My learner has had a spectacular week, one unexpected spectacular win and one unexpected spectacular loss, all in 24 hours.

It was easy to be excited about the win. The unexpected loss was harder to take, for me anyway, but not so much for him. He wisely said something to the effect of ,“Yah that result sucks and it is not how I want it to keep going, but feeling bad about it is not going to change it, only my actions will.” Hmmm, the clarity of youth got my attention.

Then we were at the MythBusters stage show last night and Adam Savage talked about how they deal with an experiment failing. He got SO excited about this. He said, that failure is the most exciting moment for them. Hmmm, really? He went on to explain that when things go as they expected, not much new learning happens. But when it fails is when they learn the most and when it gets most exciting in terms of exercising their problem solving skills.

It got me thinking. Why do I, and many of us funny humans, try to avoid failure as much as possible? I mean we are human, and erring is a natural part of our experience.

It is well known that we learn as much from failure as success, maybe even more, and certainly the emotional linkages associated with failure deeply burn the learning into our memories.

And it is also recognized that if one does not fail, it may signal that one is being too safe and not taking enough risks (or simply not trying hard enough and ends paying the natural consequences for the lackluster effort).

We quirky humans just do not like to feel pain, experience bad consequences or face embarrassment. And that is compelling motivation. But really, as my learner insightfully pointed out, we really need to get over ourselves and accept the occasional failure because it ultimately makes us better.

This is a good reminder to take the risks, step outside of our comfort zone and be open to failure. Because failure is only half the story, it is what you do with that failure that determines your full story.

And remember, the next time you are in the midst of a colossal bust, take the anxious energy and turn it into creative problem solving energy and grow!


Doers and Dreamers

by Vicki on June 14, 2013

He’s a daydreamer. Always lost in his thoughts.

She isn’t very focused. She can’t seem to get out of her own head.

He never stays on task.

She’s always trying to re-invent the wheel.

I’m just going to sit here and think on this for a little bit.

What?! You are going to sit and think? There are things that need to be accomplished, projects to complete, and tasks to fill!

I was listening to a podcast recently that touched briefly on the notion of imagination and ideas. The gist of the conversation was that our society has been structured to make us effective doers. In school we learn how to do math, how to write, how to memorize, how to regurgitate what we have encoded. “Doing” is what is rewarded monetarily and what tends to be celebrated in our culture (e.g., How many widgets did you make today? How many hours did you sit at your desk?). The connotations around notions of “daydreaming” and sitting and thinking are often negative and associated with time wasting and lack of accomplishment.

But the fact of the matter is that every single thing we have – in our homes, in our offices, in our lives – would not exist without the imaginers and the daydreamers. Before each and every item could be created (by the doers of course!) it had to be imagined.

Since hearing this podcast, some thoughts I’ve been mulling over include:

  • Should daydreaming and imagination be fostered in schools? If so, how?
  • The importance of daydreaming/imagining in helping us solve some of the world’s big ugly problems (e.g., war, hunger, homelessness, failing/outdated systems)
  • How daydreaming might be harnessed to make us better thinkers and learners overall (Here is an interesting post on this topic)
  • Differences between thinking and imagining
  • Is our ability to imagine more a function of nature or nurture (or the interaction of both)?
  • If you stink at imagining and daydreaming, how can you get better at it?
  • How is the ability to imagine and daydream related to states of being or consciousness (e.g., being relaxed, tense, open)?
  • What is the optimal balance between daydreaming and doing?

Even though the discussion on the podcast was brief, it really left an impression on me. I encourage you to think through your ideas on imagination and daydreaming.

Are you a daydreamer? Your children? Your team? How can you harness the power of daydreaming in your life? Your organization?

Happy daydreaming!


Gasp – is it possible?

Creativity, the holy grail of many business leaders, consultants and artists; the way of thinking that many people aspire to; has a dark side?!

I was intrigued by an article I read this week in Scientific American Mind, so much so that I needed to look into it further.

While most research on creativity focuses on the benefits and positives of it, there has been growing evidence that has started to look at the flip side of creativity.

Creativity can mean more dishonesty

About a year ago, Francesca Gino of Harvard and Dan Ariely of Duke, published The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can be More Dishonest. They posit there is an association between dishonesty and creativity. Their series of studies indicate:

Creative mindset can help people justify their behavior, which can lead to unethical behavior, and in the end creative people tended to cheat more than less creative people.

Creativity can mean more arrogance

In another study, Paul J. Silva, James C. Kaufman, Roni Reiter-Palmon and Benjamin Wigert found a relationship between higher creativity scores and lower honesty-humility scores, (which is the nice way of saying people who are more pretentious and immodest.)

Yikers! As a person who thinks she is a creative thinker, I did not like the smacks this evidence presented.

But as I pondered this more, it makes sense that like everything in life, there is always a dark side to a bright side. It challenged me to consider the idea of creativity more deeply.

Of course now would be the time to state clearly, there is personal ethics and choice aspect to all of this. Even though the research suggests creative people do behave more dishonestly, certainly not every creative person WILL act dishonest or arrogant. This work is simply a flag, a heads up for leaders to watch for.

I was interested to read that most people who end up taking a very bad path that negatively impacts many, kind of “grew” into it, it was not some master plan of evil, it was a cumulative set of smaller dishonest decisions that got out of control and at some point, they had no way of turning back.

It got me to thinking about the many organizations who seem unable to unleash the creativity they require and desire, if they were successful in unleashing it, would they be prepared for the not so good aspects of creativity that could come with it?

The important take away for me is to make sure clients we work with are prepped to plan for the unintended when we stimulate creativity and bring in more creative thinkers, it will be a fine balance of letting people be flexible, but also ensuring they are accountable to ethical decisions. It will be important to remember that the flexibility in thinking we desire does not need to mean flexibility in accountability.

Does this provoke you to think differently about creativity today?


Insert your Creative Idea in this Box

May 11, 2012

Creativity and innovation is always a top of mind in PROVOKE’s world, and the world of many of our clients. I was fascinated recently by an RFP that asked for “innovation”. I was intrigued and a bit excited by this invitation. The RFP then quickly added that the response needed to look exactly like this, […]

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The Power of Music

March 9, 2012

Most days as I work, I have music playing in the background. I am a firm believer in the idea that music has powerful effects on mood, creativity, and human connection. So this week, I’m sharing a marvelous 3 minute talk (I found it through TED Talks) from the World Science Festival by Bobby McFerrin […]

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