Dixie Darr

Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

In creativity, Learning, work on March 5, 2007 at 7:33 am

Time to Reflect

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain

Where do you get your best ideas? Mine seem to come when I’m taking a bath or walking or driving, all times when our brains switch into automatic pilot. There’s a reason for that.

Step three of the creative process (after defining the problem and searching for options) is incubation. It’s one of the steps that distinguishes the creative process from the problem-solving process. In the latter, you define the problem, brainstorm possible solutions, evaluation the options and implement the best one.

The creative process, on the other hand, requires time after the first two steps to let your subconscious go to work and make odd connections among unrelated subjects.

The story of Archimedes illustrates this. Given the problem of assessing the purity of a gold crown, he realized while bathing that objects displace water. He could calculate the volume of the crown by measuring the volume of water it displaced when submerged and thereby calculate the purity of the gold. He reportedly ran naked through the streets of ancient Syracuse shouting Eureka! (I have found it).

His Aha! moment (step 4 in the creative process) would not have come if he hadn’t already been working on the problem. Incubation requires preparation and then letting go. Daydreaming alone probably won’t do it.

There’s always a catch.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

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In creativity, work on March 2, 2007 at 7:15 am

I, Creator

“Creating the work that nourishes your life is one of the most rewarding paths to self-expression and joy.” Salli Rasberry and Padi Selwyn, Living Your Life Out Loud

I’ve been rediscovering my need to be creative this week. Last Sunday, I went to a workshop at the downtown library to learn how to make an 8-page travel journal/collage out of one large sheet of paper. The instructor was Gail Lindley, owner of The Denver Bookbinding Company, somebody who knows everything there is to know about bookbinding because she has been in the business all her life. Her grandparents started the company.

I got interested in making handbound books a few years ago when I interviewed Gail for my column in the North Denver News. Since then, I have attended several classes on different kinds of handbound journals and have a stack of close to ten books on the subject on my dining room table as I write. When I got a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday, I spent it on handbound leather journals that I want to copy.

In one of the library books, I found a project for a little 3-D picture and I made a similar one using a picture of my dad in his army air corps uniform in 1942, his dad about 12 years later and a 1921 Model T, just like one my grandfather owned. It was fun to make and everybody admired my handiwork, which is also fun. I’ve also decided to make personal handmade birthday cards instead of sending mass-produced ones from the card shop.

I find that these creative outlets relax me and give me a feeling of accomplishment like almost nothing else I do. They also make me want to use more of my creative juices on my day-to-day work, which can only be a good thing.

My pastor once explained to me that the concept that we are made in God’s image doesn’t mean we look like God, but that we are born creators. I believe that. I know that the more creativity I can put into my everyday life, the happier I am.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, Learning, work on March 1, 2007 at 8:48 am

Restating the Problem

The first step in the creative process is to define the problem. This seems pretty straightforward, even obvious, so most people neglect this step. That is unfortunate because it may be the most important step in the process. How you define the problem determines how you solve the problem.

As in the Fable of the Two Steves, if you define the problem as needing money, then the solution involves getting more money. There are always alternate ways to define a problem, but they can be very difficult to see. Here are some techniques from Morgan D. Jones’ The Thinker’s Toolkit to help:

1. Paraphrase: Restate the problem using different words without losing the original meaning.

Initial statement: How can we limit congestion on the roads?

Paraphrase: How can we keep road congestion from growing?

  1. 180 degrees: Turn the problem on its head.

Initial statement: How can we get employees to come to the company picnic?

180 degrees: How can we discourage employees from attending the picnic?

  1. Broaden the focus: Restate the Problem in a larger context.

Initial statement: Should I change jobs?

Broaden focus: How can I achieve job security?

  1. Redirect the focus: Boldly, consciously change the focus.

Initial Statement: How can we boost sales?

Redirected focus: How can we cut costs?

  1. Ask “Why”: As “why” of the initial problem statement. Then formulate a new problem statement based on the answer. Then ask “why” again, and again restate the problem based on the answer. Repeat this process a number of times until the essence of the “real” problem emerges.

Initial Statement: How can we market our in-house multimedia products?

Why? Because many of our internal customers are outsourcing their multimedia projects.

Restatement: How can we keep internal customers from outsourcing their multimedia projects?

Why? Because it should be our mandate to do all of the organization’s multimedia.

Restatement: How can we establish a mandate to do all of the organization’s multimedia?

Why? Because we need to broaden our customer base.

Restatement: How can we broaden our customer base?

Why? Because we need a larger base in order to be cost effective.

Restatement: How can we become more cost effective?

Why? Because our profit margin is diminishing.

Restatement: How can we increase our profit margin?

A principle problem has emerged: How to obtain a mandate to do all of the organization’s multimedia projects.

You might find that looking at your problem from a slightly different perspective will lead to solutions you would never have otherwise considered.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved