A Crash Course on Creativity
Creativity is objective and assessing it is not easy, however by following a few simple guidelines, one can produce creative outcomes. This lesson will expose you some memorable examples illustrating the creative process.  The lesson has been inspired by Dr.Tina Seelig’s 'inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity' (2012).  Dr. Tina Seelig is the Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center at Stanford University's School of Engineering. She has also written 16 popular science books and educational games. Dr. Seelig teaches courses in Creativity and Innovation, Entrepreneurial Thought Leader lecture series and Management of Technology Ventures.
by Grishma Samuel
1 year, 4 months ago
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Tina Seelig uses 'The Innovation Engine' as a model to explain her observations, research and findings on creativity. The Innovation Engine, as she calls it, consists of six parameters that majorly influence creativity. In a random order these paramters are:

All the six parameters are intertwined (as seen here) and the process of innovation can begin at any one of these in any order. The parameters that are parallel to each other (culture-attitude, knowledge-resources, imagination-habitat) are interdependent criteria as they influence each other. The way in which these parameters influence creativity has been explained in detail in the lesson that follows.

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There are many ways to stretch your imagination. Three that I focus on in my book are framing and reframing problems, connecting and combining ideas, and challenging assumptions. Each of these tools allows you to hone your ability to generate fresh ideas. By questioning the problems you ask, you open the landscape of possible solutions. By connecting ideas you come up with new and surprising ideas. And, by challenging assumptions, you push beyond obvious solutions to the problems you face.
~Tina Seelig, Author, 'inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity'


Creativity is fueled by imagination. Anything that allows your mind to have a freedom of expression and be dreamy, artistic, original, fictive, poetic etc. is necessary to boost creativity. Being more observant, paying attention by being open to things around you stimulates your mind, initializing a thought process. An imaginative mind is one that can visualize beyond direct input and explore things outside of the immediate reality and vicinity. 

This is lecture 3 of Tina Seelig's Crash Course on Creativity, a free online ...
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If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes
~ Albert Einstein
In her book, Tina mentions that knowing the correct question is more critical than knowing the right answer. It is imperative to frame the problem right and also re-frame it, if necessary, to arrive at an appropriate answer.

Creativity has a lot to do with the framework within which you think or the way you structure your thoughts (though over thinking is considered to mar the charm of a thought that could have the potential of being unique and creative). When the question put before us conditions our mind to think in a certain way, we might rarely want to think outside the given premise, which could inhibit creativity. If we don't ask questions in the right way, we won't come up with the right answers. 
There may be occasions where a question might not have a 'right' answer or the answer might depend on the question being asked or the way in which it is asked. The art to choosing a solution (from a huge pile of solutions) that closely answers your question can be mastered by knowing how to ask the right question. 
This is lecture 3 of Tina Seelig's Crash Course on Creativity, a free online ...
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Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."
~ Steve Jobs

Connecting two or more ideas to build something can give very creative results. Tina cites the example of Chindogu (A Japanese art of creating 'unuseful' things). 

Being able to connect and combine non-obvious ideas and objects is essential for innovation and a key part of the innovation process. The re-combination of information is critical in developing new ideas. It is as simple as constructing something by putting things together, you just have to join the dots to create something meaningful.

The re-combination of information is critical to developing new ideas, says STVP Executive Director Tina ...
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“We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.”
~ Steve Jobs

Challenging assumptions is an important step in the process of creativity. While brainstorming, we all have two imaginary baskets in our head - one which will contain our bright creative ideas and the other, a waste basket. Usually, we'd like to accept the first idea that comes to our mind without scrutinizing it much.

Tina Seelig suggests the concept of 'third third' which implies that you need to get past the first wave of answers, pass the second wave of answers and move on to the third wave of answers or possible solutions. When you learn how to discard the first few ideas, you will be challenged to think for more creative solutions.

Challenging the first and second wave of answers and assumptions helps creative teams move on ...
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Creativity has a lot to do with the knowledge we posses, our ability to learn more and the value that we can create from this knowledge. A lot of it comes from the stuff that we already know. 


We ourselves are unaware of the vast reservoir of creativity that we already possess. This is because we haven't been exposed to such mental exercises that can stimulate our thought process for innovation. In reality, every word that an individual knows offers an opportunity to stretch your  limitless imagination and leverage what you know. The more knowledge one possesses, better are the chances of unlocking more resources using this knowledge and the more resources one has, the more knowledge he/she can acquire.

Tina illustrates this by citing an example of a group of twenty people that are given a word, say 'miracle' and asked to write a three hundred word article on it. At the end of the experiment, we will have twenty different articles with various thoughts and ideas on the same word, 'miracle'. A single word can help you expand your knowledge bank, utilizing all the resources you have to construct something meaningful.

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Fostering a mindset of creativity is critically important in problem solving. If you don’t believe that you can find a problem, then you won’t find one. The more you practice coming up with innovative ideas, the better you get, and the more confident you become. This is like any other skill that must be practiced to master.
~Tina Seelig, Author, 'inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity'

As an innovator, it is not only enough to know how to solve a problem but also know how to avoid it. The attitude you have depends on the culture or the habitat you are in. You must be ready to face challenges and not let it hamper your creative process. The attitude that unexpected outcomes are not failures, but rather data to learn from, is crucial to creativity and innovation. When you encounter a failure, the innovation process should not stop there. You must reshape your attitude to understand that failure is a part of the learning process. The more you try, the more you learn.


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Culture, habitat, and resources play a very important role in influencing the process of innovation. Imagination serves to be a catalyst in the transformation of knowledge into ideas. 

It is interesting how an individual's creativity is inter-dependent with his/her environment. It could be a challenge if your workplace does not provide you with an environment that stimulates creative thinking. Seelig says that an individual's habitat creates rewards, constraints and incentives. In large workplaces, employees may feel their creativity is inhibited because of there being less freedom of expression. An organization's policies, structure, co-workers, bureaucracy, feedback from seniors, micromanagement etc. might not allow you to express your creativity. If your organization binds you to a certain way of working, you will be left with very little scope to be fresh and innovative. 

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Creativity depends a lot on the resources an individual possesses. Leveraging the resources you already have in addition to adding more to your kitty can always bring out the best innovative ideas. Resources can exist in a variety of forms - people, money, time, knowledge, skills, experience etc. A lot of times individuals have the right resources but may not be fully aware of how to leverage them correctly. This knowledge of utilizing them in a right way can unlock great innovation. The more resources you use, the more creative you can be. The process of creativity is never-ending because the more you cannot exhaust your creative skills; the sharper they are, the more creative you can be.

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Whenever we do things that haven’t been done before, there are surprises. In many cases we call them failures. I prefer to call them “data” and to mine them to learn something interesting. This is one of the secrets of truly creative people…. They try lots of things and keep what works, using the failures as fertilizer for the next idea. 
~Tina Seelig, Author, 'inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity'

The process of trying out a variety of permutations and combinations to arrive at a creative solution can be exciting but it is equally important to know how to try to eliminate the possibility of struggling with creativity. This stems from an important point discussed in the lesson above, which is to have the attitude of an innovator. It is critical to know how to filter ideas and retain the ones you find interesting. Failure should not be seen as an obstacle, but it should propel your imagination in a new direction for better, more meaningful, feasible and relevant creative solutions.

Credits: Created by: John Shinozaki and Leticia Britos Cavagnaro Actors: Adam Royalty, Jaki Clark, John ...
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“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the 'creative bug' is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please.”
~ Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
Hopefully, Dr. Tina Seelig's pointers have left you feeling inspired and her enthusiasm to be creative has rubbed off on you. So, while your brain is overflowing with ideas and your creative juices are at play, here is a quote to pep you up some more. It best describes how creativity is an art that can be mastered and learned by anyone. "Creativity is contagious, pass it on." - AlbertEinstein
Need a burst of inspiration? Wildly creative thinkers share ideas, strategies and warmhearted encouragement to ...
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Sections
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1. The Innovation Engine
2. Be Imaginitive
3. Ask the Right Question
4. Connect and Combine
5. Challenge Assumptions
6. Knowledge is Critical to Creativity
7. Attitude of an Innovator
8. Environment Conducive to Creativity
9. Leverage Your Resources Correctly
10. Know What 'NOT' to Do
11. Conclusion
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