Hear Scott Speak on Blog Talk Radio

Tomorrow, Friday, at 10 am, our Executive Director, Scott Noppe-Brandon will be interviewed on Blog Talk Radio. Expect to hear a lively discussion about the purposes and practical applications of the imaginative themes in Scott’s book Imagination First. Participate! – the call-in number is 877.483.3161. Log on to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/breakfreetosuccess and click the play icon to “listen to your radio.”

President Obama Talks Education


Fixing the schools—it’s not just “a money thing.” On Monday, NBC News’s Matt Lauer sat down with President Obama to discuss education reform, “Race to the Top” funding, charter schools, parental responsibility, and investment in effective teacher training. The president talks about both the personal inspiration derived from great teachers and ways to inspire the next generation of professional educators. What do you think?

View the interview parts 1, 2 & 3, below:

Make Way for Awe

“There is nothing like knowing it all to kill the imagination.”

We are pleased to announce that an excerpt from Scott Noppe-Brandon’s and Eric Liu’s Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility has been featured on the NBC News “Education Nation” Web site. Check it out here.

Human Resources

Image by Ted Shelton*

JC Spender and Ben Strong assert that businesses aren’t making optimal use of employees’ imaginations in “Missing Out,” a short and straight-to-the-point article for The Wall Street Journal. One of the goals of the book I wrote with Eric Liu, Imagination First, is to suggest ways that organizations may cultivate more imaginative work environments, so I read this piece with great interest. Spender and Strong see three main reasons for many companies’ failure to benefit from workers’ imaginations. First, senior managers in need of fresh ideas habitually turn to outside resources like consultants rather than look within their own organization’s ranks; they forget about all the valuable minds right in front of their noses. Second, since businesses are not designed to facilitate free interaction between upper- and lower-level employees, each group is not privy to the other’s problems; so an unnecessarily small number of potential solutions get imagined, and those that do are not communicated. Third, when managers do solicit imaginings from the people who work for them, they set up suggestion boxes or offer to financially reward the best thinkers; but these practices don’t “generate the conversation required for innovation.” Spender and Strong have apparently based their conclusions on research. Their observations remind us of how important it is, in all fields, to keep channels of communication open and to let people know that their imaginations are valued as the precious assets that they are.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

Imagination amid the Rockies


Image by Beverly & Pack*

Making the environment of your home or workplace more imaginative may seem easier than doing the same for your community; after all, a community is a large and diverse entity. But “What IF… A Festival of Innovation and Imagination,” which took place on Saturday, September 11, in Colorado Springs, is an inspiring illustration of what can happen when people in a given place make a concerted effort to highlight the imaginative potential in their own backyard. T.D. Mobley-Martinez reports on the event in local newspaper The Gazette. According to Deborah Thornton, executive director of Imagination Celebration, which organized What IF, the factors that led to her conception of the festival included: people’s common misguided belief that they’re not creative; and the unfortunate tendency of communities to separate disciplines (“Art in this box. Science in that box. Business in yet another box. And on and on.”). Thornton counters this conventional thought and behavior with her own assertion “that the common denominator of every human is creativity and imagination.” (We at Lincoln Center Institute concur.) The festival aimed to showcase examples of innovation in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado and, in doing so, to generate more. Among the “scheduled experiences” listed on the What IF Web site and in the article are: a robot built from recycled items; training in improvisational performance; paper made from elephant dung (!); vegetable oil used as fuel; a discussion about improvements in geriatric health care; and various artistic performances and displays. It seems clear that, in Mobley-Martinez’s words, this was truly “a festival without familiar limits.” And—better yet—one of its sponsors was Colorado Creative Industries, which will host an Imagination Conversation at Denver Botanic Gardens on October 20.

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

Arts in Education Week


Image by Nancy Bareis

Did you know that the week of September 12-18, 2010, is Arts in Education Week across the country? The U.S. House of Representatives designated it as such on July 26, 2010, by passing H.Con.Res. 275, which was authored by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) and supported by veteran actress Carol Channing. Here are a few brief excerpts from the resolution that affirm some of the tenets of Lincoln Center Institute’s philosophy of imaginative teaching and learning through guided study of artworks:

“arts education … is … an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students”;

“arts education enables students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, imagination and creativity”;

“as the Nation works to strengthen its foothold in the 21st century global economy, the arts equip students with a creative, competitive edge.”

How exciting it is to see Congress getting behind these ideas! But, you may ask, how does one go about celebrating Arts in Education Week? The nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts offers some helpful suggestions on their Web site. One can: invite elected officials to visit classrooms in which the arts are integrated, plan an event in appreciation of the arts in education, spread the word on social networking sites, submit a letter to a local newspaper, ask elected officials to declare Arts in Education Week in one’s city or state—the list goes on. One can also participate from September 13-17 in a blog salon here. In addition to being thrilled by the federal government’s tribute to the field in which LCI works, I’m also glad to see further recognition (in H.Con.Res. 275) of the critical connection between the arts, education, imagination, and 21st-century economic success.

CEOs in the Market for Creativity


I’ve written on many occasions about the need for imagination, creativity, and innovation (ICI) in business, even going so far as to call the first item on that list America’s “greatest domestic renewable resource” (in the book, Imagination First, co-authored with Eric Liu, page 26). But don’t take my word for it: according to IBM’s fourth biennial Global CEO Study—for which IBM consultants interviewed over 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries—business leaders around the globe “believe that … successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity” more than anything else. (Read the press release here.) While 80% of those surveyed think their environment will soon become even more volatile and complex than it is today, only 49% are confident that their organizations are prepared to respond to such growth, the inevitable result of industry transformation and modern technology. This gap between present capabilities and future demands explains why, in the words of IBM Global Business Services Senior Vice President Frank Kern, “CEOs identify creativity as the number one leadership competency of the successful enterprise of the future.” I should also mention that one of the points made by the CEOs—“Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity”—mirrors one of Lincoln Center Institute’s ten Capacities for Imaginative Learning, “Living with Ambiguity.” Indeed, it’s crucial in all areas of life to understand that problems may have more than one solution and that finding solutions may take time. The similarity between the CEOs’ thinking and ours is a fresh reminder that the world of ICI is a small one!

Image provided by IBM.

School’s Out for Summer


Image by Pawel Loj*

In “Untapped Creativity Needs Instruction That’s Engaging,” an August 19 commentary piece for the Toledo Blade, Marilou Johanek discusses Camp Invention, a program of Invent Now Kids. The camp is “geared to promoting … creativity in primary education” and includes activities such as taking apart old appliances to build new inventions, making an imaginary city more environmentally sound, and figuring out how to survive on an unknown planet called Zak. Johanek sometimes worries that school curricula designed solely to boost standardized test scores do not give students opportunities to stretch their imaginations and creativity. But at Camp Invention, it is precisely “[t]hrough imaginative play [that campers] are exposed to curricula aligned with state and national standards.” This approach seems to balance imaginative learning with accountability—just the sort of balance that we at Lincoln Center Institute advocate. It ensures that young people learn the basics they may be tested on, but does so without limiting their personal exploratory freedom. It is likely that participants in this kind of program will be better prepared for their futures as adults: the combination of knowledge and self-directed discovery that the camp fosters is an asset to any effective leader, decision-maker, or citizen.

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.