MBA Grads Could Use an LCI Education

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In order to succeed professionally, MBA graduates need creativity, innovation, empathy, and the ability to deal with failure, says a new Huffington Post article. These are all skills that Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) believes in, and strives to foster in students. Author and careers expert Stacie Nevadomski Berdan drew her findings from interviews with top business leaders, civil servants, and academics.

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What We Learn from Animals: How to Play

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In a January 21 Huffington Post entry, Brenda Peters writes of important lessons gleaned from the animal world: play in order to thrive.

Peters, who has studied wild dolphins, writes that in play, dolphins learn essential survival and relationship skills. Rats apparently laugh more readily than humans (see the video). In some species, the absence of play could signify that an individual is in psychological distress (see this brief article about chimpanzees from the Jane Goodall Institute). Scientists theorize that individuals who play the most are most instrumental in advancing the evolution of their species (read more in the preface to this book). And in play, both animals and humans let down their guard and take risks—opening themselves up to grow and love and learn, and sometimes opening themselves to real physical danger or loss.

“Play doesn’t end in childhood or in the animal kingdom,” writes Peters. “Play is also about developing a lifelong imagination that is flexible and responsive to one’s environment. True play calls forth from us, animals and humans alike, the highest creativity and inventiveness.” For Peters, to be visionary requires a sense of infinite possibility that may be nurtured in play. Check out her full post here.

Click here to watch a video presentation by Stuart L. Brown, author of National Geographic’s “Animals at Play.”

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You Say “Creativity,” I Say “Imagination,” Let’s Not Call the Whole Thing Off

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In a July 20 piece for The Huffington Post called “Creativity in the 21st Century, Harvard research psychologist Shelley Carson writes about the urgent need for creativity in the globalized, technological, rapidly changing world of the 21st century. The starting point of her discussion is one of the conclusions reached at the recent G-20 summit in Toronto: “in order to attract investors, nations need to provide ‘an environment that promotes creativity.’” She goes on to talk about the role of creativity in different areas of life, some of which are particularly interesting to me because Eric Liu and I don’t deal with them in our book, Imagination First. These areas include the search for a job during an economic downturn, the quest for a mate in a new social landscape epitomized by Facebook, a parent’s task of instilling values in increasingly media-saturated children, and the modern struggle to manage one’s time and maintain one’s sense of balance. Carson asserts that creative thinking is crucial to success in each of these cases.

Reading the Carson’s arguments, I couldn’t help but think that these scenarios are inextricably bound up with imagination as well as with creativity. The two terms are, after all, often used interchangeably in contemporary discourse. Carson concludes with a “creative tip” for all of us: read about a variety of topics and increase your interests, because “[t]he essence of creativity is the ability to combine disparate bits of information in novel and original ways to form new ideas.” This is the very thinking behind the seventh imaginative practice in Imagination First, “Hoard Bits.” Whether we choose to think in terms of “imagination” or in terms of “creativity,” we must remember that what’s really at stake here is a way of life characterized by courageous openness to possibility.

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The Noble Workforce

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In a March article for The Huffington Post, consultant Karen Noble makes an urgent appeal to managers to focus on workforce morale. Her specific suggestions call to mind some of the practices that Eric Liu and I outline in Imagination First. Noble frames her argument by referencing two surveys: the Conference Board shows 45% of American workers dissatisfied with their jobs, and Opinion Research Corporation shows 25% ready to leave their positions once the economy stabilizes. Based on her years of experience as a consultant, Noble claims that low worker morale is a serious obstacle to innovation—and we need the latter to remain economically competitive. So what steps can managers take to satisfy employees and, in doing so, set the U.S. on the right economic track?

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Noble points to “flexibility,” “innovation zones,” and “service” as three means of boosting workforce morale. The second of these connects most closely to what Eric and I deal with in our book. Noble recommends the official establishment of regular times and/or places in which free-form brainstorming can take place. Eric and I propose something similar in describing our first imaginative practice, “Make Mist.” Noble also writes that the motto “‘Failure Welcomed Here’ should be explicit, because encouraging failure often unleashes people’s capacity to succeed.” Eric and I make a related argument near the end of Imagination First, urging readers to “Fail Well”—that is, to realize that our errors may be as useful to us, if not more so, than our successes. Not fearing failure means taking chances, and taking chances can result in big, bold ideas.

The strong sense one gets from Noble’s piece is that more open, imaginative workplaces are necessary if we are to combat the “rising tide of disquiet among the still-employed, a tide that could potentially capsize our long-term economic wellbeing.” Her extensive background in the business world adds weight to her pleas, which coincide with one of the messages of Imagination First: “unless we feed our collective capacity for imagination, we can be sure that…innovations will be fewer and farther between” (27). Innovation, just about everyone agrees, is a key to global economic leadership. The equation, then, seems clear: truly imaginative environments produce innovative (and happy) workers, and such workers enhance America’s position in the global marketplace.

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Emerging Issues Forum Brings Creativity in Education into Focus

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In “More Creativity in the Classroom,” an opinion piece written for The Huffington Post, former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt expresses a vision for education with which I heartily agree. It is strikingly similar to the one embodied by  the imaginative learning model of Lincoln Center Institute. “Creative thinking fuels innovation,” Hunt asserts. It leads to new ideas, products, services, and jobs. So unless we “cultivat[e] creativity in our schools at the state and local levels,” the United States will soon find itself unable to compete economically with other nations who do. But, some readers may ask, what does it mean to “cultivate creativity” in public education? Continue reading

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