Being Visual: Raising a Generation of Innovative Thinkers

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There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking generating many unique ideas and then convergent thinking combining those ideas into the best result. In the 50 years since Schwarzrock and the others took their tests, scholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies written or implemented , leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

Nobody would argue that Torrance's tasks, which have become the gold standard in creativity assessment, measure creativity perfectly. What's shocking is how incredibly well Torrance's creativity index predicted those kids' creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance's tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers.

Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently reanalyzed Torrance's data. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ. Like intelligence tests, Torrance's test—a minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points.

Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward.

It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is "most serious. The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. Yet it's not just about sustaining our nation's economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care.

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Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others. It's too early to determine conclusively why U.

The 5 Types of Creative Thinkers

One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it's left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there's no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children. Around the world, though, other countries are making creativity development a national priority. In British secondary-school curricula—from science to foreign language—was revamped to emphasize idea generation, and pilot programs have begun using Torrance's test to assess their progress.

The European Union designated as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, holding conferences on the neuroscience of creativity, financing teacher training, and instituting problem-based learning programs—curricula driven by real-world inquiry—for both children and adults. In China there has been widespread education reform to extinguish the drill-and-kill teaching style.

Instead, Chinese schools are also adopting a problem-based learning approach.

Being Visual Raising a Generation of Innovative Thinkers by Bette Fetter Information

Plucker recently toured a number of such schools in Shanghai and Beijing. He was amazed by a boy who, for a class science project, rigged a tracking device for his moped with parts from a cell phone. When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.

But we're racing toward your model, as fast as we can. Overwhelmed by curriculum standards, American teachers warn there's no room in the day for a creativity class. Kids are fortunate if they get an art class once or twice a week. But to scientists, this is a non sequitur, borne out of what University of Georgia's Mark Runco calls "art bias. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.

Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom. The argument that we can't teach creativity because kids already have too much to learn is a false trade-off. Creativity isn't about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. Scholars argue that current curriculum standards can still be met, if taught in a different way.

To understand exactly what should be done requires first understanding the new story emerging from neuroscience. The lore of pop psychology is that creativity occurs on the right side of the brain. But we now know that if you tried to be creative using only the right side of your brain, it'd be like living with ideas perpetually at the tip of your tongue, just beyond reach.

When you try to solve a problem, you begin by concentrating on obvious facts and familiar solutions, to see if the answer lies there. This is a mostly left-brain stage of attack. If the answer doesn't come, the right and left hemispheres of the brain activate together. Neural networks on the right side scan remote memories that could be vaguely relevant. A wide range of distant information that is normally tuned out becomes available to the left hemisphere, which searches for unseen patterns, alternative meanings, and high-level abstractions.

Having glimpsed such a connection, the left brain must quickly lock in on it before it escapes. The attention system must radically reverse gears, going from defocused attention to extremely focused attention. In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness.

This is the "aha! Now the brain must evaluate the idea it just generated.


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Is it worth pursuing? Creativity requires constant shifting, blender pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas. Highly creative people are very good at marshaling their brains into bilateral mode, and the more creative they are, the more they dual-activate. Is this learnable? Well, think of it like basketball. Being tall does help to be a pro basketball player, but the rest of us can still get quite good at the sport through practice.

In the same way, there are certain innate features of the brain that make some people naturally prone to divergent thinking. But convergent thinking and focused attention are necessary, too, and those require different neural gifts. Crucially, rapidly shifting between these modes is a top-down function under your mental control.

University of New Mexico neuroscientist Rex Jung has concluded that those who diligently practice creative activities learn to recruit their brains' creative networks quicker and better.

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A lifetime of consistent habits gradually changes the neurological pattern. A fine example of this emerged in January of this year, with release of a study by University of Western Ontario neuroscientist Daniel Ansari and Harvard's Aaron Berkowitz, who studies music cognition. They put Dartmouth music majors and nonmusicians in an fMRI scanner, giving participants a one-handed fiber-optic keyboard to play melodies on.

Sometimes melodies were rehearsed; other times they were creatively improvised. During improvisation, the highly trained music majors used their brains in a way the nonmusicians could not: they deactivated their right-temporoparietal junction. Normally, the r-TPJ reads incoming stimuli, sorting the stream for relevance. By turning that off, the musicians blocked out all distraction. They hit an extra gear of concentration, allowing them to work with the notes and create music spontaneously. Charles Limb of Johns Hopkins has found a similar pattern with jazz musicians, and Austrian researchers observed it with professional dancers visualizing an improvised dance.

Ansari and Berkowitz now believe the same is true for orators, comedians, and athletes improvising in games. The good news is that creativity training that aligns with the new science works surprisingly well. The University of Oklahoma, the University of Georgia, and Taiwan's National Chengchi University each independently conducted a large-scale analysis of such programs.

Use innovation to grow your business

All three teams of scholars concluded that creativity training can have a strong effect. What's common about successful programs is they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages. Real improvement doesn't happen in a weekend workshop.

But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves. So what does this mean for America's standards-obsessed schools? The key is in how kids work through the vast catalog of information. Mindful of Ohio's curriculum requirements, the school's teachers came up with a project for the fifth graders: figure out how to reduce the noise in the library. Next, consider what taking a particular innovative step could mean for your business. Ask yourself:. Suppliers, business partners and business network contacts can all make valuable contributions to the creative process, as well as providing support and encouragement.

To get the most from them, you need to create an innovative environment and encourage creative thinking. There are a number of ways you can fund your growth through innovation, either by using your own funds or tapping into external funding such as loans or equity finance. However, any route to external funding will need a high-quality business plan that describes your business and sets out detailed forecasts of where it's going.

Businesses often turn to their banks for a line of credit or loans for additional finance, depending on their borrowing needs.


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If you're willing to relinquish some control of your business to external investors, you could consider using equity finance. The two main routes for this are investment from business angels and venture capital firms:. You may also wish to consider applying for a government program. This will only usually cover part of your project, but you will retain control of the shares in your business. Small and medium-sized businesses can claim tax refunds and credits on appropriate research and development spending.

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Click on one of the two buttons to access the content you wish to view. Guide Use innovation to grow your business Share on:. The business case for innovation Approaches to innovation Planning innovation Encourage innovation in your business Funding innovation. Make sure you have processes and events to capture ideas. For example, you could set up suggestion boxes around the workplace or hold regular workshops or occasional company away days to brainstorm ideas.

Create a supportive atmosphere in which people feel free to express their ideas without the risk of criticism or ridicule. Encourage risk taking and experimentation - don't penalise people who try new ideas that fail. Promote openness between individuals and teams. Good ideas and knowledge in one part of your business should be shared with others. Teamwork, newsletters and intranets can all help your people share information and encourage innovation. Stress that people at all levels of the business share responsibility for innovation, so everybody feels involved in taking the business forward.

The fewer the layers of management or decision making in your organisation, the more people feel their ideas matter. Reward innovation and celebrate success. Appropriate incentives can play a significant role in encouraging staff to think creatively. Look for imagination and creativity when recruiting new employees. Remember that innovative thinkers aren't always those with the most impressive list of qualifications.

Venture capital firms provide higher levels of investment in return for shares in the business. Share on:. Need help? Our qualified agents can help you. Contact us! Our Services Telephone: Create my account.

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