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Month March 2015

{ IDEO U } An Online School To Help You Unlock Your Creative Potential & Build Your Problem-Solving Skills …*

{ IDEO U } An Online School To Help You Unlock Your Creative Potential & Build Your Problem-Solving Skills ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from IDEO U website

 

“Our goal is to take you from learning to doing to affecting change in whatever you do.”

Rethinkers …* delight, there’s an awesome new learning resource from one of our favorite companies: IDEO U. IDEO U is an online school for leaders to build their creative confidence while learning and refining their problem-solving capacities.

There’s no shortage of challenges to tackle in the world. We believe the world needs more creative leaders who can deeply understand diverse needs, think of radical solutions, and confidently experiment their way forward. IDEO U is an online school where leaders can unlock their creative potential and build their problem-solving skills.

Sign up for IDEO U’s very first course, Insights for Innovation, to explore new ways of solving problems. The course, which costs $399, will be open from March 23, 2015 to May 8, 2015. Students will be able to complete the course at their own pace during that time frame. The key takeaway of the course will be:

  • A flexible skill set for uncovering insights
  • Completed work that you can share
  • Tools to help you continue to practice after the course ends

Head over to IDEOU.com to learn more about the school and check out the first course.

learn, do, rethink …*

{ Power Posing } How to use your own body language to change how you feel about yourself…*

In my Visual Explanations course this semester, we learn about how gesture can facilitate cognition.

If you’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy this season (does ANYONE still watch Grey’s Anatomy other than me?), there was an episode this last week about the “superhero pose”. One of the doctors is about to begin an extremely challenging brain surgery, and she decides to hold this pose for 5 minutes prior to boost her confidence and performance.

While the vast amount of medical jargon on this show makes anyone in a medical profession cringe, this bit of information is mostly true. As this Psychology Today article, Superhero Stance, explains, holding a power pose for a few minutes can make people feel more powerful and act that way.

In the cited study, high-power poses included sitting in a chair, arms behind the head, elbows out, and feet up on a desk (like a boss, “relaxing”), and standing in front of a table, legs about a foot apart, leaning forward and hands on the table bearing weight.

This study indicates that not only can our minds change our bodies, but our bodies can change our minds.

superhero

 

Amy Cuddy, one of the researchers in this area, talk about her findings in the TED talk: Your body language shapes who you are. She speaks to the power of gesture and how our nonverbals govern not only how other people think and feel about us but how we think and feel about ourselves.  

She discusses our natural body language reactions to powerful and powerless situations, and suggests that by intentionally placing ourselves in this body language positions, we can enact those feelings of power or powerlessness.

This is a long but interesting talk that I highly recommend. This week, as I begin to collect data in schools for my study, I will definitely be taking on some “power poses” before I start my days!

 

{ Connect & Empathize …* } “Try to be kind because nastiness is always so tempting.”

{ Connect & Empathize ...* } "Try to be kind because nastiness is always so tempting." | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

“Our nervous systems are constructed to be captured by the nervous systems of others, so that we can experience others as if from within their own skin, as well as from within our own.”

–  Daniel Stern, MD & research psychiatrist at the University of Geneva

I’ve had the kind of week that forces one to stop, take a step back from the noise and [re]consider what’s really important: the others. All the beating hearts, pumping, thumping, warm, fearful, hopeful, awed, flawed, glorious and wondrous other beings that give meaning, depth and richness to our lives.

Try to be kind because nastiness is always so tempting.”

. . . * 

{ The Neurochemistry of Flow States } Boosting Creativity, Learning & Motivation …*

The state of flow doesn’t just feel good, it produces quite a powerful cocktail of performance-enhancing neurochemicals. Watch the Big Think video below to find out how flow facilitates and enhances learning, creativity and motivation.

. . . *

Alberto Giacometti on Being In the World As A Rethinker …*

Alberto Giacometti on Being In the World As A Rethinker ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

Naples, 2014 – Artist Unknown …*

 

I’ve been trying to get up earlier recently and to motivate myself to get out of bed before sunrise, I have made the first hour of my day all about play and reflection. I read books that are just for pleasure, I journal, I drink my coffee unhurriedly, I look out into the darkness and listen to the birds begin to stir while my cat purrs besides me. It’s splendid.

This morning I was reading some interviews with Alberto Giacometti, and found the following passage to express splendidly so many aspects of what it means to be in the world as a rethinker …* From being able to live comfortably with the unknown (and the unknowable); being willing to reconstruct anew one’s understanding each day; questioning one’s assumptions daily without letting ego or fear get in the way; not letting one’s ideas and work become too precious; to being able to appreciate the intrinsic joy and inherent rewards of the process. Hope you will be as inspired by this glimpse into Giacometti’s experience as I am 

I do not work to create beautiful paintings or sculpture. Art is only a means of seeing. No matter what I look at, it all surprises and eludes me, and I’m not too sure of what I see. It is too complex. So, we must try to copy simply in order to begin to realize what we are seeing. It’s as if reality were continually behind curtains that one tears away… but there is always another …always one more. But I have the feeling, or the hope, that I am making progress each day. That is what makes me work, compelled to understand the core of life. And to carry on, knowing that the closer one gets to the goal, the further it retreats. The distance between the model and myself tends to increase continually; the closer I get, the further away it moves. It’s an endless search. Every time I work I am prepared to undo without the slightest hesitation the work done the day before, as each day I feel I am seeing further. Basically I now only work for the sensation I get during the process. And if I am then able to see better, if as I leave I see reality slightly differently, deep down, even if the picture doesn’t make much sense or is ruined, in any event I have won. I have won a new sensation, a sensation I had never experienced before. 

Source: Why Am I A Sculptor? – An Interview with André Parinaud

. . . *

{ MAKE ME THINK } Sometimes, Harder Is Worth It – The Link Between Difficulty, Intention & Enjoyment …*

{ MAKE ME THINK } Sometimes, Harder Is Worth It - The Link Between Difficulty, Intention & Enjoyment ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

“I love my camera. I love it even though I took terrible pictures with it for a month. I love it even though I have to adjust the aperture, worry about depth of field and annoy my family while I twiddle with its metal knobs. I love it because it makes me think: about light, colour, composition. I take fewer pictures with it than I take with my phone, but much better ones. And I’m not alone in my love for my camera. While sales of point and shoot technology continue to decline, the market for fiddly manual cameras is growing nicely.” -Brian Millar

I read a thoughtful article on The Guardian the other day, in which its author, Brian Millar, makes an important point about the need to retain some degree of complexity and difficulty in certain realms of existence in an age permeated by “a kind of religious belief summed up in the mantra: don’t make me think.”

When everything around us is designed to be simple, it stops us thinking and takes away the fulfilment and satisfaction that come from mastery

I’m not suggesting that everything should be designed to be more difficult to use. Toilets have a perfectly good user interface, except in Japan (why do Japanese toilets have a remote control? Where else are you going to be when you flush them?). It’s one of the miracles of the modern age that we are able to wield extraordinarily powerful tools without having even to read manuals. However, sometimes designers have a duty to make us think about that power. When we do, we’ll use things better and enjoy them more.

Source: Why We Should Design Things to Be Difficult to Use

Millar highlights an important point about the seemingly inverse relationship between efficiency and intent. As more and more aspects of our daily life become simplified or downright automated, it does seem increasingly important to be intentional about designing prompts for awareness and well, intention, throughout our day. Besides, one of the key components of reaching a flow state (and reaping its numerous emotional and cognitive benefits) is finding that sweet spot where a task challenges us to stretch a bit past our current skill level.

. . . *

Critical elements of the { design thinking mindset…* }

Dominic’s recent post {Inspired} by IDEO is very timely for me, because I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about one of the ideas he mentioned in his post. Dominic writes about design thinking, stating:

when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…

As I mentioned in this post, Can students learn something about failure from the design world?, I have designing a formal research study regarding design mindset and how it relates to classroom motivation and processes outside of the traditional design world. My theory is that students who take on a design mindset will be more persistent in the face of failure and more willing and able to try again when faced with setbacks or difficulty in the classroom. Starting this Thursday, I will be testing my theory in a short week-long study of how design thinking mindset can transfer to math and science learning.

DT4E defines design thinking as “the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge.”  I like this definition a lot. However, I will only have a few class periods in which to instill design mindset into the 7th and 8th graders in my study, so I have been forced to make a more narrow definition of design thinking and really think about what the key elements are. I’ve divided it into two pieces-

1) Permission to fail and 2) The Process of Iteration.

Permission to Fail…*

I believe that the heart of design thinking mindset is permission to fail — the fundamental philosophy that failure is a healthy and natural aspect of the process of learning and design. For my intervention, I will be teaching students the motto “Fail fast, Fail forward”. Those who possess a design mindset are not afraid of failure and recognize that only through failure can one grow a solution from a bad to okay to great. 

Iterate, iterate, iterate…*

The second fundamental tenet of design thinking mindset is this idea of iteration – of repeatedly trying ideas and getting feedback. While this concept is clearly a piece of the design thinking process, I also see it as a mindset. The iterative design thinking process enables someone to come up with innovative solutions to hard problem.

Once one learns and truly embraces this process, it can become a tool to change one’s reaction to negative feedback or setbacks in problem solving. This is where the mindset piece comes in. A person who possesses an iterative mindset will be resilient in the face of setbacks because she knows that she is in the midst of a cyclical process of design. In the face of negative feedback, she will redesign and retest, rather than get stuck or frustrated. 

…*

In the next two weeks, I will be teaching students these two fundamental aspects of design thinking through both lessons and and practice in a tower building task. By cultivating a design mindset, I predict that these students will persist and succeed more in a challenging physics task than students who do not receive design thinking lessons.

Wish me luck! And let me know if you think there are other pieces of the design thinking puzzle that I should include in my lesson.

{ Rethinking Engagement } Cultivating the Rage to Master, Job Crafting & the Impact of Our Environments on Motivation …*

This week had me thinking about motivation and engagement: how do we trigger, cultivate and enhance our level of engagement and that of our students. It started a few weeks ago when reading 7 Secrets Top Athletes Can Teach You About Being The Best At Anything, I learned of a fascinating term coined by psychologist Ellen Winner: RAGE TO MASTER. The rage to master is a term that Winner coined to describe a common trait found amongst child prodigies– an obsessive and insatiable desire to become better at something. I found fairly little more information on this concept and would really appreciate it if any of you could point me to an article or other online resource that gives a bit more context around the term.

Anyway, the reason engagement and motivation emerged as a theme for me this week, is because as I was walking around thinking about the rage to master, I walked past a public school which stopped me dead in my tracks. The building looked so dreadful: square, brown, with heavy meshed bars on the windows, that at first I thought I had stumbled upon a prison. I happened to be thinking about Winner’s Rage to Master at that precise moment, wondering what strategies and influences might help children develop this insatiable desire for improvement, and the contrast between what I was thinking about and this building where students go to learn and flourish every day really took me aback.

I understand that there are issues of safety, especially in places such as Manhattan and that funding is limited, but there must be accessible alternatives to this block of brown and grills that would be more conducive to cultivating passionate engaged students, obsessed with learning and mastery.

. . . *

So how might we go about starting to hack our way to creating more opportunities for increased motivation and engagement? Well, the Association for Psychological Science highlights new research that suggests that Just Feeling Like Part of A Team Increases Motivation on Challenging Tasks

Across five experiments Stanford psychological scientists Priyanka B. Carr and Gregory M. Walton concluded that even subtle suggestions of being part of a team dramatically increased people’s motivation and enjoyment in relation to difficult tasks, leading to greater perseverance and engagement and even higher levels of performance.

“Simply feeling like you’re part of a team of people working on a task makes people more motivated as they take on challenges,” says Walton.

Carr and Walton hypothesized that a sense of working together would fuel intrinsic motivation by turning a tedious task from work into play.

 . . . * 

Earlier this week, my father gave me some interesting prompts for job crafting from the School of Life — Roman Krznaric’s How To Find Fulfilling Work and the 100 Questions: Work Edition Kit:

100 carefully composed questions designed to help you start a conversation about you and your working life. Use them to sharpen your understanding of who you are and what you should be asking of the world of work.

I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, but each morning this week I’ve spent about a half hour picking out some cards and thinking about my answers to the questions. I’ve really enjoyed the exercise, finding that it allows me to think about my work life from completely new angles that I would not have considered on my own. For example, all of the cards are broken up into several categories, and this morning I was reflecting on a prompt about what I would have to do in my working life to make my children proud. Because I’m not at all thinking about any potential future children, this is not a question I would have asked myself nor is it an angle I would have considered when thinking about how to craft my career. Yet, after spending some time with the question this morning, I found it was quite a productive prompt that allowed me to expand how I frame and approach the concept of a meaningful career.

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Some Ideas & Resources to Celebrate World Book Day 2015 …*

Some Ideas & Resources to Celebrate World Book Day 2015 ...* | rethinked.org

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY TO ALL …*

I thought that today I would put together a list of resources and ideas to celebrate books and the people that write them:

Finally, I’m always on the lookout for book suggestions, so please let me know what were the best (however you define best–gripping, thought-provoking, beautiful, heartbreaking, transformative) last five books that you read? Let me know in the comments section below

Mine were (in no particular order):

  1. Maps by Nuruddin Farah
  2. Keeping A Rendezvous by John Berger
  3. A Certain World: A Commonplace Book by W.H. Auden
  4. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
  5. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

read & celebrate . . .

{Inspired} by IDEO…*

I visited with IDEO San Francisco last week in order to work on two new projects with them. As always, it was great to be in their offices and meet various team members. I am really excited to be working with them again. As you may remember, we developed the Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators with them a few years ago.Even though the work is inspiring and interesting, the most interesting thing of working with them are the “meta-lessons” I take away from experiencing their way of working and thinking about things. Here are a few of my inspirations provoked by my recent visit:

  • permission…permission to think creatively, permission to act naturally and be oneself, permission to dream…
  • creativity…they are willing to let down the barriers and just be creative…I think about how many of our workplaces, schools and homes are not supportive of creativity, and yet, developing creative people is one of the greatest challenges we face…”Yes, and…”-the core of improvisation is at the core of the spirit at IDEO
  • optimism…cynicism, irony, unpleasantness are jus too present in our lives. I work in a school because the optimism of young people is contagious…it makes you want to get up every morning and work. This is the spirit of IDEO and positive psychology-frame thing optimistically-you will not only be happier, but you will handle decisions, work and life better…
  • wicked problems…no problem is too big to be taken on…world hunger, creating great schools, improving the lives of older people…we should all take on challenges and turn them into “How might we…?” challenges…
  • design thinking…when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…
  • openness to learning…a lot of us think that learning stops with school or university…we need to be lifelong learners and places like IDEO support that idea of bringing a “beginner’s mind” to everything that we do. It is not that expertise is not important, but intellectual humility is just as important…
  • innovation…I sometimes think that we conceptualize innovation as something grand, something complex and sophisticated, and yet, it can be simple, elegant and modest…read/listen to this inspiring story that is a great metaphor for this idea…

IDEO is a worthy example of a place, a space that we should emulate. It is more than a firm or a design company. It is an experience and mindset. Lots of people want to work there, but the most important lesson is how to take the spirit of IDEO and apply it to our working, to our thinking and to our living.

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