Monday, December 20, 2010

Commentary: On Creativity and Sustainable Restaurants

By Lori Sandefur
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
TED: Arthur Potts Dawson: A vision for sustainable restaurants
If you've been in a restaurant kitchen, you've seen how much food, water and energy can be wasted there. Chef Arthur Potts-Dawson shares his very personal vision for drastically reducing restaurant, and supermarket, waste -- creating recycling, composting, sustainable engines for good (and good food).

The title initially caught my eye because of the two classes that we attended at Billings Forge Community Works in Hartford, Connecticut. After watching the video, I was impressed with Arthur Potts Dawson and his vision for not only sustainable food being served in his restaurants, but also that the restaurant should be sustainable as well.

He puts a lot of emphasis on what he refers to as the Four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Refuse and Recycle. He also states that, “everything in nature is used up in a closed continuous cycle with waste being the end of the beginning.” He focuses on trying to connect the “community” of London to the rural food growers.

If everyone could practice even a fraction of this at home and at work, think what a tremendous impact this would have collectively on our environment. The hardest part is initially making the commitment, then starting it and continuing it until it becomes almost automatic.

I am going to try to start going to the indoor farmer’s market at Billings Forge on Thursday afternoons. Even if I start out going every other week, I hope that it will eventually turn into a weekly visit. I am also thinking about giving another try at gardening. Again, the key for me is to start small (and manageable). Every bit helps.
By Maria E. Zapata
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
TED: Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge
Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life's most valuable lesson: "I can." Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents.

This is an amazing story and I really like the way she is using the word contagious. We need to be contagious with education, setting it  up as priority for the new generations. Education is the number one key to succeeding in life.

The kids are spontaneous and they have fabulous ideas and creativity but most of the time we burn those ideas and creativity because we set up a pattern for them, always telling them the way to do things. We need to trust them, letting them explore and follow their curiosity. Like Kiran Sethi said: “ We need to trust the kids. They will take the power and they will do much better."

We have to spread out the creativity, letting everybody use his or her own way, ideas, curiosity and the new world will be better and happier.

"It is possible to organize cities to teach usefulness, social responsibility, ecological skill, the values of good work, and the higher possibilities of adulthood." (Kiran Sethi)

Commentary: On Creativity and Marijuana, the Money Maker

By Jason Ynostroza
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed: TBA

Marijuana. The very word can bring about a heated discussion about drugs, addiction, crime and money. There are reasons that both sides have about the issue that could persuasively convince a group of people to think in their favor. Instead of arguing about why it's a bad drug, we should be arguing about how it could affect a state's economy. People should be fighting over where the extra money could go and how we can use it, not about its effects on a person. If people were really that concerned about a population's well-being, then alcohol and tobacco would be illegal, as well.

I watched two short clips on the economic benefit that marijuana could have on the State of California. There were very interesting facts and figures, but I knew they were biased because of the favor that it showed to one side. Even though the facts were biased, they were very eye opening. Both videos mention the amount of money marijuana brings in to the state's economy from medicinal users alone -- $15 billion with $1.5 billion in returns in tax revenues. This is a lot of money for a state with such a high deficit. Without this money, where would California's economy be right now?

Connecticut, much like Northern California, has plenty of rich farmland. Our state's staple crop was tobacco for a very long time. Why not have those farms converted into pot fields? The video stated that in the rich soil in Northern California grows some of the best pot in the country. If marijuana were to be legalized, farmers would be able to grow there a lot more comfortably. This would save even more money for the state. California spends a countless amount of money on their Criminal Justice system and on the criminals that are caught growing and possessing marijuana illegally. We in Connecticut could have saved more than $119 million if we didn't arrest anyone for pot possession in 2006.

Both California and Connecticut could creatively put the money that they would earn from marijuana back into their state's economy. One of the videos stated that there is a college that teaches people how to grow pot and capitalize on the industry. A college like that could pump out entrepreneurs that can revitalize a struggling economy. Another clip mentioned a sales tax on legalized recreational use can pay for the salaries of 20,000 California teachers. Connecticut could put the money that they would earn into many positive programs in urban areas. They could pay for fuel assistance during the cold winter months. Struggling school districts can get the money they need to revitalize their schools and buy supplies they need. California's over-crowded prison population could be cut significantly if all the pot offenders were given another chance in society.

Marijuana is a money maker. There are no questions about it. If people could just agree on the positive impact marijuana could have on our society then we can move onto the next step of actually making money. That money in turn can start the process of digging this country out of our debt.

Commentary: On Creativity, Music and Technology

By RJ Sisca
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
Peter Sassmannshausen/FUNKYSASSMANN - July 11, 2010: Official winner of the Sony Make.Believe Music Experience Competition.
I entered because it was a great opportunity to be creative and to learn how to produce a music video, although this is the first experience making a video whether i won or not it didn't matter, it has been awesome. This was what i had in mind: The 'Creativity Module' measures the amount of creative elements in ones life, in the clip the subject being tested is me. Enjoy!

This video shows how technology can be used to create music -- that one guy creates an entire band using just himself and a computer module. Creating music is a way people expresses themselves. However, there are pros and cons on using technology to create music. Music no doubt has come a very long way in just a short period of time. Although computers are a way of life, it is how we use them to enhance our work or, perhaps, to become more lazy doing the work.

The video shows one guy with many different instruments ranging from keyboards to snare drums. As the music starts, different instruments are used one by one, and the guy uses himself to start playing. As the song goes on, he ends up cloning himself to play more and more instruments. By being able to use a music computer module, the person is able to incorporate different beats, as well as other instruments to create the song. Recording studios, even small ones, use all kind of computers and ways to have one person be the band while recording the song. This seems to be very cost effective and provides more options for creating songs. Yet some may argue that using computers may limit the true creativity of music. In my view, computers and other music modules enhance a singer/songwriter to come up with a unique perspective on the song they are trying to achieve. Also, with the equipment we have today, we are able to take older songs and clean them up. By cleaning up and remastering songs from 50 to 70 years ago, we are able to preserve them, as well as let a new generation of listeners enjoy true music.

What are the cons of using computers to enhance music? Some may argue that the music is not pure or authentic. In the days of Sinatra and Elvis, no one dreamed of the possibilities that music can achieve today. For some people, hearing that snap, crackle and pop on a song takes them back to their glory days. You don't need tens of thousands of dollars to create music -- any person can create music out of anything. Just by clapping your hands or banging on a wall you are able to create music. Yet if you want to be a rock star, you are going to need the digital equipment of some sort.

Again, a lot of people will argue that technology and music limits creativity. I truly think that the technology we have helps bring music together. With the technology we have today, we are able to take singers from different generations and perhaps create a unique duet. Imagine a song being sung by Micheal Jackson and Richie Valens. Two different people that made it big at two different time periods. That's what technology can do with music today. No matter what, there will always be remakes of older songs, but the singers haven't forgot the pioneers of the music world, as well.

Commentary: On Creativity and Motivation

By Daniela Petosa
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
TED: Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation
Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories -- and maybe, a way forward.

Dan strongly believes in incentive design or rewarding employees for their performance. He explains extrinsic motivation and that it works -- depending on the situation. He references a concept known as the Candle Problem. He describes how motivation is being free to be creative and flexible. It is natural as humans to feel motivated with an incentive. Dan makes a compelling case on why we need to change our ways. He states that some rewards work well for some and not others. Some rewards work well for simple tasks because the mind is concentrated and has a narrow focus while difficult and more complex tasks narrow our minds and restrict possibility. He mentions that the more difficult tasks should not be over looked by keeping our minds restricted and to be open in our peripherals.

Dan believes there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. He believes the science of motivation: “As long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance, but once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance.” He claims that this isn’t a feeling or a philosophy, but a fact. He divides the brain and categorizes people such as programmers and accountants as left-brain thinkers, while the right-brain thinkers as more creative. Organizations today outsource left-brain tasks overseas because it is easy to automate these activities, while the right-brain individuals have their own candle problem they are facing. Organizations are based on assumptions that are outdated. The solution is not to do more of the wrong things. “We find that financial incentives ... can result in a negative impact on overall performance.” Management is an invention that doesn’t last. To utilize management is to engage in self direction which works the best. To strengthen a business and solve candle problems, enhance creativity to drive individuals to do things that matter for their own sake. Dan concludes that IF-THEN rewards can destroy creativity. Organizations in the 21st century need to encourage individuals to be themselves. Perhaps the world would be a better place. ...

Overall, the presentation by Dan is correct. He makes a strong, science-based case for rethinking motivation. He does get the big picture right. He says that people would prefer activities where they can pursue three things:
  • Autonomy: People want to have control over their work.
  • Mastery: People want to get better at what they do.
  • Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are.
Top management sets the basic compensation and benefits structure. If that isn't perceived as fair and consistent, then natural, intrinsic motivation won't kick in. I personally applied a reward program at work and added a creative touch to it. I had employees compete amongst each other for prizes and as a result the staff was happier and generated more sales. Organizations need to implement a design where it will both benefit the company, as well as employees. If the employees are happy, the business will succeed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Commentary: On Learning and Creativity

By Matthew Delaney
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
TED: Malcolm Gladwell on Howard Moskowitz and the Reinvention of Spaghetti Sauce
Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink." In this talk, filmed at TED2004, he explains what every business can learn from spaghetti sauce.

In this video, Malcolm Gladwell talks about his hero, psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz, who is most famous for reinventing spaghetti sauce. Malcolm goes into great detail about Howard's start-up consulting firm and how he was first hired by Pepsi to help find the right amount of aspartame to put into Diet Pepsi for the benefit of sales. Howard found in his studies that there is no "Perfect Pepsi" -- only "Perfect Pepsis," meaning that there are too many variations of preferred taste and preference among people to pigeon hole one perfect type. His findings were immensely vital to the food industry and had an instant impact on how food was created, sold and marketed -- most significantly with spaghetti sauce. However, his true findings were in the diversity of the preferences of Human Kind. As Gladwell states: "Where embracing the diversity of human beings, you will find a sure way to true happiness."

This speech is a wonderful example of how the creative process, in any problem-solving event, can take the solution of a simple problem, on a small scale, and develop it into a possible solution or idea that could spark change on a much greater level. As Biological Matter, we are connected to our surroundings physiologically and every part of our environment is as much a part of us as we are of it. That being said, where as, on a sub-atomic level, the smallest bit of change can start a domino effect that can cause a noticeable change in our lives as we know them, a change in the life of a single person can have the same effect on the world in which we live. As mathematics has proven, any given formula will have the same solution on any scale as long as the ratio of the parts and variables in that formula are constant. Using your creativity to overcome a problem in the smallest form could ultimately become the solution to a problem that could change the world for the better. One might not even realize they have sparked this level of change.

Howard Moskowitz was immersed in his work to find the right flavor of foods. However, his idea influenced Malcolm Gladwell, a well-known writer, teacher and great thinker of this generation. Being a best-selling author and journalist, Gladwell has the ability to reach millions with his thoughts and ideas. In the case of this video, Malcolm is speaking on the ideas of Moskowitz, as well as his interpretations of those findings, to millions. Thus, having an influence and a continuing domino effect on all who view this video. These viewers are influenced by what Gladwell is teaching.

Creativity, along with hard work, perseverance and determination, is vital to the natural progression and evolution of Human Kind. There must always be an embryo status to the creative process and that always begins with an idea. Without an idea, perpetuation of all things will continue. If you want to change the way something is on a grand scale or on a Worldly Level, you must begin with a small lab test. It is the thought that we are too insignificant to make change that hinders our progression. It is the belief that we have no control that damages our social landscape. It is the notion that finds studying the preferences of spaghetti sauce to be insignificant that labels our lives insignificant. Change begins with the creative process. Change begins with you.

"I’m starting with the man in the mirror." – Michael Jackson