Thinking Outside the Box–Literally

Image by Paul Lim*

We’ve all heard the advice, “Think outside the box,” but now, thanks to a team of researchers, the cliché takes on a whole new, literal meaning. In a Times op-ed piece, three scholars of management and organizations—two from the University of Michigan, one from New York University (NYU)—reveal their compelling new findings about creativity. The writers indicate a direct correlation between people’s physical experiences and their ability to come up with fresh ideas and solutions.

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LCI to Join WNET Celebration of Teaching & Learning on March 16

In three weeks, more than 10,000 North American educators will converge on the Hilton New York for WNET’s seventh annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning. The Celebration is a major professional development conference that includes over 40 featured speakers and 100 interactive workshops, as well as two exhibition halls full of education resources. This year, as in 2011, I’ll have the privilege of presenting there, on a panel with Madeleine Holzer, director of educational development at Lincoln Center Institute, and 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Wessling.

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Story Starters—A Deck of Cards for the Young Imagination

In our book Imagination First, Eric Liu and I write about Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards created by musician Brian Eno in 1975: “Each of the over one hundred cards contains what Eno calls ‘a worthwhile dilemma’—a concise, cryptic prompt….meant to give direction.” Today, I bring news of another novel deck of cards, this one aimed at children: the Spark Your Imagination Story Starters.

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NASA Looks to Americans for Aerospace Innovation

Eric Liu and I write about “challenge awards” in our book, Imagination First—prizes offered to people for accomplishing a stated task or solving a given problem. We point out the value of deliberately open-ended challenges, which create more room for bold and unexpected ideas to emerge. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program’s recent call for proposals is a perfect example.

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Harvard Innovation Lab Opens Today

Image by j.gresham*

Today marks the launch of Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, or i-lab, in Boston. In the press release, Harvard President Drew Faust describes it as “a bridge between imagination and implementation,” evoking Lincoln Center Institute (LCI’s) concept of the ICI Continuum (Imagination –> Creativity –> Innovation). So what does this new institution, another example of higher education’s recent efforts to promote these capacities, actually look like?

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Who’s Afraid of Creativity?

Image by Ian Burt*

The Halloween season calls to mind things that frighten us (or, at least, our inner children): ghosts, goblins, haunted houses, witches, creativity. “Wait a minute,” you say. “Creativity?” Yes, according to new research, many people fear creativity and also have trouble recognizing it, whether or not they realize this.

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Imagination: The Greatest Problem Solver

Image by IICD*

When hurricane Irene hit, we instinctively looked to the individuals and organizations whom we admire for their imaginative strength to do something practical, something that would instantly come to the aid of those in need, without speeches, without philosophical observations, without ideological investment in the future. Something practical—now.

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BMW and the UN Spark Intercultural Innovation

Image by Barbara*

In our 2009 book, Imagination First, Eric Liu and I discuss “challenge awards” as catalysts for imaginative thought and action. We especially like challenges that are open-ended and have broad parameters, that not only call for solutions—as those with a narrow, specific purpose do—but invite people to dream up new goals as well. The Award for Intercultural Innovation, announced last week, is just such an expansive challenge. Its sweeping aim: to honor “highly innovative projects that promote exchange and cross-cultural understanding, and hence make a vital contribution to safety and peace in societies around the world.”

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Good Sportsmanship—Win to Win

racquetball equipment

Image by exfordy*

An enhanced edition of Imagination First, the book I wrote with Eric Liu in 2009, was published in paperback on April 26th. Watching it go out into the world a second time has prompted me to revisit the question: what kind of impact would I like the book to have?

A brief, breezy personal anecdote will illustrate the more serious point I want to reach. I used to play racquetball on a regular basis with two friends, a Ph.D. in psychology and an attorney. The psychologist’s strategy—which may or may not have had to do with his profession—was invariably to try to psyche his opponents out and make us play below our usual level. But when I competed against Joe, the attorney, he played with a healthy intensity that drove me to play better—which then led him to play even better. We pushed each other to improve our games, and no matter who won, that always felt pretty good. Continue reading

Imagination First Comes Out in Paperback

In their 2009 book Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, Imagination Now contributors Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon debunked a few myths, took imagination off its lofty pedestal, and made their premise clear: everyone has imagination! It is an essential cognitive skill that this society needs in large supplies if it is to meet the future head-on, and since it is a skill, it must be practiced.

The pragmatic approach, resulting in the description of actual imagination practices that are at the core of the book, paid off: the readers were at the very least intrigued, at best they were inspired to change their work strategies, their academic practices, even their private lives. They came from fields of interest as diverse as those of the imagination practitioners described on the book’s pages: think food retailer, teacher, marine corps officers.

Imagination First has just been reprinted in paperback edition. There was a specific purpose to this second edition: to reflect on what had been learned since the first edition, to “enhance” the book with additional texts and information, and, given its original success, to make sure that it reached the widest audience ever. Continue reading