Applied Creativity

Applied Creativity

Around 1800, Charles Barbier was an artillery officer in Napoleon’s army. One of the problems he noticed was the soldiers kept getting shot at night. This was largely because, in order to read messages, they’d use a lamp. Naturally, enemy snipers would use this as a target.

So Barbier decided they needed a safer way to communicate without light. What if they could feel the message instead of seeing it? And so he began to develop ecriture nocturne – night writing. He used a pattern of 12 dots in a rectangular shape, for each letter. It worked but it was slow and complicated for soldiers to remember. The army rejected it.

Then a 12-year-old student heard about it. He’d been blinded playing with an awl in his father’s workshop when he was a child. In 1821 he met Barbier and studied his system of night writing. The student agreed with the army, it was too complicated. But it didn’t need to be, the basic idea was good, so he simplified it. He changed the 12 dots for each letter to just six, and instead of replicating the letters of the alphabet, it took the form of shorthand.

It took him three years, but by the time he was 15 years old he had a working method of reading without sight. They boy’s name was Louis Braille, and the system he invented has been in worldwide use ever since. It allows blind people to read as fast as sighted people. In the US today, about 85,000 people are totally blind.

Of those who’ve learned Braille, 90% are employed. Of those who haven’t, only 33% are employed. Braille took something that was invented for one purpose and turned it into a completely different purpose.

That’s two different kinds of creativity.

Mike Greenlees once told me he studied pure maths at university. I said I couldn’t do that because I’m no good with numbers. Mike said pure maths wasn’t to do with numbers, pure maths was more about discovery and abstract thinking – maths for its own sake. Applied maths was when someone used these discoveries for a practical purpose. One type of person discovers something, a different type of person applies it.

And I thought, that could apply to creativity.  Pure creativity would be what you find in art galleries: creativity for its own sake. Applied creativity would be what we do: creativity with a specific purpose. We might take a painting, or a sculpture, or a piece of opera and use it to stand out and convey a message. For us it isn’t beauty for its own sake, it has to have a reason. If it doesn’t have a reason, it’s just decoration. Then it’s failed at being applied creativity by pretending to be pure creativity. 

Applied creativity has to do a job. Knowing the difference is what makes us effective. Because nothing that runs in our world should be pure creativity.

Steve Jobs was one of the most creative people in recent years. But Steve Jobs didn’t invent a single thing. He built the most valuable brand in the world by understanding the difference between pure creativity and applied creativity.
There is only now.

There is only now.

by Madisyn Taylor

Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

It can be easy for us to walk through the world and our lives without really being present. While dwelling on the past and living for the future are common pastimes, it is physically impossible to live anywhere but the present moment.

Nevertheless, we can easily miss the future we are waiting for as it becomes the now we are too busy to pay attention to. We then spend the rest of our time playing “catch up” to the moment that we just let pass by.

During moments like these, it is important to remember that there is only Now.

In order to feel more at home in the present moment, it is important to try to stay aware, open, and receptive. Being in the present moment requires our full attention so that we are fully awake to experience it. When we are fully present, our minds do not wander. We are focused on what is going on right now, rather than thinking about what just happened or worrying about what is going to happen next.

Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

When we begin to corral our attention into the present moment, it can be almost overwhelming to be here. There is a state of stillness that has to happen that can take some getting used to, and the mind chatter that so often gets us into our heads and out of the present moment doesn’t have as much to do. We may feel a lack of control because we aren’t busy planning our next move, assessing our current situation, or anticipating the future.

Instead, being present requires that we be flexible, creative, attentive, and spontaneous. Each present moment is completely new, and nothing like it has happened or will ever happen again.

As you move through your day, remember to stay present in each moment. In doing so, you will live your life without having to wait for the future or yearn for the past.

Life happens to us when we happen to life in the Now.
Living Like Water.

Living Like Water.

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility.

The journey of water as it flows upon the earth can be a mirror of our own paths through life.

Water begins its residence on earth as it falls from the sky or melts from ice and streams down a mountain into a tributary or stream. In the same way, we come into the world and begin our lives on earth.

Like a river that flows within the confines of its banks, we are born with certain defining characteristics that govern our identity.

We are born in a specific time and place, within a specific family, and with certain gifts and challenges. Within these parameters, we move through life, encountering many twists, turns, and obstacles along the way just as a river flows. 

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility. When a river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on, as we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard but we always keep moving on.

Water can inspire us to not become rigid with fear or cling to what’s familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to its past, but flows onward without looking back.

At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not run away from it in fear of the dark; instead, water humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of our life rather than run away from them.  

Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gracefully and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance.

Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.

Unlearning & Relearning.

Unlearning & Relearning.

By Deb Geyer | Chief Responsibility Officer, Stanley Black & Decker

The benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) draw closer. They’re starting to feel real, almost within reach, promising greater value that extends across the business community and touches all levels of society. Which means we’re at the point where we could take them for granted and miss out entirely. Fully realizing the potential of 4IR will require a more inventive, inclusive approach to talent development, and some serious unlearning of outmoded ways, paired with learning contemporary methods. Today, even as 10 million global manufacturing jobs remain unfilled due to gaps in skills and education – gaps that will only widen as Industry 4.0 technologies advance – the 4IR future requires all of us to unlearn and relearn in order to create new paths forward.

As you think about the changes your organization will need to make to compete and grow in this shifting environment, here are a few insights based on our own journey.

Make unlearning and relearning part of your talent roadmap

Any upskilling roadmap today must build human capital through personalized learning and continual development. Learning needs to be ubiquitous, part of the job. In our case, the learning mix includes advanced vocational training, STEAM education, a certification programme specifically designed for our workforce, and new maker spaces – hands-on innovation environments that offer a wide range of equipment for training, upskilling and hackathons.

But we have found the paired “unlearning and relearning” opportunities we are creating are in some aspects more powerful, and are accelerating overall growth in unexpected ways. For example, at our Lighthouse Facility in Jackson, Tennessee, we are pairing people who are early in their career with experienced employees to accelerate mutual unlearning and relearning in areas such as human-machine interfaces, connecting digital and engineering disciplines across generations. It’s a collaborative model worthy of replication in the 4IR future.

The multiplier effect from such an intensified focus on development is clear. A shop-floor operator named Lana, who works in a different area of the Jackson facility, stands out in this regard. Lana not only embraced her training, she also began training the other operators in her area. She also took it upon herself to optimize the way all of the machines were set up.

Imagine collaborative co-mentoring models and employees like Lana emerging at scale, and you begin to see how an unlearning-inspired talent roadmap could empower 10 million makers and creators to thrive in the 2030 economy.

Align development efforts with next-generation curricula

As the pace of change accelerates, organizations will increasingly need to invest more learning and development resources not only in their own workforces but in the broader labour markets and surrounding communities – and do so for the long term. Partnerships with public and private organizations offer compelling solutions that both strengthen today’s workforce and reshape curricula for the next generation of students.

For example, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a partnership model designed by IBM in 2011, provides local high school students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a vocational field. Students graduate with both a high school degree, a no-cost, industry-recognized associate degree, and relevant experience they can immediately apply in a high-paying “new-collar” job.

By investing both in the current workforce and in tomorrow’s, organizations can ensure that we are strengthening the talent pipeline and our communities for the long run.

The coming decade will be a pivotal time for organizations to establish successful 4IR trajectories. This requires a willingness to unlearn, learn and relearn the concept of accountability.

The way we think about our own 4IR prospects is best expressed by our new 2030 corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, which specifically aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and represents the most material issues for our organization.

Pursuing that strategy on a global enterprise scale has required us to develop a rigorous governance structure and process, and keep improving it. For the past two years, our CSR strategy has been supported by multiple levels of oversight across the company, all the way up to the executive steering committee, which includes the CEO, CFO and senior vice-president of HR; it is also championed by the corporate governance committee of the board of directors.

Now we’ve taken another step, adding an external advisory panel consisting of expert stakeholders who advise on CSR strategy. The enhanced governance structure provides board-level rigour and best-practice guidance to ensure that the company continues to meet its stated goals not only in terms of product and environment, but also from the standpoint of talent and governance. While we are in the early stages of rolling out this new structure, we believe that organizations will need to continue to raise the governance bar and take a more comprehensive approach to ensure accountability.

On the path to 2030

I sometimes think about this process of unlearning, learning and relearning as a kind of cook book – a living repository of successful recipes to transform business models in collaborative ways.

The ambitious goals of 2030, combined with the unmet societal needs we encounter every day, favour such an approach. You cannot progress and succeed in the 4IR without advancing the people who brought you there. The next decade, and the many innovations it holds, will come at us fast. We must be bold and seize this moment, both with a willingness to invest in talent and in our communities in completely novel ways, and with a recognition that greater governance is not a check on progress but a catalyst for positive change.

Meditation fueling Leadership.

Meditation fueling Leadership.

By Steven Cohen

As more people meditate regularly, we are seeing the benefits more clearly. Can meditation make you more effective at work? Absolutely.

Core leadership traits such as self-awareness, focus, creativity, listening, relationship development, influence, grit and having a growth mindset can be developed through meditation, thus improving professional performance. These fundamental leadership traits can be grouped into four foundational pillars: Awareness, Connection, Perspective, and Potential. Each pillar can be built and reinforced through regular meditation practice.

Building Awareness 

At its most basic level, the practice of meditation that includes a focus on your breath, takes your mind out of its regular thinking pattern, thus giving you the opportunity to observe what fills the void, both internally and externally. You learn during meditation to observe thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the present moment and without judgment.  What you find is that instead of the same day-to-day chatter in your mind, you begin to observe different, more important, thoughts and feelings.

A student in one of my meditation classes noted that he had been working on an engineering project for a month and was struggling with several obstacles that prevented success.  One day during meditation, a different way of overcoming a key obstacle just floated through his mind. Within 48 hours, the engineering project was complete.

When you’re living your life in a state of greater awareness, you are able to see situations more clearly as they arise (and not just during your meditation practice).  You may notice changes or trends in the marketplace that significantly impact your business, customer dissatisfaction before customers stop ordering, the morale of a valued employee before he or she departs without warning, or how fear or self-doubt influences your behavior.   

Making Connections

During meditation, you listen. Effective leaders are able to listen at least as much as they talk and are able to communicate with others more effectively. Too often, the baggage we bring to an interaction from our past experiences gets in the way of communicating clearly and openly. Emotional mindfulness and lovingkindness meditation can help you understand how past experiences cloud your lens, impacting your response to new situations.  We learn during meditation to pause and then thoughtfully respond instead of just reacting to situations.  

Effective interactions with others build connections.  In business, connection is everything. It is how customers and employees are satisfied, how sales are made and how brands are built. Once the lens is clear, it is easier to be present to others and listen with greater attention. We can see more easily what motivates people and notice that people have different communication styles.  Being aware of those differences can assist you in more successfully motivating others and being a more effective team member and leader.

Meditation can also assist you in determining with whom to be in a relationship. There are always certain people you “click” with, and being more aware of these relationships can be of great value both personally and professionally.  Try setting an intention during meditation by asking between each breath, “With whom should I connect?” and just observe what arises. You may find that a key customer, a mentor or friend who has drifted away comes into your consciousness.  You may have an urge to call your mother or father. Follow this realization and see how your inner wisdom guides you.

Maintaining Perspective

Stress has become such a roadblock for many of us, impacting our actions, reactions, health, and well-being. A meditation practice provides a break from the events that trigger our stress and teaches us to step back and witness with greater perspective so we experience fewer stress triggers. Meditation provides a moment of calm within the chaos so that whatever is most important (your wisdom within) can rise to the surface.  By stepping back and pausing, you may become more aware of your thoughts and actions within the context of a greater purpose. 

A daily meditation practice, while very valuable, may not be enough to make it through the day. You may want to add to your meditation toolbox micro-practices that you practice during meditation but can use any time you need it.  It can be as simple as taking three deep breaths when you notice you are out of balance or a mantra meditation. Mantra meditation is focusing on a word, phrase or saying that returns you to the state of balance and equanimity through its vibration in your body. Your mantra should be meaningful to you and bring you back into perspective by just repeating it a few times in your mind during any situation.

Every day, we are deluged by information, social media and demands for our time and attention. Effectiveness in business is based in large part on how we process and utilize information and choose to spend our valuable time. Daily meditation, along with micro-practices throughout the day, allows the most important information to rise into your consciousness, helping you to rebalance your perspective, improve your decision-making and increase your positive influence within your organizations, at home, and in your community.

Achieving Potential

Meditation puts you in touch with your true authentic self. This “self” acts as a witness during meditation. With practice, your authentic self can recognize opportunities available to you that are often your most promising opportunities for growth but were previously lost within the noise created by your mind. Daily meditation practice reinforces hard-to-describe, intangible “grit” qualities that seem to characterize true leaders: passion, effort, perseverance, and resiliency. Sitting regularly in meditation is hard to do. You must want to do it. You must actually do it.  You must keep doing it when you don’t want to. You must return to doing it when you have stopped. You must demonstrate grit. As you utilize your grit trait to pursue your vision, you will encounter areas in yourself and your organization that requires change.  

One of my favorite intention meditations was inspired by Robert K. Cooper’s book The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential For Leadership and Life.  Each Sunday night, I would ask myself: “What is my greatest opportunity this week?  What is stopping me?” Inevitably, making sure you keep these answers in your awareness during the week and prioritizing them when the other moment-to-moment demands arise, can be a key to success.

Willingness to change and proceed with a growth mindset allows you to add more value to others; the organizations in which you are active become more effective. The world becomes a better place. That is your potential.

Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson address the science behind meditation’s impact in their book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body. “Beyond the pleasant states meditation can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting traits that can result. An altered trait—a new characteristic that arises from a meditation practice — endures apart from the meditation itself. Altered traits shape how we behave in our daily lives, not just during or immediately after we meditate.”

Learning to lead from within is the process of integrating your meditation practice with your life. Where your mind goes during mediation, your actions can follow. You can learn to be more aware, recognize opportunities to build relationships, see things from a larger context and envision new opportunities, all by developing your leadership traits through meditation. Just as you can’t control your thoughts or the sensations in your body during meditation, you can’t control all of the situations you will face as you live your life. However, you can refine your response to situations and open yourself up to personal and professional growth. Ultimately, your life is your practice.  

Re-storying my career.

Re-storying my career.

By Rebecca Muller, Thrive Global

Everyone has an evolving career story: the narrative we tell ourselves, and the people around us, about where we stand on our professional paths, and how we got there. But when you’ve been at your job for a long time, it’s easy to get comfortable in your current narrative — and over time, that comfort can spiral into a routine that feels repetitive and un-motivating.

Getting stuck in one chapter of your story can be stressful, and if you sense that you’re ready for something new, it may be time to “re-story” — a term that psychologists now use to refer to making a pivot when you’ve exhausted your current narrative. Starting that rewrite can be a daunting step. “Making a big career change can be scary,” Alan Benson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, tells Thrive.

Making a change depends on your individual story, but if you become too complacent, you miss out on the benefits that can come from beginning a new chapter. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Your story: You’ve been at the same job for many years, and you’re ready for something new.

How to re-story: Allow yourself to accept change. 

With the rise of online networking, remote work, and side hustles, the workforce looks vastly different than it once did — and when it comes to starting over, that can be a great thing. “Fifty years ago, it was common to graduate from school, land a job at a big company, and work there your entire career,” Benson notes. “Today, the Census Bureau estimates that people have ten jobs by the time they’re forty.” Shifting from job to job has become normal, he explains, so it’s important to let go of preconceived notions you may have about a traditional career path. There’s no shame in changing jobs, especially if it might ease your stress and help you feel sustained meaning in your work. 

Your story: You want to pivot to a new field, but it’s not what you went to school for.

How to re-story: Use the evergreen skills you learned to propel you forward. 

You may not be an expert in the industry you’re interested in, but Benson notes that your existing knowledge and your toolkit of career experience may well be enough to take the leap. Having a diversified background might actually give you a leg up a new job, he points out. And even if you do ultimately need more education to make the switch, it’s worth confirming that first, rather than letting it hold you back from trying at all. 

Your story: You’ve hit your goal, and now you’re struggling to stay motivated.

How to re-story: Take on microsteps to help you make small changes in your workflow. 

Sometimes, achieving a goal we’ve worked hard to get to can end up making us lose motivation, because we let go of the positive changes we initially made to reach that goal in the first place. In fact, research tells us that if we see our goals as a destination we’ve already arrived at, we’re unlikely to stay motivated to keep going afterward. If you’ve reached your goal, consider taking on small microsteps to help you make lasting changes. Thinking of your goal attainment as a journey  instead of a destination can help you stay motivated long after you hit your target.

Your story: You’re feeling fatigued by your job, but you have no clue what your next step would look like.

How to re-story: Reach out to your support system.

You know you’re itching for a new job, but you’re scared and hesitant about what that new opportunity looks like. When you’re struggling to take that next step, Benson suggests reaching out to a trusted mentor or a loved one for a supportive hand. Whether you’re looking for concrete advice about your next move, or you just need a listening ear, talking through your vision can help with your decision-making, and allow you to gain a clearer sense of direction.

Riding the Wave of Life.

Riding the Wave of Life.

By Madisyn Taylor

While riding the wave of life you must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave’s motion.

Our lives are continually in motion, buoyed by the wave that is the universe’s flow. As the wave rises and falls, we are carried forward, through life’s high and low points. The universe’s flow may take us to a place in life where we would rather not be.

As tempting as it can be to fight the direction and size of this wave that propels us, riding the wave is intended to make life easier. When you ride the wave, your life can evolve naturally and with minimal effort.

Riding the wave, however, is not a passive experience. It is an active process that requires you to be attentive, centered, and awake. You must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave’s motion.

Because life is dynamic and always changing, it is when we try to make the wave stand still or resist its direction that we are likely to get pulled under by its weight. If you try to move against the wave, you may feel as if you are trapped by it and have no control over your destiny.

When you reach a low point while riding the wave and find your feet touching bottom, remember to stay standing so that you can leap forward along with the wave the next time it rises. Trying to resist life’s flow is a losing proposition and costly because you waste energy.

Riding the wave allows you to move forward without expending too much of your own efforts. When you ride the wave, you are carried by it and your head can “stay above water” as you go wherever it takes you.

It can be difficult to trust the universe and let go of the urge to fight life’s flow, and you may find it easier to ride the wave if you can stay calm and relaxed.

Riding the wave will always take you where you need to go.