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June 2013

“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Friday, June 28, 2013 
TGIF Music – Gina Chavez 

Austin singer-songwriter Gina Chavez describes her music as Sheryl Crow meets Selena or, more simply, Latin folk rock. Early influences were very American sources like Lyle Lovett, Michael Jackson, and Little Richard. Working in Central America on an educational mission in 2009 helped Gina get in touch with her Latin roots, as did the poetry of Mercedes Sosa, Silvio, and Jorge Drexler. Studying the examples of Patty Griffin and Ani Difranco honed her songwriting. The result is wonderful music by whatever name. Enjoy “Gotta Get” at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to sing. I was fortunate to have great choir teachers in middle school and high school who taught me how to sing life into notes on a page. But it was when I saw Toni Price with Casper Rawls and Scrappy Judd at the Continental Club when I was 18 that I pulled my dad’s 1954 Martin guitar out of the closet and began writing songs. Since then, I’ve been blessed with incredible people and opportunities who’ve gently shoved me into recording albums and pursuing music as a career.” – Gina Chavez 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Thursday, June 27, 2013 
Be Happy In Your Work 


In one of my “other” lives, I do blogging about another source of my daily bread-and-butter, organizational learning and performance consulting. I am borrowing some material from this other space for this entry. It may be a bit of a stretch when it comes to creativity and innovation, but I hope not much and you will stick with me to the end. 

The Gallup Organization recently released "The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders" survey report. This follow-up report covers 2010 through 2012; an earlier, similar study covered 2008 through 2010. The survey findings from both reports make for depressing reading. But they should serve as a call-to-action by the WLP profession. You can find the report at the link. 

The survey sample represent the 100 million full-time workers people in our country. The results show that about 70 percent of American workers either hate going to work or are even actively undermining the workplace (“roaming the halls spreading discontent,” as the Gallup report puts it) to the point of causing economic loss to their organizations.  (The polling organization puts the loss as between $450 billion to $550 billion annually.) This leaves only 30 percent of workers feeling “engaged and inspired” by their work. 

These results are not much different from those of the earlier study. Some had tried to explain away the dismal results from the 2008-10 survey as a consequence of the Great Recession, which left the workforce scarred, scared, and angry. That explanation doesn’t wash anymore. 

This year’s report squarely lays the blame for all this misery at the feet of American management. The problem isn’t wages (though there is plenty of discontent over growing inequality between the C-suite and everyone else). It isn’t benefits or hours. There are just too many bosses-from-hell running loose in the land, wreaking damage everywhere they go. 

I believe this issue has a lot to do with building a more creative society. Because those of you who regularly read me know, my vision is for a society where everyone has the opportunity to be creative. It doesn’t take a lot of IQ to figure out that if 70 percent of the workforce is disengaged or actively sabotaging the organization, there is not a whole lot of constructive creativity and innovation occurring. (There can be a lot of creativity in sabotage efforts, but not the kind we want to promote.) 

Let me add that we know how to fix this problem. There are good leadership models and programs out there that show how to identify and train good leaders and supervisors. But it does take the will to change – and money, money most organizations are not willing to invest, to their own and society’s detriment. Which leads me to this … 

There is much support these days in the halls of Congress and state capitols for STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – education. When STEM was just getting off the ground a few years, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) promoted the idea that leadership should be considered to be a STEM subject. The reasoning was that more training resulting in better leadership would pay off handsomely in boosting productivity, a theory for which the Gallup results give added credence. Unfortunately, the proposal went nowhere, and ASTD is no longer actively pushing it. 

Things change. It’s time to dust off this proposal and start advocating for leadership as a STEM subject. As Seattle-based New York Times columnist Timothy Egan (from whom I learned about the Gallup study) writes, “Sad to say, there are two great tragedies in professional life: not having a job, and having a job you hate.” As a society we can longer afford to continue this deplorable state of affairs. It is costing too much in productivity, money and creativity. 

Quote of the Day: “Even though worker capacity and motivation are destroyed when leaders choose power over productivity, it appears that bosses would rather be in control than have the organization work well.” --Margaret J. Wheatley 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 
Regaining a Lost Lead in Carbon Fibers 

The U.S. is seeking to regain its innovation leadership in carbon fiber technologies. The lightweight but strong materials are key to future of aviation as shown by Boeing new Dreamliner. They are finding numerous applications elsewhere, particularly in automobiles where they are replacing much heavier sheet metal. 

An online report from Scientific American quotes Lee McGetrick, director of the Oak Ridge carbon fiber technology facility in Tennessee, as saying, "We've really lost the technology. Part of our vision here is we're going to take it back." The new facility, supported by a $35 million DOE grant, is part of a new manufacturing initiative to boost U.S. competitiveness. The Department of Energy launched the state-of-the-art facility earlier this year to serve as a testbed for the development of cheaper, better-performing carbon fiber materials. 

Thus, most of the innovation effort is focused on more efficient and effective manufacturing processes to radically drive down costs and make the fibers more competitive with traditional materials. But there is also considerable innovation effort going into developing replacements for the petroleum-based precursor polyacrylonitrile, or PAN. PAN makes up about 90 percent of the market. Unfortunately, converting PAN into carbon fibers is a slow, energy-consuming process requiring high temperatures and strict environmental controls, which is prompting the search for alternatives. 

Read more at the link. 

Quote of the Day: "Today's carbon fiber industry is really a boutique industry. By proving you can do it at a low cost at scale, we're trying to turn it into a big box store kind of industry, and that could really be a boon for the United States in manufacturing," -- Lee McGetrick 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 
McKinsey: China’s Innovation Engine Picks Up Speed 

This new article from consulting giant McKinsey and Co. notes something that should not be surprising: China is becoming better, much better, at innovation. Among other factors, China’s universities are becoming increasingly effective at the vital task of training world-class innovators. Read more at the link. 

Remember when American universities were one of our country’s last best competitive advantages? It wasn’t that long ago. 

The internationalist in me celebrates the rise of this great new engine of innovation in the world. Building a more creative society is a global task. 

The American and small-d democrat in me worries about the implications of China’s success and our stumbles. For all of China’s recent progress, it is still an authoritarian, one-party state, a terrible political system to model. For all our self-inflicted wounds and political dysfunction, I still like to believe our country is, in Lincoln’s poetic words, “the last best hope of earth”. 

Quote of the Day: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ― Confucius 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Monday, June 24, 2013 
The Circuitous Road to Saving the Planet 

The path of creativity leading to a transformational innovation is rarely straight. At the link is a great article on one startup, Solazyme, whose principals have been seeking to help the planet get greener by making fuel out of microalgae – but whose first product is a conditioner for women worried about their aging skin. At least the skin cream offers the promise of keeping the firm in business as it continues its quest. 

The article is also a good primer on and current accounting of the state of green energy. 

Quote of the Day: “These were delusional rantings of kids” -- Jonathan S. Wolfson, co-founder with Harrison F. Dillons of microalgae firm Solazyme, of their early talks about the dream of making alterative energy from biomass. 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Friday, June 21, 2013 
TGIF Music – Wild Child 

I sometimes catch flack for – or at least confront serious questions about – the weekly TGIF music post, because I feature influential recordings or artists on the anniversaries of, respectively, the release date or birthday. Implicit in the criticisms is the question, why not feature some current creative music and artists? 

In my defense, let me say that while creativity is essential to fashioning the future, it is often best understood and analyzed retrospectively. That said, this week doesn’t offer any particularly interesting anniversaries to write about, so I am giving myself the freedom to showcase an Austin group I really like, the indie folk pop band Wild Child. 

The group began with Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins performing ukulele love songs in northern U.S. national parks, using their tour van as a practice studio. The group has now grown to six members, including drummer Carey McGraw, cellist Sadie Wolfe, keyboardist Evan Magers, and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Mares. 

The result is an infectious folk-influenced sound accented with soulful lyrics, lush strings, and other artful instrumentation. The band’s lyrics capture the always uncertain dynamics of sexual attraction and tension and fear of loss that draw me into the music. 

Wild Child made it big at this spring’s SXSW Festival, winning the Austin Music Awards in the folk category. Give a listen to the title tune of their first CD, “Pillow Talk”. 

Quote of the Day: “Making an album a slow and sometimes tedious process, but it's really starting to come together, more and more so the more instrument and vocal parts we add. … Typically we spend 14 hours a day in the studio. There's a lot of downtime--a lot. A lot of time spent finding ways to amuse ourselves. We take rides up and down the block on the razor scooter. We have epic battles of Sports Head Football. We call each other names and come up with new and creative ways to noob Uncle Petey.” – Alexander Beggins 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Thursday, June 20, 2013 
SCOTUS Speaks Some Sense on Patents 

Finally some good news on patents. The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling – this in itself is a remarkable accomplishment in hyper-partisan Washington, D.C. -- on gene patents strikes a blow for common sense. In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics the Court ruled that companies cannot claim a patent for discovering a naturally occurring gene. 

Yet as welcome as this news is, researcher Eleonore Pauwels, from the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, argues in an op-ed you can read at the link that this victory is only partial. She argues that the Court failed to address a related problem, namely, how companies can unfairly benefit from genetic information withheld as a trade secret. 

Still, let’s celebrate our victories when we can. We still confront a long, hard slog toward restoring sense to our patent laws, one of the crucial underpinnings of a more creative society. 

Quote of the Day: “The quality of American patents has been deteriorating for years; they are increasingly issued for products and processes that are not truly innovative - things like the queuing system for Netflix, which was patented in 2003. Yes, it makes renting movies a snap, but was it really a breakthrough deserving patent protection?” -- Robert Pozen 

“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 
The Leaders' Recipe for Innovation: The Lessons of "Silicon Valley"

A few weeks ago I sponsored a screening of the documentary "Silicon Valley" for people interested in innovation.  This outstanding 82-minute video tells the story of how Robert Noyce and a small group of young scientists and engineers who followed him, changed the world by innovating ever more powerful transistor devices.  In the process, they launched the development of one of the most technologically creative regions the world has ever known.

This video case study serves as a great primer about innovation.  What is required to ignite and sustain innovation?  And what is the impact of innovation on the economy and society?  And after all is said and done, why should we care about innovation?

(You can see the entire video online.  Here is the link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/silicon/player/)

As I have reflected on the video, I see leadership as the key variable.  Leadership turns ideas into action.  Leadership determines the structure and culture of an organization.  Because the WLP profession can build better leaders and organizational cultures, this is a major reason why innovation is relevant to us. The video portrays leadership, good and bad, that propels the momentum of events.

The first leader shown is William Shockley, the brilliant Bell Labs scientist and co-inventor of the transistor.  Shockley decided to start his own company to develop the full potential of the transistor, choosing to locate near family in what was then still beautiful orchard groves in Santa Clara County, California, during the 1950s.  

Shockley knew enough to recruit the best and brightest scientific and engineering talent of the day.  His larger-than-life reputation and powerful vision, based on innovating ever better transistors, made luring this great young talent to California easy. The beautiful pastoral setting, wonderful California climate, with proximity to Stanford University and San Francisco, also helped.

Shockley had one great flaw, however.  He had an ego that more than matched his stratospheric IQ.  After Shockley was awarded the Nobel Prize, his self-regard totally slipped its leash.  He became even more arrogant, authoritarian, and abusive to his staff.

The top talent Shockley had recruited eventually revolted.  Bear in mind, though, that this was in the 1950s when one joined a company with the expectation of staying until retirement.  Job changing and entrepreneurship were not as common as today and entailed much greater risk.  These young men, for whom Robert Noyce was their natural leader, took the risk and set out on their own.

After much effort, Noyce and his crew found a backer in Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation, which provided the capital to take their ideas to the next level. They became an independent unit of the parent company called Fairchild Semiconductor.

Fairchild Semiconductor proved to be quite successful in increasing revenue each year. The parent company exercised its options and Fairchild Semiconductor became a division fully integrated into the company and accountable to the corporate headquarters in New York.

The company used the revenues from the semiconductor division to purchase a series of smaller companies (that produced only limited results), rather than plow the money back into the semiconductor division to bolster research-and-development.

The draining off of funds from the semiconductor division frustrated those who invented the game-changing products that led to Fairchild Semiconductor’s success. The talented engineers, stifled by a lack of investment, found other opportunities, with many of them starting their own electronic companies.  Robert Noyce and colleague Gordon Moore* stayed longer, trying to get corporate to listen and change its ways, but eventually they too gave up and made the great leap. Together they founded Intel. Noyce and Moore gave themselves and their new company two years to produce a new, more powerful type of memory device for computers. Their dream was to replace the magnetic core memory technology then being used with a new type of memory based on the integrated circuit technology they had pioneered at Fairchild.  

*(Moore is famous for being, among other things, the author of "Moore's Law", the observation that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years.)

Intel took off, but not without its ups and downs. And here is where we have to take a closer look at Robert Noyce himself, his gifts and his shortcomings.  As noted above, Noyce was a risk taker, a key trait of an innovator.  Here's another example of this.

After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, there was fear in the U.S. about being vulnerable to attack.  The Federal Government was pouring money into defense contracts.  IBM was the general contractor on one such project, the goal being to develop the guidance system for a new Air Force bomber.  IBM was seeking quick delivery of high-speed, reliable transistors to be used in the new system.  The expectation was that Texas Instruments would get the work, but the three-month-old Fairchild Semiconductor, which had not produced anything yet, was asked if it wanted a crack at the contract.  The requirement was to deliver one hundred of the transistors within a few short weeks.  Noyce, ever the sauve, self-assured salesman, said sure, Fairchild could produce the transistors -- stunning his colleagues into silent disbelief.  Then the group went to work and made good on Noyce's commitment.

Both Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel reflected Noyce's intense dislike of hierarchy. One reason Noyce moved to California was to get away from the creativity-killing rigid conformity of the East Coast corporate cultures that dominated the economy in the 1950s.  The offices and culture of Fairchild and Intel reflected this.  Noyce's cubicle was indistringuishable from those of the people around him.  The culture Noyce put in place was a meritocracy of ideas, rather than a culture still much too prevalent even today where importance is determined by job title or how large one's office is. People with ideas didn't have to run a chain-of-command gauntlet to talk with Bob Noyce.

The free and easy California lifestyle led Noyce and his people to frequent the Wagon Wheel bar on Friday afternoons.  This is the origin of the Friday beer bust that so many hi-tech companies have adopted.  It was yet another way to help people interact, a key to greater creativity leading to innovation. 

These values of Noyce's shaped a highly creative culture at all three companies where he was a leader.  When people came to him with ideas, Bob would respond with interest, encouragement, and helpful feedback.  This stoked the passion of people to work long and hard (sixty-plus hour weeks were not uncommon) to play a part in creating the future, one of the greatest of all motivators.  But there was a down side to Bob's leadership as well, and it became evident as Intel started to take off.

Encouraging every expression of creativity meant Noyce was not making the tough calls on which technologies to pursue and which to pass on.  Conflict started brewing among development teams, because everyone thought they had Noyce's go-ahead.  

Salvation came in the form of Andy Grove.  Grove had joined Fairchild in 1963 and became a protege of Moore's. Grove followed when Moore and Noyce bolted to found Intel. As the realization grew that Intel was floundering, Moore recommended to Noyce that Grove become head of operations for the company.  Though Grove had never taken a single business course, he was an acknowledged taskmaster who insisted on operational excellence.  Grove's direct manner aided him on making clear to people that once a decision had been made, discussion was over; it was time to get things done. The combination of Noyce's skill in encouraging creativity and Grove's disciplined approach to getting results made Intel a success. 

So here is the basic recipe for an innovative organization.  Innovation depends on leaders who are willing to take risks and create a climate where others feel safe to take reasonable risks, who inspire through a compelling vision that motivates people to do their best, and create flat organizations that encourage people to interact and share ideas in many ways.  Once a decision is made, results are achieved through disciplined, focused action. 

Easy to say, hard to do.

But innovation does matter.  Robert Noyce is called "the mayor of Silicon Valley" because the fruits of his labors extended far beyond the three companies he led.  The number of companies started by people who trained under Bob Noyce are legion.  Noyce is the model for many other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, even if they didn't work for him, like Steve Jobs.  The fruit orchards have long disappeared from Santa Clara County, replaced by hi-tech headquarters and R&D facilities. High paying, high-tech jobs in the area have increased ten-fold since 1959, leading to a doubling of the population. In addition to these tangible factors, there is the sense in the Silicon Valley that this is where the future is being created.  This wasn't in the video, but I recently came across a quote that working in Silicon Valley was like living in Florence during the Renaissance.  

Seattle is an area known for innovation. But the world isn't sitting still. We all need to learn and apply the lessons of "Silicon Valley" if we want to make a difference in the exciting new world of creativity and innovation that is being created.

“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Friday, June 15, 2013 
TGIF Music – Les Paul, Musical Innovator and Inventor 

Only three people get the supreme honor at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of having a permanent, stand-alone exhibit: record producer Sam Phillips of fabled Sun Records, disc jockey Alan Freed who coined the term “rock and roll”, … and the subject of today’s TGIF entry, music pioneer Les Paul. We honor Les this week. It is his 98th birthday anniversary (June 6, 1915; he died on August 12, 2009). 

Les is notable because he brought innovation to popular music not only through his playing but also through inventions. Most famously he contributed significantly to the development of the solid-body electric guitar, which made rock-and-roll music possible. 

Paul’s solid-body model was significant because it solved two of the major problems with earlier versions of electric guitar. First, it eliminated feedback by eliminating resonance caused by amplified sound from the acoustic body. Second, Paul’s design aided sustain, the period of time during which the sound remains before it becomes inaudible, since the energy of the strings was no longer dissipated in generating sound through the guitar body. 

His very first invention was the neck-worn harmonica holder, a device that my generation associates with Bob Dylan, not Les Paul. The holder enables a musician to play the harmonica hands-free while continuing to play the guitar. Paul's device is still manufactured using his basic design. 

Les blazed additional trails as an innovator or early adopter and refiner of numerous recording techniques. These include multi-track recording, tape delay, phasing effects, and overdubbing. 

One often sees creative streaks in the families of creative people, and this appears to be the case with Paul. His mother’s side of the family showed great entrepreneurial and inventive drive. Family members include the founder of Blatz Beer and the Stutz motor company, which made the legendary Stutz Bearcat sports car and other luxury and sports models. 

His playing style was equally innovative and successful. Paul befriended and learned from masters like jazz pianist Art Tatum and guitarist Django Reinhardt. Inspired by their examples, he developed novel chording sequences, fretting techniques and timing, and licks and trills. Paul’s work in country, jazz, and rock has influenced countless artists. 

To top it all off, Les Paul even knew how to marry well. Mary Ford was his partner as performer and wife for many years. They sold millions of records. One of their greatest classics is the jazz standard “How High the Moon”. Les and Mary made the most popular version of the song ever, which was so great that their version was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. Enjoy it at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “To this day, no one has come up with a set of rules for originality. There aren’t any.” – Les Paul 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Thursday, June 13, 2013 
Is Inequality a Natural Aspect of a Highly Creative Society? 

Without a doubt, California’s Silicon Valley is one of the most creative regions the world has ever known. But a recent report shines a troubling light on this success. 

Catherine Bracy moved to the area from Chicago to run Team Obama's technology field office for the 2012 campaign. She was surprised to see vast inequality by race and gender in financing start-ups and income distribution. You can see the disagreeable details and read more about these findings at the link. 

Naturally, the entrepreneurs’ who have started successful companies and their minions will argue that this inequality is a natural consequence of the innovation process. However, as we build a more creative society, it is vital to take the long view. A more creative society, in my view, is one that, among other things, provides the stability essential to making long-run bets on research, development, and commercialization of new ideas. If history teaches us anything, it teaches that extreme inequality leads to social conflict and decline. 

We need innovation in constructing our social contract to ensure everyone wins. 

Quote of the Day: “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” –Plutarch, ancient Greek biographer (c. 46 – 120 CE) 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Friday, June 7, 2013 
TGIF Music – Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In the U.S.A.” 

“Born In the U.S.A.” is considered to be one of the best (and best-selling) rock albums of all times, and certainly Bruce Springsteen’s finest accomplishment. 

The album’s hopeful lyrics marked a change from Springsteen’s earlier, darker work. A bit like a latter-day Walt Whitman, Springsteen celebrates the struggles of ordinary Americans in pursuing the American dream. I do wonder, though, if many people actually listen to the words of the title track, which has become a patriotic anthem, despite caustic references to various shortcomings of our society. 

In addition to hope, Springsteen deliberately pursued a much more pop-oriented and commercial sound in “Born In the U.S.A”. Music was trending much more to pop then, with the Jacksons (Michael and Janet) dominating the charts, and Springsteen responded in kind. 

This is reminiscent of Bob Dylan switching from folk to rock. But unlike Dylan, Springsteen escaped the scathing criticism and charges of betrayal that Dylan suffered. But the rationale in both Dylan and Springsteen’s cases seem to be the same. The point is to be listened to, and in some instances an artist needs to meet the audience where they are. 

An additional noted change: It was for “Born In the U.S.A.” that Springsteen decided to get in shape and become the lean, buff superstar he is today. This is reflected in the iconic Annie Liebowitz photo on the album cover. 

So hope sells, pop sells, sexy sells. We celebrate this very American music on a weekend that is very Fourth of July-like here in Austin West on this the twenty-ninth year anniversary of the album’s release (June 4, 1984). Listen to the full album at the link, and reflect on what it is to be an American. 

Quote of the Day: “For me, I was somebody who was a smart young guy who didn't do very well in school. The basic system of education, I didn't fit in; my intelligence was elsewhere.” -- Bruce Springsteen 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Thursday, June 6, 2013 
Reports of the Death of the Hydrogen Car are Premature 

Good ideas don’t die. Sometimes they just linger around for a time until something in the environment shifts, which makes a particular idea relevant once again. 

Such is the case with the hydrogen car. Improvements in technology are a big reason for the turnaround. The use of expensive platinum in fuel cells has been reduced by eighty percent, accounting for much of the improvement. Platinum is the catalyst in the fuel cell that strips electrons from the hydrogen gas, which is used to generate the electric current. 

The other big change is the fracking of natural gas. This has drastically increased the supply of natural gas and lowered its price. The major component of natural gas is methane. A process known as steam reforming transforms methane into hydrogen, which due to lower price of natural gas is increasing becoming competitive with gasoline prices. 

These and other factors have recently prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to launch a public-private program called H2USA. The program is forming teams of researchers from the government and the automakers to find ways to make an affordable hydrogen car. 

Much of the action is based at the Center for Infrastructure Research and Innovation (CIRI). The Center is working on a number of infrastructure issues, such as the design of practical hydrogen fueling stations. Read more at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.” Admiral Hyman Rickover 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 
Make Patent Trolls Pay in Court 

That’s the title of a great op-ed in today’s New York Times. This may be another indicator, after the Ira Glass story over the weekend (featured in my Monday blog entry) that people have had just about enough of the patent trolls’ nonsense. 

Among many good points, the op-ed authors point out that judges already have considerable power to curb frivolous and abusive litigation. It’s time judges start using it. 

Quote of the Day: Lincoln said that the Patent Office adds the flame of interest to the light of creativity. And that is why we need to improve the effectiveness of our Patent Office. -- Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Tuesday, June 4, 2013 
Mind-Expanding Summer Reading List 

The Innovator at the Washington Post is out with the summer reading list to keep our brains expanding even when we are relaxing on the beach. Take a look at the link. Which of these have you read? What additional books would you recommend? 

Quote of the Day: One must be an inventor to read well. There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Monday, June 3, 2013 
Light at the End of the Tunnel for Patent Absurdities? 

At the link you can hear a great piece by Ira Glass of “This American Life” describing our nation’s patent woes, which would be silly if they were not so destructive to innovation. It is a follow-up to a program from two years ago in which many questions were raised, but not answered, about patent trolls and the abuse of patent laws. 

The current report focuses on two companies. Personal Audio is a company that claims a patent on podcasting technology. Yet the company never actually made a successful podcast technology. What the company did do is come up the idea for podcasting. 

The second focus is on Intellectual Ventures (whose corporate offices are in Bellevue, WA, near my home) and Chris Crawford, formerly associated with IV, whose cumulative patents are claimed to cover much of what occurs on the Internet. This American Life describes a shadowy and complicated path that leads to an office in Marshall, Texas. 

The program lasts an hour and is well the investment of time by anyone truly committed to building a more creative society. The good news is that by the end of the program, Ira Glass sees some reason for hope that needed changes may not be far off. Let’s hope so. 

Quote of the Day: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot.” Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today - Saturday, June 1, 2013 
The Saturday Muse* – The “Rite of Spring” at 100 

Sometimes enormous creative change is announced by a riot. That is happened one hundred years ago this week (May 29, 1913) in Paris when Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre Du Printemps) premiered. 

Stravinsky wrote the score for Vaslav Nijinsky’s new Ballets Russes production. The choice of subject matter is where the provocativeness of the enterprise begins, for the work, subtitled “Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts”, is about the sacrifice of a young virgin who dances herself to death. The dancing (with unnatural stamping and jerking) and ballet costumes (heavy smocks suggestive of Russia’s pagan past) were dramatically different from traditional notions of the art. 

Stravinsky’s score itself represented a dramatic break with the past. This is what makes “Rite of Spring” one of the most important pieces of the last century. The drama begins with the very first ghostly notes from a bassoon, playing in a higher range than had been ever attempted. It grows with discordant jumps, announcing the trend that defines modern music, the dominance of rhythm and percussion. The Paris audience knew it was hearing something very different from the classical musical tradition, and reacted to resist the change in a so very Gallic fashion. 

Composer and computer programmer Stephen Malinowski helps us understand Stravinsky’s technical innovations through graphical representations. You can listen and view Part I, The Adoration of the Earth, at the link. Use the YouTube search box to find Part II. 

Quote of the Day: “I know that the twelve notes in each octave and the variety of rhythm offer me opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust.” -- Igor Stravinsky 


*OK, I know I’m fudging a bit here on the date, but I believe it is important to note this anniversary, and it was an exceptionally beautiful and busy weekend in Seattle.