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September 2013

“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Monday, September 30, 2013 
TAMU Alum Penny De Los Santos Honored as Innovator 

Via Texas A&M University (TAMU) president R. Bowen Loftin, we learn that New York-based photographer and TAMU alum Penny De Los Santos (’91) has been honored as one of twenty “Innovators 2013” by NBCLatino.com. Penny and her fellow innovators are being honored during Hispanic Heritage Month as “men and women [who] exemplify the very best, brightest and most accomplished in the Hispanic community.” 

Penny earned this recognition because of her fabulous food and travel photography, which has appeared in such top publications as National Geographic and Saveur. She attracted notice in Austin by delivering a TEDx talk on her groundbreaking travels through Lebanon during Ramadan. 

At the link read more see a video about Penny and her work, plus find another link to her stunning portfolio of beautiful photos. And understand her creative attitude toward life with this … 

Quote of the Day: “What is cool about life and dreams and pursuing what you really want to do is that it really can happen.” – Penny De Los Santos 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Friday, September 27, 2013 
TGIF Music – “Nevermind” by Nirvana 

Nirvana’s album Nevermind, released this week (September 24th) back in 1991 marked two crucial turning points in rock music culture. First, Nevermind heralded the emergence of alternative rock as a genre able to challenge to the more mainstream, commercial rock music. Second, Nevermind represents a new generation, the 20 somethings of that era, declaring they would choose a musical path different from that of the long-dominant baby boomers. 

Neither Nirvana, one of the leading bands in the Seattle grunge scene, nor their record label, had great expectations for the album when it was released. However, it has since gone on to earn spots high atop several greatest-rock-albums-of-all-times lists. The album spun off several hit singles, most notably the first track “Smells Like Teen Spirit” plus “Come as You Are”, “Lithium”, and “In Bloom”. 

Listen to the whole album, with its extreme dynamics, at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “I don’t think we’re better than the other bands… We got attention because our songs have hooks, which stick in people’s minds.” -- Kurt Cobain 


“Building a more creative society”
Creativity Today – Wednesday, September 25, 2013 
How Federal Budget Sequester Is Hurting Innovation


Tom Friedman has a good op-ed piece in today’s New York Times on how the federal budget sequester is hurting innovation, using the situation at the National Institutes of Health as a specific example. He quotes Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, as saying “we will not be able to fund 640 research grants that were scored in the top 17 percent of the proposals we received. They would have been funded without the sequester, but now they won’t. They include new ideas on cancer, diabetes, autism and heart disease — all the things that we as a country say are a high priority.” 

Read the details at the link. It hardly needs to be said, but this is no way to build a more creative society.

Quote of the Day: “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono



“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Thursday, September 26, 2013 
Mashing Up Scientific and Artistic Creativity with STEAM 

I am gratified to see the Institute for Applied Creativity (IAC) at Texas A&M University is still in business and still making a difference. Though a much different place with a much different mission from what it was when I was affiliated with the IAC a few years ago while getting my doctorate, under Carol LaFayette’s leadership the Institute is generating STEAM nationally. 

You have probably heard about STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and is all the rage in education circles today. LaFayette, an associate professor of visualization in the College of Architecture, has thrown an “A” for “Art” into the acronym. She is the driving force behind a new Network for Sciences, Engineering, Arts and Design sponsored by the National Science Foundation that is (forgive me and cue the groans) picking up STEAM. “This is about using both halves of the brain, and innovation,” LaFayette says. “Those skills include observing, imaging and visualization, abstracting, pattern recognition and pattern invention, dimensional thinking, transforming data into visual or graphic forms, converting theories into mechanical procedures, and more.” 

Read more at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “The division of our culture is making us more obtuse than we need be: we can repair communications to some extent: but, as I have said before, we are not going to turn out men and women who understand as much of their world as Piero della Francesca did of his, or Pascal, or Goethe. With good fortune, however, we can educate a large proportion of our better minds so that they are not ignorant of the imaginative experience, both in the arts and in science, nor ignorant either of the endowments of applied science, of the remediable suffering of most of their fellow humans, and of the responsibilities which, once seen, cannot be denied.” ― C.P. Snow, author of The Two Cultures 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Monday, September 23, 2013 
Captivate Conference in October 

I have become fascinated with the modern game industry since attending the “Serious Play” conference here in the Seattle area last month. This is where and when I became truly aware and appreciative of the creativity that goes into developing games and how frequently modern computer-based games are engines for individual creativity development. In addition, the game development industry is growing steadily and becoming an economic factor in both Austin and Seattle. 

ACA Austin Global has reached out to the Austin Chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IDGA) to help foster community between our two organizations, which share similar goals. This will help build a more creative society. We are pleased to help spread the word on the IGDA’s upcoming conference in October. The conference focuses on helping highly creative game developers understand how to build a business and make a living using their creative talents. Find out more below. 

Captivate Conference 

Film. Games. Mobile. Music. 

Unleash your creativity through converging technology. Blaze new trails. Accelerate your career. Empower Indie creations. 

Captivate is for professionals who want their careers and businesses to take flight and find new paths to success. Stay relevant and be employable on cutting edge industries. Learn from 100+ industry professionals have found the road to success and can provide guidance. Rubber meets road in all sessions and workshops and the advice will help you survive on the cutting edge. 

Anyone with a crowdfunding campaign and a badge to Captivate can stand on our stage for 3, 6, or 10 minutes and present their campaign live-streamed to Twitch.TV. Utilize this code to get 15% off your badge today, good until September 30th. http://captivateconference.ticketbud.com/tickets?pc=ACA2013 

Quote of the Day: “Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock-n-roll.” -- Shigeru Miyamoto, known as the “father of modern video gaming” 

“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Friday, September 20, 2013 
TGIF Music – “American Idiot” by Green Day 

Today marks the day in 2004 when the California punk rock band Green Day released its rock opera, American Idiot. Inspired by the example of The Who’s “Tommy”, the album tells the story of Jesus of Suburbia, an anti-hero who leaves his hated hometown, seeking new experiences. His wanderings serve as the vehicle for searing critiques of society. 

Green Day, which is one of the best-selling musical groups in the world, scored a major commercial and artistic success with American Idiot. The album won seven of the eight Grammy Awards it was nominated for in 2005, including best album. The album has gone on to be highly ranked on several different greatest-rock-albums-of-all-times listings. Five of the tracks from the album became successful seasons. 

It may sound a bit like damning with faint praise, but The Guardian’s music critic Dorien Lynskey called the album “a mess - but a vivid, splashy, even courageous mess.” Mess, as used here, may be just another word for creativity. 

Enjoy the whole album at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “‎The day you become old is the day you're not looking for new experiences anymore.” ― Billie Joe Armstrong, co-founder, main songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist of Green Day 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Wednesday, September 18, 2013 
Will Dell Going Private Fix the Company? 

A fair amount of Austin’s current stature as a world-class creative community can be credited to the launch of Dell Computers in 1984. The company remains a major employer in the Austin metro area, so what happens to Dell matters mightily to Austin. And currently, with many industry observers predicting the demise of the personal computer as technological progress relentlessly marches on, the prospects for Dell are unclear and more than a bit worrisome. 

Michael Dell is channeling Steve Jobs a bit by becoming actively engaged again in the company and fighting successfully to take it private. All of which prompts a rant, which by turns is funny and insightful, from pundit Michael Kinsley about the ever-shifting theories and rationalizations for how to make organizations successful. 

This matters, as several of my recent posts have attempted to highlight. We can talk about creativity techniques all day and all night, but they can only help in organizations that provide the financing and creative environments to support creative thinking that leads to innovation. 

Read more at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “There are a lot of things that go into creating success. I don't like to do just the things I like to do. I like to do things that cause the company to succeed. I don't spend a lot of time doing my favorite activities.” -- Michael Dell 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Monday, September 9, 2013 
Innovation and the Ideology of “Shareholder Value” 

For some reason I am reading more and more economics these days in my continuing search for ideas how how to build a more creative society. Today I came across an entry by The Washington Post’s economics columnist Steven Pearlstein on the paper’s Wonkblog where he does a full wrecking-crew job on the ideology of “shareholder value”. 

This superficially appealing idea, that asserts corporations should be run in a manner that maximizes shareholder value, took hold in the 1970s and 80s as an antidote to mediocre management. Yet as Pearlstein points out, there is no foundation for this idea in either law or history. 

And the impact on returning value to shareholders has been disappointing, to say the least. Though not exact, Pearlstein cites figures that suggest the total real annual compound return on stocks has dropped in this era of return to stockholder value to 6.4 percent from 7.6 percent during a comparable prior period. 

What this ideology has done is even more pernicious. It has created a relentless short-term focus on achieving quarterly financial results by any means necessary … and this treadmill is destructive of innovation and, as the figures cited indicate, to profitability and the ultimate sustainability of a company. While Pearlstein never mentions the words creativity or innovation, he does hold up Steve Jobs’ Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble – three of our most consistently innovative large companies -- as prime counterexamples of firms that refused to drink the maximize-shareholder-interest Kool Aid. 

Learn more at the link. And let’s start cogitating on better (dare I say “creative and innovative”?) ways to measure and manage organizational performance with a focus on building more creative organizations. If we do, everyone will benefit, including stockholders. 

Quote of the Day: “We must shift the focus of companies back to the customer and away from shareholder value. The shift necessitates a fundamental change in our prevailing theory of the firm… The current theory holds that the singular goal of the corporation should be shareholder value maximization. Instead, companies should place customers at the center of the firm and focus on delighting them, while earning an acceptable return for shareholders.” -- Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, author of Fixing the Game 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Friday, September 6, 2013 
TGIF Music: Black Joe Lewis 

Austin’s own Black Joe Lewis star is on the rise. NPR profiled him for a second time recently. He and his band were forecast by Esquire magazine to be one of the breakout groups at the 2009 SXSW festival, a prediction that looks more accurate with each passing day. 

Joe’s story is a classic up-by-the-bootstraps tale. He bought his first guitar at the pawnshop where he was working. He has supported himself over the years in a series of lowly jobs, including (most memorably) driving a fish truck, something that is surely not too pleasant in the Texas heat. He learned the musical trade from the Red River blues/garage scene, drawing inspiration from Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown. 

The result is a sound full of raw power that is a kick to listen to. Try one of Joe’s most noted songs, Sugarfoot, at the link. 

Quote of the Day: “You know, like then we started playing gigs [after I learned to play my first guitar]. And for some reason those dudes down there at this rock bars in Red River, you know, if it weren't for them, I would - you know, they gave me a chance to sharpen my teeth, I guess, or learn how to do what I wanted to do. And I just kept coming back and getting better. And I'm here today so...” – Black Joe Lewis 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Monday, September 5, 2013 
The Unbearable Slowness of Innovation Diffusion 

Economist and columnist Paul Krugman highlights an important issue in how, and how quickly (or slowly), society learns to use innovations. He cites critics who today are questioning whether “Big Data” – the process of extracting useful insights from huge and complex amounts of information via new tools -- will ever live up to its hype. 

Krugman points out that this sort of skepticism is nothing new. Before Big Data, skeptics questioned whether society would ever see any productivity gains from computers. And to be fair, it did take decades for gains to be evident in the economic statistics. This is a phenomenon most of us who have ever bemoaned the frustrating learning process associated with trying to master a new computer program or device (which is practically all of us!) can well understand. 

But Krugman goes back even further to show that electricity was subject to the same concerns. It took decades for the new technologies of electric power generation and distribution to prove their worth and have a real impact on bettering people’s lives. Work processes had to be totally rethought and reorganized to take advantage of electricity’s benefits: 

“A steam-age factory was a multistory building with narrow aisles; that was to minimize power loss when you were driving machines via belts attached to overhead shafts driven by a steam engine in the basement. The price of this arrangement was cramped working spaces and great difficulty in moving stuff around. Simply replacing the shafts and belts with electric motors didn’t do much; to get the big payoff you had to realize that having each machine powered by its own electric motor let you shift to a one-story, spread-out layout with wide aisles and easy materials handling.” 

In building a more creative society, we need to realize that introducing a new innovation isn’t enough. It takes a lot of additional creativity by many people to figure out how to extract all of the benefits from a new innovation, including benefits the creators of the innovation never envisioned. 

Quote of the Day: “Things take longer to happen than you think they will and then they happen faster than you thought they could.” -- Rudi Dornbusch 


“Building a more creative society” 
Creativity Today – Tuesday, September 4, 2013 
The World Just Got a Little Smaller 

This morning’s business news includes the announcement that British Airways is starting non-stop flights five times a week between London and Austin in time for the 2014 edition of SXSW. But as one industry analyst sarcastically comments in the report, this new service is not about a once-a-year hootenanny. It is about the innovative efficiencies of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to make such service profitable for the airline. 

This new service is a big bet on Austin’s potential as one of the world’s most creative cities with its enormous strengths in music and high tech. After all, Austin is still relatively small as the nation’s 35th largest metropolitan area. 

It pays to build a more creative society. And it will be instructive to see the service promotes more creative interaction between Austin and London and the rest of the world. 

Quote of the Day: “It is not really necessary to look too far into the future; we see enough already to be certain it will be magnificent. Only let us hurry and open the roads.” — Wilbur Wright 


“Building a more creative society”
Creativity Today – Monday, September 3, 2013 
Conformity or Creativity? 

As the new school year starts, we have this depressing report from the New Republic online on “How American Schools Are Failing Non-Conformist Kids.” As you read the description of non-conformist kids in the article, see if you agree with me that what we are talking about (for the most part) are highly creative, gifted kids. 

One can appreciate the schools need to establish a reasonable degree of order and to encourage kids to develop habits of patience and attention. But the article makes it clear that in many situations schools are simply singling out highly creative kids who don’t fit neatly inside the bureaucratic box as a nuisance they don’t want to tolerate. 

We have seen this movie before. The American Creativity Association was originally created in substantial part over concern that our country was harming highly gifted kids who might otherwise be contributing enormous creativity to our society. Over the years I have witnessed the ups-and-downs of funding for gifted-and-talented programs. And now this. 

As a society we really do have a choice and we need to make the choice. Do we want conformity or do we want creativity? One choice leads to mediocrity. The other toward building a more creative society. 

Quote of the Day: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” - Albert Einstein