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Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category

Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.

21 Jan

The Guiding Tenet: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." - Mark Twain

Amy, my partner here at Drawing Down the Vision, shared a fantastic read with me this week: Solitude and Leadership. I’d like to share a taste here with you, but would greatly prefer if you read it in its entirety. I do it no justice.

William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor, addressed the Plebe (Freshman) class at West Point Military Academy in October of 2010. He spoke about the crucial and difficult role of solitude in developing as a leader.

Mr. Deresiewicz derided the false image of the conservative, robotic West Point grads to ensure that is what they do not become. They are training to enter one of the largest bureaucracies there is. He exalted how in order to be successful leaders on the world stage, they must be true independent thinkers who know what they stand for, and fight for it. In essence, the larger the bureaucracy you enter, the more of an independent thinker it is your responsibility to become.

It seems counter-intuitive. Solitude and Leadership? It flies in the face of the common phrase, ‘a leader is nothing without followers.’ But flying in the face of the ‘common’ and accepted when appropriate is exactly what Mr. Deresiewicz advocates we must learn. We must not become expert hoop-jumpers. We must become confident, focused leaders. We must learn what we stand for. This is a lonesome journey if done right.

But how can they, and how can we, become those independent thinkers and successful leaders? For starters…

Popularity: 63% [?]

 

Every country on Earth is reforming education and learning.

21 Oct

Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, gave an enlightening talk about education reform around the world. Education reform is happening less through legislation, and more through an awakening of what creativity, knowledge-gathering, and motivation really are.

Education reform is a critical topic as Thomas Friedman (of the NYTimes and ‘The World is Flat’) recently opined that, ‘America’s core competency is is ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent.

Is that competency in danger? Are other countries struggling as well?

Sir Ken Robinson challenges a few key assumptions that stem from the intellectual culture of the  Enlightenment and the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Why do we batch students by age or year? Shouldn’t we batch students by their respective skill in a certain topic?
  • Why do we educate students in the same class sizes? Don’t some learn better in large groups, small groups, or even alone?
  • Why are all students forced to learn during the same hours? Some students are geared towards morning, afternoon, or evening learning.

The most alarming statistic Sir Ken Robinson provides is from a study on divergent thinking published in Breakpoint and Beyond. Divergent thinking is the ability to think of many answers to a specific problem… this is the first step to problem solving… before we get analytical and make THE BEST decision (this latter process if where business education focuses today). 98% of 1500 kindergartners scored at the genius level for divergent thinking. Their scores went down as they progressed in the education system.

What examples have you seen of successful education reform? What programs are creating vibrant students who are making a difference in the world?

Related:

Popularity: 37% [?]

 

Ten Things Milton Glaser Has Learned, and is willing to teach.

01 Oct

I read Ten Things I Have Learned by Milton Glaser last night. Here is my favorite, an embodiment of how living creatively changes everything. Drawing is an easy way to get started.

7
HOW YOU LIVE CHANGES YOUR BRAIN.
The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how – that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us? We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behaviour. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.


A few books by Milton Glaser you should check out to learn more… Drawing is Thinking & Art is Work.

Popularity: 15% [?]

 

Art and design can help solve problems in any industry.

29 Sep

John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design and author of The Laws of Simplicity, has always been an advocate of applying art and design in nontraditional settings. In the quick video below, John explains how a creative background can help individuals succeed in tackling problems other skillsets may struggle with. This is Diversity of Thought in action, a key tenet of Drawing Down the Vision.

“Artists are able to imagine so well. Designers can also organize so clearly. This species of mind can be leveraged in the sciences and business in new ways.” – John Maeda

via The Economist, The Ideas Economy

Popularity: 13% [?]

 

Creativity can be taught: Averting the Creativity Crisis.

17 Aug

Newsweek recently ran an article titled, ‘The Creativity Crisis.’

The authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman describe how America’s K-6 students are scoring dramatically lower in their Creativity Quotient (QC). This is startling because the correlation between lifetime creative output (books, software, successful companies…) and QC is three times strong than that for IQ. As we are gearing our schools for rote memorization to raise student IQ, we’re losing focus on their QC… the ability to relearn facts and rethink  problems in our constantly changing world.

The good news is, ‘Creativity can be taught,’ says James C. Kaufman, professor at California State University, San Bernardino. The article states ‘Real improvement doesn’t happen in a weekend workshop. But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.’

The National Inventors Hall of Fame School in Akron, Ohio tramples the limits of American education, the system creating our creativity crisis. 5th graders nationwide are required by curriculum to memorize information about sound waves and practice persuasive writing. The Akron school sets up activities for students to develop solutions to real problems, such as how to limit the noise coming into the library through the street-facing windows. “ ‘You never see our kids saying, ‘I’ll never use this so I don’t need to learn it,’ ‘ says school administrator Maryann Wolowiec. ‘Instead, kids ask, ‘Do we have to leave school now?’ ‘ ”

This is the reason Amy and I started Drawing Down the Vision. The creativity crisis exists not only in America’s lower schools, but also in its most successful companies. Our world is seeing new problem’s never before faced which demand creativity and leadership from all its citizens. While we teach Drawing Down the Vision through our three-hour workshop, it is really just an intro to a process you will apply each and every day of your life to practice and continue living and learning creatively.

We hope our writings here are helping to drive up the world’s QC.

Participants in the study were asked to take blank pages with random shapes and turn them into a story. Here, a bunch of triangles turns into 'James Joyce in a Confessional.'

Popularity: 16% [?]

 

How to avoid the devil in the details.

05 Aug

Here is a fantastic excerpt from ‘Getting Real,’ a simplicity-promoting book by 37Signals. They are one of the most successful software development companies around today… with 20 employees serving the needs of over 3,000,000 users!

I really got over the ‘get into details right away’ attitude after I took some drawing classes…If you begin to draw the details right away you can be sure that the drawing is going to suck. In fact, you are completely missing the point.

You should begin by getting your proportions right for the whole scene. Then you sketch the largest objects in your scene, up to the smallest one. The sketch must be very loose up to this point.

Then you can proceed with shading which consists of bringing volume to life. You begin with only three tones (light, medium, dark). This gives you a tonal sketch. Then for each portion of your drawing you reevaluate three tonal shades and apply them. Do it until the volumes are there (requires multiple iterations)…

Work for large to small. Always.

- Patrick Lafleur, Creation Object Inc. (from Signal v. Noise)

We’ll be posting soon about how to practice the tonal sketching Patrick described.

Popularity: 6% [?]

 

A shift to empirical learning.

18 Jun

I was browsing Forbes 25 Ideas to Change the World… only two seemed to be diametrically opposed to the others. They are fully in line with the way we work here at Drawing Down the Vision.

The first challenge was by world-renowned Graphic Designer, Milton Glaser. His idea is to ‘Suspend Ideology.’

Milton Glaser, Graphic Designer, Suspend Ideology

“What people have to do is to stop believing and begin to observe.” – Milton Glaser

He commented that Art is an instrument to promote Attentiveness. He states, ‘Art is Whatever,’ as long as it challenges us to observe the situation and ask, ‘What is real?” Art is a tool for human survival, and asks us to question what we’re doing, and why. His idea is to help make the most of our lives, living creatively and seeing infinite options at any moment.

In a recent article in Print, Glaser discussed his role models. One of them happened to be a long-time client, a restaurateur, Joseph Baum, who was capable of looking at a common situation afresh. Even when setting a table, he asked, “OK, where on the table should we put the silverware?’” He was inquisitive to the extreme, basing his actions on an understanding of the current moment. He wasn’t a fan of blindly repeating the past. This constant re-basing allowed him to limit time spent living in the ‘Illusion of Explanatory Depth.”

This ever-creative view of the world reminds me of Melissa Pierce’s quote for her new film Life in Perpetual Beta, “Is the planned life worth living?”

The second reverberating idea was by top consultant, Babson educator, & Harvard Sociologist, Thomas Davenport.

Thomas Davenport, Consultant, Slow Down

“We live in a world in which the capability to deliberate is vanishing.” – Thomas Davenport

He spoke of the power of slowing down. He says we’ve lost the ‘gift of deliberation.’ With the ever increasing presence of information in our lives, we believe we are being more effective, but are instead stuck in a ‘productivity churn.’ We need to break away in order to practice true creative problem-solving, to develop a concise understanding of what we are doing, and why.

Entropy is a fundamental law of engineering. It is the measure of how disorganized a system is. The law states that disorganization will only increase in a complex system. We need to find a way to make our worldly system less complex. We control how complex it is through the focus of our efforts.

Both of these fantastic thinkers showcase a shift to learning empirically. They value observations and intuition over the blind trust for the illusory knowledge we have accumulated from a different time, for a different situation. We are educating ourselves to idiocy. We are looking at how we can trust and make sense of all this information with so many hidden assumptions.

So, as we always say, find some time to get away from your work. Try the Low Information Diet. Use your journal and sketchpad as a way to practice attentiveness, to deliberate on the myriad things you can do every day of your life. Commit to do those things which are fundamentally important to the well-being of you and your community.

Be breakthrough, not busy.

As always, please share any thoughts or tangential articles!

Popularity: 36% [?]

 

The Power of Play

15 Jun

“The most successful people in here have rich hobbies out in the world.” – P&G CEO Bob McDonald

Some of the most successful and creative people I know are also the most playful.

An old friend from our days in the military is now an extremely successful professional. Years ago, Chris was ever the prankster, mixing fun and laughter in to the stresses of day-to-day Navy life.  Eventually his entrepreneurial success afforded him the opportunity to travel the world and develop his photography practice. It began as a simple hobby, but is now his professional work.  The secret to his success is his sense of wonder in the world.  Chris still maintains that playful spirit.

Another successful professional who knows the value of play time is designer Stefan Sagmeister.  He has an unusual approach to productivity. He takes an entire year off every seven years.  He explains that it’s as if he takes five years of his retirement and intersperses them into his working adulthood.  This period off is a lot of fun, tremendously re-invigorating and affords him the opportunity to pursue the ideas he didn’t have time for. Most of the projects he does in the next seven years come from that single year ‘away.’

Like most people, my family and I don’t yet have the freedom to just take a year off to nurture new ideas or to do as much traveling as these adventurers do.  That said, we do play – a lot!  We have music and our love of the outdoors, especially kayaking.  We travel as often as we can on simple road trips or further afield when we can find the time and funds.  We make play time a priority.

In these unsure economic times, it is not only vital to work as hard as we can but also to play hard.  Fostering a sense of play feeds you as a person which makes you better at your job, whether you are a business person or an artist.  What do you do for play?

Popularity: 4% [?]

 

How changing your perspective changes your results.

10 Jun

Drawing is all about relationships, as is business. In order to succeed in either, we need to see the big picture while also seeing the details which comprise it. Unless we spend time working from multiple perspectives, we’ll always see the same picture, and jump to the same conclusions, and deliver the same results.

Practicing drawing allows us to permanently change the way we think in business scenarios. This is our brains’ neuroplasticity reacting to our intellectual needs. “[Drawing] requires that one confronts and deals with paradoxes. For example, we can know that a ceiling is flat and the corner is a right angle. But on the picture plane, the edges of the ceiling are not horizontal and the corner angles are not right angles at all.” – Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Through drawing, we are forced to practice whole brain thinking… comparing what we know and what we see to deliver a defined result. Let’s get started with an example.

Here is my original sketch. I was doing a mental sketch of a horse and elephant, pretty basic. Analyzing my sketch, you can see that I understand:

  • that a horse is smaller than an elephant,
  • both have four legs, and
  • elephants have a funny little tuft at the end, well suited for swatting flies in Disney movies.

Despite my practice drawing, my results continue to be the same when I don’t truly examine the object I’m drawing, and how all its components relate.

Luckily… I found a horse who was very eager to be my subject matter. (It may be more of a mule or colt, judging the size.)

Once I had a specimen which I could observe to evaluate the relationships of all the components (hooves, tail, mane, body)… my sketches became a bit better. You can see that I included additional details my original sketch didn’t, such as the defined muscles. However, I was still having a hard time breaking from the mental model in my head, an animal with a mane, tail, and four legs which was facing to the right. In order to change my results, I needed to change my perspective and challenge those paradoxes.

Luckily, I found an elephant. I couldn’t fit them both in my sketch easily, a happy accident, so I decided to change up the perspective, and sketch them straight on. A fearsome duo for sure.

Here you can see horses #4 and #5, before I changed my perspective. Notice however, the dramatic difference between the new horse and elephant (below the line) and the earlier sketches. From this new perspective, I had no Disney summary stuck in my head of what a true horse sketch should look like. I had no assumptions to fall back on. I had to really see my subject and analyze the relationships of all the components to create the final drawing.

I was astounded by the changes, so I figured I’d try it again. This time from the backside.

Again, I was very surprised with the turnout. Much better than when I first began sketching a horse 15 minutes earlier. It was my first horse sketching experience, and I’ll try again on a real horse sometime.

In business, we are forced to move fast and race onto the next project. Problem, Solution, Check, Done!

Einstein has a fantastic quote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Spend that extra 20% of time on a project. Think it through, especially once you think you’ve got it figured out. Try to draw and redraw your conclusions. Visualize your business problem, and ask others what they think. You’ll learn that the relationships you initially define of people, places and things in your work may be a bit off, and you’ll be glad you learned sooner rather than later.

Also, try drawing an object from memory, and then from sight. Change the perspective.

Share your thoughts below!

Popularity: 63% [?]

 

Balance

08 Jun

It’s a fast paced world we live and work in nowadays.  We are constantly berated by information and data points that warrant our interest and demand our attention.  Two recent reports by NPR and the New York Times looked at the issue of endless access to technology and the impact it has on our brains according to recent research.

Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows is the subject of the NPR story, began to take a hard look at his own inability to concentrate when he realized that the more online time he spent, the more difficulty he had in reading a long article or sitting for a good long while with a book.  The work that started as an article in the Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, has now become The Shallows, where Carr investigates what the internet is doing to our brains.

“…Carr argues that even if people get better at hopping from page to page [on the internet], they will still be losing their abilities to employ a ‘slower, more contemplative mode of thought.’ He says research shows that as people get better at multitasking, they ‘become less creative in their thinking.’”

It is just this ‘slower mode of thought’ where the most creative thinking occurs.

In the New York Times, Matt Richtel’s article, Your Brain On Computers: Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price, follows the Campbell family as they try to keep up with everything technology has to offer without losing themselves in the process.

Both articles speak to what’s great about technology as well as what can be problematic.  In this day and age, someone with the right set up of wireless internet access and personal computer options can work just about anywhere.  No longer are we chained to our desks and telephones during business hours in order to get work done.  In fact, there are no more business hours.  Every hour is business hour.  And that’s the rub.  While technology enables us the freedom to use our time how we may want to, many people find it hard to turn off the computer and smart phones for fear of missing something.  In this heightened state of waiting, we are actually missing the chance for our brains to slip back into a more relaxed state where new ideas can be sown and come to fruition.

Obviously we here at Drawing Down the Vision love a good dose of technology.  Here I sit at my studio computer writing this blog post.  Our access to ever evolving technology and communication options is how our message will ultimately reach the masses.  But we know that in order to center in what will become the next piece of compelling art work or lucrative business idea, we need to unplug and get our pens to paper in our sketchbooks.  By balancing what the modern world has to offer with what creativity needs to flourish, we can ensure that technology will be a tool that we use in our work versus something that changes the way our brains work.

So slow down a little, turn your gadgets off for a few hours.  And draw…

Popularity: 7% [?]

 
 



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