A podcast and blog to explode your business and personal creativity.

Exploding Creativity

September 18th, 2012 at 9:50 pm

The Benefits of Music

Allison Morris recently emailed me about a graphic she helped create that describes the benefits of music, found on the on line college.org website. As I wrote in another blog post, I’m not an advertiser for onlinecollege.org or anywhere else, but I’m happy to pass on good information related to creativity. Thank you, Allison, for emailing me.

The webpage with that graphic is titled “Music Makes You Smarter” and is targeted at college students, saying “…a little music therapy … might be the key to acing that next exam” and “Studies show that music has a strong effect on your mood levels and emotions, and also on how you think and your general intelligence.” Check out that webpage for more information about the benefits of music, particularly on taking music lessons and playing a musical instrument.

One statistic there that I got a kick out of was that listeners of Beethoven had higher SAT scores than listeners of Pop, Rock, and Country music styles. I’ve written about Beethoven in this blog and spoke about him a couple of times in podcasts attached to this website; type “Beethoven” in the Search box at the top of this page for more. In fact, in my very first blog entry and podcast, Episode 0: Introduction, I discuss why I use Beethoven music in the intro and outro of the podcasts.

As a related personal note, when I was going for my MSEE back in the 1980s, I would take notes in class in my “scratch” notebooks, scribbling as much as possible, and as part of studying the material at home, re-write my notes in my “clean” notebooks. I tried to present the information in the clean notebooks as clearly and correctly as possible, using different colored pens and pencils, straight edges, and drawing templates, filling out mathematical calculations, using headers and footers, correcting mistakes in my scratch notes, etc. One of the things I’d do while rewriting my notes and doing homework was put a classical album LP on the turntable (this was before CDs) and just let it play over and over while I worked. My Beethoven symphonies and other Bethoven albums got by far the most play.

I loved that. Honestly, I never tired of listening to Beethoven. I don’t know if doing that made me smarter, but as that onlinecollege.org graphic says, I think it did help me study longer and retain more.

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July 26th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thinking Generically

As I was meandering around the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport recently waiting for a connecting flight back home, the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (July/August 2012) caught my eye on a newsstand with a cover story on creativity. There are a couple of articles on creativity in that issue, one of which is on a generic thinking technique which this post is about.

Thinking generically is a way of breaking out of a functional fixedness cognitive bias in which the traditional way of using something is seen as the only way to use that thing, thus limiting new, different, and possibly novel uses for an object.

For example, if someone needed a platform on their charcoal grill in order to cook corn on so the corn is higher from the hot charcoal and won’t burn, someone with a high degree of functional fixedness wouldn’t see that their metal mesh grilling basket that they use to roast vegetables and seafood in could be turned upside down and used as a platform. (Yes, this is a real example of what I needed and did last weekend, and it worked beautifully!)

The Scientific American Mind article describes the two-step technique that Tony McCaffrey developed:

  1. Break down the items at hand into their constituent parts, then
  2. Name the parts generically so that the name doesn’t imply a specific meaning or use of the parts.

One example used in the article is breaking a candle down into wax and string, the trick being that string does not convey the same use as the name wick. A wick is something you light; a string is something you use for a wider variety of things.


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July 23rd, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Creativity Tips for Teachers

Recently, Tim Handorf with BestCollegesOnline.com dropped me an email pointing me to a recent blog post there on 101 Creativity Tips for Teachers. Even if you’re not a teacher check it out. I’m sure you’ll find a number of the tips useful.

The more I read that post the more I like it, too. And no, I’m not a paid advertiser for BestCollegesOnline.com or anywhere else. The ideas are broken into categories:

  • Finding Creative Inspiration
  • Capitalizing on the Creative Spark
  • Inspiring Students
  • The Creative Classroom
  • Creative Activities
  • Sharing and Collaborating
  • Educate Yourself

And then within each category are a number of tips. Many will be familiar to readers of this blog, but it never hurts to refresh a topic with a different perspective. I especially appreciate the focus on the classroom setting and helping students with their creativity. Thanks for the heads-up, Tim!

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July 7th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

ExplodingCreativity.com Email Spoofing

Please be aware that someone is sending emails claiming to be from the explodingcreativity.com domain but which, in fact, are not. This is called email spoofing, where someone creates an email that looks like it’s coming from someone else.

If you receive such an email, DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINK.

This past week I’ve been getting a number of bounced email messages indicating that the original senders are from the explodingcreativity.com domain. The last three emails were sent by Sung <Robt6133B3@explodingcreativity.com>, Ivory <KirbyFAF70@explodingcreativity.com>, and Gordon <Marlon94DC3@explodingcreativity.com>. There is only one defined email address for the explodingcreativity.com domain, there are no Sung, Ivory, or Gordon users or Robt6133B3, KirbyFAF70, or Marlon94DC3 email addresses for explodingcreativity.com, and no email was sent from the explodingcreativity.com domain.

It looks like the originating IP addresses are different and from various places around the world. The emails being sent all have the subject line of Newsletter and are Rich Text formatted. They contain the text “Make a good profit. Get discounts here.” Above that is the line, “If you can’t see this email, click here”, which is linked to various Russian URLs (with the .ru domain extension), which all are for the same website hawking various drugs.

The links to the Russian websites contain identifying information so that the website can track how the person came to the website. Please do not click on any link in these emails.

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December 20th, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Gifts to Spark Creativity

I ran across some articles on educational gifts that might be of interest:

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December 13th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Customer Collaboration, Part 2

Customer Collaboration, Part 1, discussed how a tee-shirt company, Threadless, collaborates with its customers. Part 2 continues this with how Volusion, an “all-in-one” e-commerce site, collaborates with its customers.

April Joyner in the Tapping Customers for Product Ideas article in the November 2010 issue of Inc Magazine describes how Volusion has set up a formal process of soliciting and vetting customer suggestions and the product development based on them. Volusion:

  • Sends out a monthly survey to its customers which includes questions on customer loyalty and which improvements the customer would like to see.
  • Built its own online forum that lets customers submit ideas and vote for the suggestions they like, modeled on Digg.
  • A group of employees from different departments meets each week and evaluates the ideas.
  • Once the group has approved of a new feature, sales and customer service employees follow up with those who made the suggestions and gather additional information for the software developers.
  • Then the software developers start development.


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December 13th, 2011 at 7:49 pm

How to Boost Your Intelligence

If you’re looking to stimulate your brain and increase your mental faculties, read Ways to inflate Your IQ, from the Wall Street Journal November 29, 2011, issue, by Sue Shellenbarger. The things that stood out for me:

  • People whose work involves complex relationships , setting up elaborate systems, or dealing with people or difficult problems tend to perform better on cognitive tests.
  • New tasks stimulate the brain most.
  • Training that involves switching mental tasks quickly aid in cognitive tests. I’m absolutely not a fan of multitasking, but I guess it does have some kind of benefit, at least to the individual, if not the tasks.
  • Music lessons are linked to higher IQ throughout life.


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December 13th, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Dreaming Enhances Memory

In How To Study, one of the recommendations was “The night before the exam, review the toughest material right before going to bed.”

The December 3-4, 2011, Wall Street Journal article To Sleep, Perchance to Dream–But Why?, by Matt Ridley, answers why.

Ridley writes that recent research on dreams has shown that dreaming is a symptom that our brains are transforming new memories into more permanent memories, giving the memories mental context and extracting their meanings. He writes that people dream throughout sleep, not just in REM sleep, and that non-REM dreams are more literal than REM dreams.

The bottom line is that sleeping improves memory performance.

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December 13th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Executing Cheaters

OK, the title is far more provocative than it needs to be–it’s the combination of two articles that recently caught my eye:

  • Original Sinners from the Wall Street Journal’s December 3-4, 2011, edition
  • Innovation’s Hard Part from Fortune Magazine’s December 6, 2010, issue

The Original Sinners article was about ethics, describing a study that ‘probed’ students’ creativity and intelligence, and then gave them a test in which cheating was an option. The study found that the high scorers on creativity were more likely to cheat than the lower scorers, whereas there was no link between general IQ and the likelihood of cheating.

Hmm…so what are we to think of this?? Are creative people really more prone to be ethically challenged? Are creative people more likely to be risk takers, and cheating a risk they are more likely to take if given the chance? Are creative people creative about their concept of ethics and more likely to bend their ethics under certain circumstances? Is the experiment described really even valid?

As I was pondering these questions, the Fortune Magazine article caught my attention. (I save magazines for a year and then re-read them before tossing them in to the recycling container.) Innovation’s Hard Part is a book review of The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. I’m sure they make more points in their book, but the very thin book review says the authors show that innovative ideas get more attention than they’re due, and the hard part is executing on them.

So that got me thinking that maybe the creative students considered cheating a short-cut to execution (the end result, in this case being filled-in bubbles on a question form). Or maybe creative people are more lazy than others and instead of expending the energy to master something and execute on something, when the end-result appears they’re more likely to take the short cut. I don’t know.

I do know, though, you have to be careful who you do business with. Diversification is fine, but it’s important to have the same values.

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November 10th, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Successfully Failing

Failure’s relationship to creativity has been discussed in this blog several times before — expecting, tolerating, embracing, and learning from failure. The October 29, 2011, Wall Street Journal article, The Art Of Failing Successfully, by Jonah Lehrer, provides a more scientific look at learning from failure.

Lehrer writes that people experience two distinct reactions to failure. The first one is a mostly involuntary reaction, called Error-Related Negativity, that appears about 50 milliseconds after the failure. The second one is called Error Positivity, and happens when we dwell upon the disappointing result.

We learn most from failure when our Negativity response is large, meaning the reaction to the failure was strong, and when our Positivity response is consistent, meaning we focus on the failure and are trying to learn from it.

Our Negativity response may be more automated, but how we think of things greatly controls our Positivity response. If our mindset is one in which we think we can learn from failure (a growth mindset), obviously that helps us in this type of situation. If our mindset is one in which we think mistakes happen as a result of stupidity and nothing can be done about them (a fixed mindset), that does not help us learn from failure.

Lehrer writes about an interesting experiment that showed that if people were praised for being smart, they tended towards a fixed mindset, and if they were praised for their effort they tended towards a growth mindset. That reminded me of a company I worked at years ago where a senior manager told everyone at the company that the company would not reward people for their efforts, only for their results. That company no longer exists today.

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