Rush to Discover, Don't Rush to Solve!

http://www.jeshujohn.com/

Oh wow! A problem.... let's go solve it! It's our first reaction, right? It's human.  We see a problem and our instinct is to start fixing it, solving it.

What if, instead of rushing to solve it, we rushed to discover as much as we could about the problem - like, why is it a problem, why is that a problem, why, why, why?  What are people doing when this is a problem? Is it only a problem when they are doing that? Where is it a problem? Only there? When is it a problem? Only then? What is the weather when it's a problem? What mood were they in when it was a problem? See? You learn so much when you Rush to Discover first.  You learn what really matters and why.  And guess what? Then you can work with the people who have this problem together - to create solution(s) that will really make a difference - that will work when, how, where it's a problem.

Rush to Discover. Don’t rush to Solve!

So, next time you see a problem, stop, discover and learn.... 

The High Art of Designing Scaffolding

By Ian Gonsher (republished with permission)

Vasari tells us, that in preparing to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a debate arose between Bramante and Michelangelo about how to design the scaffolding necessary to proceed with the project:

The pope ordered Bramante to build the scaffolding in order to paint it [the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel]; Bramante did so by piercing the ceiling and hanging everything from ropes; upon seeing this, Michelangelo asked Bramante how, once the painting had been completed, he would be able to fill the holes; and Bramante replied, ‘We’ll worry about that later’, and added that there was no other way to do it. Michelangelo then realized that either Bramante knew little about it or he was not much of a friend, and he went to the pope and told him that this scaffolding was unsatisfactory and that Bramante had not understood how to build it; in Bramante’s presence, the pope replied that he should build one in his own way. And so Michelangelo ordered scaffolding built on poles which did not touch the wall, the method for fitting out vaults he later taught to Bramante and others, and with which many fine works were executed.[1]

A modern variation of a similar design used in the recent restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.[2]

Often, the most difficult part of any creative process is just getting started; preparing for the tasks at hand by putting the necessary structures in place that will bring the project to fruition. But scaffolding of this kind not only gives structure to the process; it demands a consideration of the tools, knowledge, and resources that are necessary for crafting novel and uncommon things.

Scaffolding can take many different forms, but in the narrowest sense, it is a tool. Woodworkers, for example and by comparison, will often design jigs to position a part in relation to a tool in order to augment the function of that tool. Like the scaffolding that Vasari describes, which was designed to bring the body of the artist into close physical proximity with the work, a jig allows the craftsperson to adapt his/her tools to act on a given material in a precise, repeatable fashion. When designing an effective jig, consideration must be given to the path through which the bit or blade will pass, and how the piece is fixed, but it must also do so in a safe manner. The design of a jig can sometimes be as interesting as the design of the piece itself.

We can further extend our definition of scaffolding to include the skills and knowledge necessary for operating the tools that advance the project, as well as to the critical engagement that is fundamental to the creative process in general. In this way, scaffolding is a form of learning. It gives structure to what we know and how we know it. Every new project comes with a new set of questions, a new set of constraints, that require new skills, and new approaches for creative problem solving.

The words we use inform the ideas in play, and those ideas give form to what is produced. Developing new language is sometimes necessary for scaffolding our understanding and communicating those insights to others. Neologisms and provisional project titles, for example, create space where new ideas can emerge.

We live in an age of abundant knowledge, where so many resources are a mouse click away. This too is a kind of scaffolding; an augmented intelligence. What are the books, tutorials, and courses necessary for mastering the appropriate skills (or at least becoming familiar enough with them to satisfy the task at hand)? Who are the mentors, experts, and partners that can help us navigate challenges as they arise? What do we need to know to make what we want to make? These are all ways we scaffold our understanding of projects.

This kind of scaffolding is nested within another, even more extensive kind of scaffolding; that of the institutions in which we operate and with which we participate. The structures of institutions dictate how we relate to one another, how we collaborate, how resources are allocated, and the kinds of spaces available for projects. Every institution structures these relationships differently, each with its own affordances and constraints, each with its own culture and values. We tend to gravitate towards institutions with which we have an affinity, and whose culture and values we are sympathetic to. But sometimes we should question these assumptions and eschew the formulas they produce. We should attempt to expand the territory of possibility and the creative dialectic in play. Like Michelangelo in Vasari’s telling, sometimes we recognize that it is necessary to dismantle inadequate scaffolding in order to design a better one, one that is more appropriate to the project at hand.

There are many ways to solve a problem or ask a question. There are many ways to structure a project. It is for these reasons, and others, that in addition to thinking of scaffolding as something that occurs prior to the task at hand, we should also consider scaffolding as something that occurs throughout the creative process, and which might require edits and adaptations as that process moves forward. Otherwise, we might find ourselves in the awkward situation of filling holes in the ceiling.

[1] Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Artists. Trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print.  The unpainted portion where the scaffolding met the wall is still visible just above the lunettes, although it is not easily seen from the floor below. It is also noteworthy that the recent restoration employed a system not dissimilar to the one employed by Michelangelo.

[2] Boswell, Victor. “Sistine Chapel”. Boswell, Victor. National Geographic. December 1989.

The Perks of Being an Amateur


Another fabulous post by Caitie Whelan of Lightening Notes
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I like knowing stuff

I like knowing the ropes, talking shop, having the answers.

I like being right.

I also like Ray Bradbury.

Mr. Bradbury didn’t go to college. He never got an MFA in writing. Never lived in the literary metropolis of New York City

He went to Los Angeles High School. And he went to the library. He loved libraries. Loved reading: L. Frank Baum. Edgar Allen Poe.

“The library,” he told The Paris Review, “has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.”

And it was through his interpretations, his discoveries that he brought Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes into the world.

On paper, Mr. Bradbury didn’t do the right things to be a writer: He didn’t have the pedigree, didn’t know the ropes, didn’t talk shop.

But off paper and in person - the dimension that matters most - he had conviction unconstrained by convention.

It’s one of the perks of being an amateur. And it’s easy to forget when we’re thinking about plunging into something new.

We can sit on the diving board, looking at all the swimmers. And we can think, “No way can I stay afloat in this pool. I don’t have their know-how, their credentials.”

That may be true. But it’s not the only truth at the pool yard.

Because what got us to the diving board, what got us peeking out into the unknown are a curiosity and a desire to know more of the world than we know now. It’s the same thing that got Mr. Bradbury to the library.

And that curiosity, that desire is just as true as all the swimmers and all their know-how.

So, when we find ourselves on the diving board, we must choose the truth we answer to: The conventional narrative saying, “No way. No how. You have no clue how to do this.” Or that still, small voice in us saying, “Go. Do it.”

That voice will upend and unsettle our status quo (which Deb encourages us to question anyway). It will hurl us beyond the world that we know. Hurl us out where we don’t know the ropes or the answers. Out where we’ll be wrong more than we’ll be right.

But if we listen to that voice, we will have chosen to take the shape of our lives into our own hands. Rather than let society shape it for us

We will fumble. And we will fail. Such is the amateur’s territory. But we will earn our fumbles and our failures knowing, as Joan Didion knew, that “people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes.” And self-respect is one of the finest perks of  being an amatuer.

I carry Mr. Bradbury’s story close. To remind me of the person I want to be.

I know what it’s like to walk away from the diving board. To walk away from that still, small voice. To disqualify myself because I’m inexperienced and uncredentialed.rush to discover it all.

Which brings me to the last - though by no means final - perk of being an amateur.

It forces us to grow.

When we don’t know the waters, we can get torn open by vulnerability, the rawness of being out of our nest.

And growth, that uncomfortable, incredible force where we rebuild our torn selves anew, is how we move ourselves and how we move our world forward.

Life’s a whole lot bigger than having answers and being right.

Life - real big life - is about living with conviction unconstrained by convention. It’s about self-respect. And kindness. It’s about growing every bit of our brains and our heart that we can grow. And life is about being an amateur again and again and again.

On this subject, Mr. Bradbury gets the final word:

“Jump off the cliff and learn how to make wings on the way down.”

Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Get Flashy

 

Caitie Whelan is the Founder/Noter-in-Chief of The Lightning Notes, a short daily post to help us move the world forward. It features striking ideas and great stories to remind us that we matter and improving the world is our matter.  Prior to The Lightning Notes, she was a Senior Foreign Policy Advisor in Congress, co-founded a school in India for lower caste musicians, and raised pigs in Italy. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Caitie is a 2007 Truman Scholar from the Great State of Maine. 

Where Do You Stand?

Where we stand, physically, intellectually, and emotionally, affects what we see and how we see it.  Even when it appears we are standing in the same spot, we are in different spots.  Why? Because when we look at anything, it is through the lens of what we’ve already seen, heard, felt, known.  It’s hard to truly look at anything anew, as if we’ve never seen it before.  That’s why it’s critical to have multiple people, with multiple backgrounds, experiences, talents, and histories look at a problem from multiple perspectives.  That’s why it’s important to listen, hear, and respect them.  That’s why it’s imperative to try to see what they see how they see it – not how we want them to see it.

So where do you stand? Where do you let others stand? And do you listen? Really?

Note: I love this painting for obvious reasons and if anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know!

Life by Design

I had the privilege to share a panel with New Yorker Staff Cartoonist Liza Donnelly and Social Entrepreneur Superstar Susan McPherson on October 8th at the Granoff Center's Martinos Auditorium, Brown University, discussing our professional paths.  This was the first Creative Mind Lecture of the 2014-2015 series.  Many thanks to Ian Gonsher for using his iPhone as a video camera and to Nicha Ratana who made the video as 'followable' as possible and has made the Creative Mind Lecture series a reality. 


Why Wednesday October 8th Could Change Your Thinking

What if you gathered with creative minds from all disciplines and talked about how you got to where you were and how you were going forward? Join me, New Yorker Staff Cartoonist Liza Donnelly and Social Entrepreneur Superstar Susan McPherson on October 8th at 6:00pm in the Granoff Center's Englander Studio at Brown University for a discussion of what kinds of paths, careers, serendipity Creative Minds create!  

Designed by Nicha Ratana

Creative Education? Feel free to Steal Ideas

How can you make school more creative? It's not that hard and doesn't take a lot of money... but it does takecommitment and the impact is huge.  Here's how one small school went about doing it.  They made

  • A commitment
  • Space
  • Time
  • Funds (not a lot) available
  • Teachers free to try

Feel free to take any and all of these ideas! And contact them with questions.

Thank you Creative Scholars for sharing this!

What If Your Competitors Out-Draw You?

Our value proposition is really all we have - it's based on who we are and what we offer.  Instead of all the words we put together that sound cliche and trite, what if we could distill it down to a cartoon? What if?? Try! My latest with Liza Donnelly (Staff Cartoonist for the New Yorker!) in Harvard Business Review

Trust Principles for Creativity and Innovation

I'm honored to have Jon Mertz (known to many of us @ThinDifference) guest post. Jon is VP of marketing in the healthcare software industry. He has an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and has worked for companies like Deloitte, IBM, and BMC Software. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a terrific community to inspire Millennial leaders (you should join) and close the gap between two generations of leaders.  Thank you, Jon, for posting here!!! 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Trust Principles for Creativity and Innovation

One of the great things about the generation ahead is that Millennials get trust. They have the trust in themselves and how their ideas can change the world. Embedded within this is a strong community and collaboration angle built into their digital DNA. Working across boundaries is natural. Combined, this generation is unbound from tradition while focused on innovation and creativity to construct better gadgets, apps, mindsets, and art. It is an open field.

While this is true, the principle of trust needs to be revisited. A balance between self and community is necessary. With this mix, trust enhances actions and collaboration. Millennials, along with all generations, need to embrace this blend.

Creativity and innovation requires a combination of Self-Centered and Community-Centered trust. An evenness is required to create and innovate in more meaningful and productive ways. Within each, there are two trust principles to use.

Self-Centered Trust Principles

Trust your voice. We have a voice. It can encourage or discourage us. It keeps us on track or off track. Which way our voice takes us depends on our self-trust. It isn’t over-confidence. It is self-confidence with a strong center of purpose-filled action. In other words, with a clear purpose, the clarity of our voice will grow and, along with it, our trust levels rise in what we have to say, do, and act upon. All gain strength with clarity of a purpose-driven voice.

Trust your voice in what you are creating and innovating. Trust your purpose.

Trust your strength. There will be critics in every balcony. Taking your creative work or innovative solutions outside can be harsh at times. To take the steps outside your comfort zone, a strong presence of trust in your ideas, innovation, or work of art is vital. Whatever you are working on has made it this far so continue to trust in what you have created.

Time is too short to be ignorant. Trust your concept but verify, enhance, verify again, and decide steps forward. With each step, your creation and innovation will gain in strength. Keep strength in your ideas and build insight.

Community-Centered Trust Principles

Trust others. At times, it feels easier to go it alone. We feel we can just maintain our focus and eventually we will win over others. However, it is equally important to remember how different perspectives can add value to our ideas and concepts. Involving others in the brainstorming and creating process broadens our own views. By engaging others, we can incorporate a more human-centered design, too. We can begin to empathize more and see how we can modify our innovations to better fit how people will actually use them.

Use the variety of opinion to strengthen what you are working on. Your views need to be balanced with broader perspectives. A community offers diversity, and diversity strengthens anyone. Trusting in your community will empower your ideas more than if you are all alone.

Trust in tension. Anytime we ask for feedback, we open ourselves up. We become vulnerable. In the vulnerable moments, a tension begins. It is a tension between acceptance and rejection. The reality is tension creates an enlightening force. It tightens our ideas and heightens our awareness. Embracing productive tension results in improved thoughts, better concepts, and enhanced innovation.

Healthy tension is required to refine and validate. We need to trust the feedback and trust in our vulnerable moments of placing our ideas and art out in our community.

Trust Simply Makes Art and Innovation Work

Trust makes everything work better. It is just that simple.

Trust is discussed often in terms of relationships, culture, partnerships, and agreements. It provides the foundation for human interaction to stand upon and conduct conversations, transactions, and education in a productive, engaging, and enjoyable way.

Just as trust is central in all of those things, it is also needed in creativity and innovation. Trust takes on a new role of being self-centered and community-centered. By embracing trust in his manner, it removes barriers and enables extension across boundaries, especially generational ones.

To get the best ideas and move our created works forward, trust plays an essential role. Millennials need to use trust as a principle in what they create, and we all need to engage in a trust-based way to support innovative thoughts and works.

What role does trust play in your ideas, innovations, and artwork?

Changing One Thing Changes Everything

Many of you are now familiar with the wisdom of my friend Jessica Esch.  Her posts on this blog always get a ton of hits.  I thought it was time you learned more about her, and how that could impact your organization...read, learn, and answer her question.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In 2011, I pitched a new job at my old job and became a full-time illustrator and storyteller for a non-profit. I founded United Way of Greater Portland’s LUbrary—the LIVE UNITED storytelling library—and forever fused my personal and professional lives.

My job was to distill complexity and draw people into the organization by explaining the issues, describing the work, and highlighting the great things happening in our community.

It was all good in theory.

But telling stories was the easy part. Having them seen and heard was more challenging. Content strategy became my job too. And then it started to take over as I became responsible for crafting engagement strategies to show others internally and externally how our stories could support their work.

Seeing the world differently is not the same as changing it. It can be lonely, frustrating and a little like climbing Everest without a Sherpa.

So I wrote about it.

I wrote it all down because I knew I was onto something. I knew that how you engage online could impact behavior offline in the physical world.

I needed allies.

I needed to find my tribe.

I uploaded Online Affects Offline: Learnings From the Field to Flickr using sets as chapters on July 4 as a declaration of my independence. I've chosen to let people read it for free because I need their attention more than their money. It covers my love of social media and obsession with photo management to the lifecycle of events and what it is like to try to change an organization from the inside. It’s a work in progress as well as a beacon for my tribe.

Are you my tribe?

Read Jessica's book here: http://bit.ly/onlineaffectsoffline

Find Jessica here: Twitter (@jesch30), Facebook, Website