing to accept posts that older colleagues might reject -- or accept only under highly beneficial, highly compensated terms. Global nomads might hail from any country, although in recent years the percentage coming from China and India has grown substantially.
Global nomads view their career as a never-ending string of international opportunities, so motivating and retaining them is not easy. In order to increase loyalty to their current employer, traditional economic incentives are not the best way to go. They respond better to new challenges to develop their skills and a career path with the promise of various international assignments with varying responsibilities.
The study also finds that global nomads move into the other categories of workers in the table, becoming more valuable to the company along the way. Because global nomads can become tomorrow's strategic business leaders, retaining them can help a company meet its needs anywhere in the world and support its global growth.
2. High-Potential, Emerging Talent. This group is made up of potential future leaders who are interested in acquiring international experience. In many cases, they come from the "global nomads" group and may end up becoming strategic leaders in a few years, thanks to their commitment to their company's culture and mission.
3. Technical Experts With Experience. These are people with expertise and technical skills suited to meet specific needs of the company. They are specialists able to solve problems or carry out specific projects anywhere in the world. When they emerge from the "global nomads" group, a competitive advantage is clear: unlike most technical experts, they are already accustomed to working abroad.
4. Strategic Business Leaders. This group consists of experienced, high-performing executives with a strong sense of corporate mission. They are highly valuable to the company, especially if they have developed their career in-house, as one of their most important jobs is to spread the company's culture and mission around the world. One of the main goals of a global talent-management strategy is to establish policies that ensure the company has enough of these strategic leaders.
World's Most Powerful Countries: Where Do India Stands?
BANGALORE: Every country in the world strives towards development mainly to get the powerful status. Economy, technology, military capability, foreign affairs, population, land area are among the factors that make any country one of the most powerful countries. As per National Power Index, read on to know the world’s most powerful countries in 2014.
A unitary parliamentary republic in Southern Europe, Italy is not only famous for its culture, traditions and cuisines, but is also one of the most powerful countries in the world.
It is one of the most developed nations in the world with the fifth largest economy by nominal GDP. Italy is a member of different groups and organizations including NATO, G7, G8 and the World Trade Organization.
This European nation is ranked as the 9th largest economy in the world and the 10th country in terms of spending the highest military expenditure.
A North America nation, Canada is the ninth most powerful nation in the world. Its advance economy is one of the world’s largest and relies largely upon its natural resources and international trade. Because of a large-scale immigration from many countries, it is one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations.
Canada is second-largest country by total area, and its common border with the United States is the world's longest land border shared by any two countries. And the relation between these two countries is quite friendly and good.
In this nation, $28,194 is an average household disposable income that is an income of 20 percent higher strata of the society earn five times as much as the 20 percent lower strata. Canada is also one of the fastest growing nations in the world.
A country with rich culture and history, India is among the most powerful countries in the world. It has the third largest army in the world and one of the most powerful nations with nuclear power.
With 1.2 billion populations, India is the second most populous nation in the world and is one of the fastest developing nation and IT hub of the world.
The survey of 3,200 business leaders in 44 countries found optimism in the Indian economy. Though high inflation and strict regulations on foreign investment and ownership remain major issues, still the Indian economy is expected to grow by 7.8 percent per annum on average by 2017-18.
In India, it is unfortunate that social problem like poverty, terrorism and corruption hindered the growth of the country.
One of the major political and economic power houses of the European continent, Germany is the seventh most powerful nation in the world. It is also one of the world’s most populous countries.
Germany is definitely one of those countries with the largest economy by nominal GDP. In spite of being destroyed after World War, still achieved great success.
It is known as one of the most powerful countries for its strong economy. It is also ranked as the 2nd largest exporter and the 3rd largest importer in the world.
It is also a country that houses maximum billionaires. On an average, the German billionaires are worth $4 billion each. Hamburg, Munich and Dusseldorf are the three German cities with the maximum number of ultra-rich.
“The Land of the Rising Sun”, Japan, with a fast growing economy emerges as one of the most powerful nations. It has a major economic power and is actually one of the world’s largest exporter and importer.
It is one such nation that spends whooping sum in defense. In this country, maintaining a military establishment is mainly to achieve national security.
The country’s defense budget has risen from 0.8 percent to 4.68 trillion yen ($51.7 billion). Although its economy was almost destroyed after the Cold War and World War II, Japan still emerges as the world’s third largest economy after USA and China.
The Japanese industrial sector is the main reasons behind this growth of this country. It is the home to some of the most advanced automobile companies in the world.
5. United Kingdom:
The Land of kings and queens, the United Kingdom rounds off at the fifth spot on the list. This nation has the world's sixth largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth largest by purchasing power parity.
It was the world's first industrialized country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with significant economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence all over the globe.
It is a recognized nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks from fourth to sixth (depending on the source) in the world
The UK is believed to be a hardworking country that has 70 percent of employees having a paid job. They work for 1,625 hours yearly.
A Western European nation, France is a major power house in Europe since the Late Middle Ages. With its significant cultural, economic, military, and political influence in Europe and around the world, France remains a powerful country.
This country has the world's fifth-largest military budget, third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons and second-largest diplomatic corps.
Mainly because of its overseas regions and territories throughout the globe, France has the second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world. It is a developed country with the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest by purchasing power parity.
In France, its citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and as such perform well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, civil liberties, and human development.
A Northern Eurasian country, Russia is among the most powerful nation since its allied victory in World War II. Its economy comes up as the eighth largest by nominal GDP and sixth largest by purchasing power parity in 2014.
The country is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
Russia is a powerful nation with a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Most populous country in the world, China has become one of the world's fastest-growing major economies and most importantly the second most powerful country in the world.
Until 2013 updates, it is the world's second-largest economy by both nominal total GDP and purchasing power parity, and is also the world's largest exporter and importer of goods. This nation is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defense budget.
China is also a member of many formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BCIM and the G-20. Within Asia, China is a regional power and has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of commentators.
1. United States:
United States was and remains, the most powerful Country in the world. Since the end of World War II, the economy has been witnessing a steady growth, low unemployment and inflation with great advancements in the technology segment.
United States has a market-oriented economy with private individuals and business firms make the most of the decisions.
It is also defined as a nation with systemic power within every continent, including a comprehensive global military footprint, a top-tier technological economy, massive diplomatic influence and huge cultural strength.
Can Creativity Be Learned?
Mary was 18 years old and spending her summer at the Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva with her stepsister Claire Clairmont and the writers Lord Byron and John William Polidori. Her future husband, Percy Shelley, was staying nearby. They had intended to spend the summer swimming and sunbathing, but a year earlier, Mount Tambora, a massive volcano in Indonesia, had erupted, dispersing nearly 1.5 million metric tons of dust into the atmosphere, blocking the sun, and sharply decreasing temperatures worldwide.
It had such devastating effects on global weather patterns that 1816 came to be known as “The Year Without a Summer.” Although the inclement weather foiled the group’s outdoor plans, the four of them contented themselves with indoor activities and took to reading scary stories, most notably from Fantasmagoriana, a French anthology of German ghost stories.
“It proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house,” Mary Shelley wrote, in her introduction to the 1831 edition ofFrankenstein; Or the Modern Prometheus. “But,” she added, “Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French, fell into our hands.” On the suggestion of Lord Byron a few days later, the four of them decided to try their hand at writing their own scary stories.
Throughout the summer, while trying to write her tale, Shelley spent many evenings listening to Lord Byron and Percy Shelley discussing the spine-tingling findings of Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandfather). The elder Darwin had been experimenting with galvanism, and had shown that with the right use of electrical currents, a frog’s legs could be contracted at will. Rumors spread that electricity, which was widely not understood in 1816 (it wouldn’t be until 1882 that Thomas Edison harnessed electricity to create the first light bulb), could even be used to control and potentially reanimate humans.
With all the ghost stories and discussions of electrical reanimation swirling in her mind, Mary awoke on the 16th of June having had a nightmare, later writing, “I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.”
It was a perfect storm of events: Shelley had lots of time to write due to the bad weather, she had inspiration from Fantasmagoriana and the talk of Erasmus Darwin’s electrical experiments, and she had great writers—Lord Byron and Percy (who she married in 1816)—by her side to bounce ideas off of. Two years later, Shelley
published Frankenstein,launching the genre of science fiction. She was 20. As far as how to best access one’s creativity, Shelley appears to be a case study.
Shelley didn’t have much practice writing before that. So the fact that her masterpiece came so early in her life would imply that her skill was not something learned but an attribute she had always possessed. By this example, it would seem that you’re either creative or you’re not.
As Nobel-prize-winning author Doris Lessing noted on creativity when she was 89, “Don't imagine you'll have it forever. Use it while you've got it because it'll go; it's sliding away like water down a plug hole.”
But Paul Cézanne, who didn’t complete his famous “Les Grandes Baigneuses” until age 66, would beg to differ. So too would Raymond Chandler, who didn’t begin writing seriously until 44. Not to mention Toyo Shibata, who had her first poetry collection published (to best-selling results) at the age of 99.
In Old Masters and Young Geniuses, David Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, proposed one of the most compelling theories on creativity of the modern age, a theory that explains the age discrepancy in successful creatives. He found that an artist’s success and how old she is when she attains it is a function not of the artist’s skill but of methodology.
There are, according to Galenson, two types of artists. There are “experimental artists,” who create their masterpieces at much older ages. Epitomized by Cézanne, the experimentalists “have ambitious but imprecise aesthetic goals, for they aim to present accurate accounts of the world as they see and experience it.” They “often see their work as unfinished” and thus tend not to create their masterpieces until much older.
Then there are the “conceptual artists.” Pablo Picasso, who launched the Cubism movement with “Les Demoiselles d'Avignon” as a 25-year-old, is the archetype. The purpose of these conceptual artists “can usually be stated precisely in advance of its production.” They tend to make many drafts of a single work—a painting, a novel—in their youth with a singular vision in mind. Because of this specific vision early on, successful conceptual artists are able to execute their chef d’oeuvres when they are so young that the rest of us are usually finishing up school or getting our first jobs.
But another widespread theory of creativity seems to push up against Galenson’s research, claiming that age or method doesn’t matter as much as the amount of time one practices a creative task (e.g. musicianship, writing). Popularly outlined in Malcolm
Gladwell’s Outliers, the idea is that the most notable creative individuals practice for at least 10,000 hours before becoming experts. That’s to say, creativity can be learned, but unless you are exclusively practicing your artistic skill full-time, eight hours a day, five days a week, for at least five years, you won’t become a successful artist.
Obviously if one looks at Shelley (who had not written a single short story until she was 18), or F. Scott Fitzgerald (whose time at Princeton and in the Army meant he couldn’t write full-time until going home to complete This Side of Paradise at 23) or Jonathan Safran Foer (who wrote Everything is Illuminatedpart-time while an undergraduate, also at Princeton), it is clear that the 10,000-hour rule is not ironclad.
In an “Ask Me Anything” interview hosted by Reddit, Gladwell clarified his theory saying, “Practice isn't a sufficient condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I'll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.” Yet his root idea remains the same: Even if one has talent, it must be cultivated.
With these widely accepted theories of creativity in mind, it is rather jarring to see two brand studies, both of which suggest that creativity is closely linked with inherent neurological and personality traits rather than methodology or practice. The implication is that creativity can be learned, but only to a certain extent. To truly be an artistic great, the makeup of your brain is more important than the number of hours spent in your atelier.
The first study, published in a recent issue of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, found that highly creative individuals have more activity in the part of the brain containing the ability to make original associations, to blend information from various scenarios and experiences (known as “conceptual integration”), and to understand complex metaphors and comparisons.
Wenfu Li, a professor in the school of psychology at Southwest University, and a group of researchers first administered the Williams Scale creativity aptitude test to 246 participants. (Designed by Frank Williams in 1993, the Williams Scale looks at an individual’s curiosity, imagination, complexity of ideas, and risk-taking behaviors in order to assess the participant’s level of creativity.) What they found is that compared to those who score low on creativity, the participants who scored highest tended to have a greater volume of grey matter in the “right posterior middle temporal gyrus” (pMTG), an area of the brain related to the aforementioned creative traits.
Naturally, a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma arises: Is there a high volume of grey matter in the pMTG of creative people’s brains because they were born with it and are therefore creative or have they accumulated it by doing creative things?
Scientists know that creativity can be lost. But can it be learned?
Attempting to answer this question, Li’s team also looked at personality traits that contribute to creativity and found that “openness to experience” is by far the most salient characteristic, as it matched up with both high grey matter in the pMTG and with high creativity as tested by the Williams Scale.
Although it may sound vague, the term “openness to experience” is in fact one of the widely recognized “Big Five Personality Traits,” a concept theorized by Paul T. Costa, Jr., and Robert R McCrae in The Revised NEO Personality Inventory, along with conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Someone who has high “openness” has an active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. The trait also closely correlates with intelligence as measured by IQ, according to a study in Learning and Individual Differences.
Most importantly though, “openness to experience” is generally a trait one can willfully improve. Trying new foods, learning foreign languages, meeting new people, giving the Times’ Sunday crossword a go, pondering complex issues and varying viewpoints are all ways one can work to increase their “openness.”
It seems then from this study that creativity, although deeply affected by one’s neurology, can at least be partially learned and improved upon vis-à-vis openness to experience. Yet the other new study is not so optimistic.
Similar to Gladwell’s clarification that practice is necessary but not sufficient for creative success, Frederick Travis, a researcher at Maharishi University, said,“Some people put in long hours and do not excel.” He added, “It's a simple fact that some people stand out, and we're trying to tease out why. We hypothesized that something must be different about the way their brains work, and that's what we're finding.”
Along with coauthor Yvonne Lagrosen, Travis published a study in the June 2014 edition of Creativity Research Journal, which found that people who have brains that process information faster can also make more diverse connections and original associations, a hallmark of creativity. Because there’s not an obviously confounding relationship between information processing speed and creativity as there is in Li’s study, Travis and Lagrosen seem to have shown that creativity—or at least the ability to quickly condense disparate experiences and memories into original ideas—is based on the brain’s processing speed.
But neural processing speed, according to the study, is not something that can willfully be improved upon.
Both of the neurological studies find that creativity is linked to the ability to quickly process and reorganize varied information. What we can discern from this is that the most creative individuals have a variety of experiences from which to draw (as Shelley did between her upbringing in intellectual circles, the ghost stories she read, and the discussions of galvanism she heard). The studies also find that one must be open to new ideas as well in order to transform these experiences into an original product.
If someone is not inherently open to new experiences, he can make an effort to try that new Thai restaurant or read a book from a different genre than his favorite. He can actively build his tolerance to new ideas. Simply living a life of complexity and of tolerance can, according to the Li study, aid creativity.
Additionally, those with a dearth of experience can also tap into their subconscious to discover “new” experiences. In Robin MacKenzie’s book, The Unconscious in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, the senior lecturer in French at the University of Swansea explores the theme of the unconscious in Proust’s touchstone novel. He finds that dreams and remembered language are key sites of unconscious brain activity, which afford one the ability to build memories and thoughts even while sleeping. The idea is a neurological twist on Gladwell’s 10,000-hour-rule, that the ceaselessly working mind is in fact able to practice creativity by gaining “new” experiences even as it sleeps.
Before drafting Frankenstein Mary Shelley had already undergone a great deal of tragedy and had the life experience of a woman twice her age. Her mother died when she was 11. Her prematurely born baby died when she was 17. She married Percy at 19 after his former wife, Harriet, killed herself. Then, two years later, Shelley moved to England with him where her second and third children also perished before she gave birth to them.
Shelley had both a bundle of deeply affecting experiences and openness to new ideas (she internalized the ghost stories and understood how they might relate to the contemporary science of Erasmus Darwin). Yet, perhaps most importantly, she also had the ability to bring together all of these experiences together into a tight, hauntingly original story.
We can’t know the details of her neurology, obviously, but what is clear is that she had time (not 10,000 hours, but time nonetheless), she had a surprising amount of experience for her age, she had raw talent, and she was open to new ideas.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a great artist creative. Like Victor Frankenstein, who raided charnel houses and graveyards to get human remains for his creation, there are almost too many parts that go into creating something great. And although Frankenstein’s monster didn’t end up too happily, his true creator, Shelley, shows that when experience, openness, and the right neurology come together, the final product is nothing short of incredible. It may be possible to learn creativity, but only to a certain extent, and we still don’t know how all these traits can coalesce so perfectly, so that what the greats end up with is not a demented monster, but a genius creation.
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