A Crash Course on Creativity!

Where do ideas come from?

Creativity is looked at as the engine to bring ideas, but also most of us think creativity is an epiphany, where some will get it, while others will not!

What if I told that creativity is something that every one of us can learn, its only a matter to understanding its underlying framework and how to unlock it.

Creativity is more than imagination!

How can we understand creativity as persons and how can we enable it in the world we live in? This is the topic of this fascinating course provided by Tina Seelig the Stanford professor, who has spent the last 13 years or so looking for the answer to the question, how we can unlock creativity?

Most of the efforts in the course where in the psychical group sessions (+videos) as we have formulated as team of 5 from the same location to carry on the assignments. The team was called Alien Team, just in case we pumped in the name below 🙂

5 + 5 = ?

Can you solve this equations? The answer may be obvious as we learned in school that there is only one right answer to this problem, but what if we looked at the equation in this way (? + ? = 10)! Suddenly we have infinite numbers of answers that we can suggest!

What happen is that we have changed our perspective of the problem and this helped spared our imagination.

Click on the image to watch the video!

Click on the image to watch the video!

The innovation engine

The innovation engine as called by Tina Seelig is an, its a way to open the aperture and avoid look at creativity in a very narrow way. 

The Innovation Engine

The Innovation Engine

Innovation engine is what we need to unlock our creativity! It’s a way to have a fresh look at creativity and to decompose it to elements that we can try to understand, create and grow.

The parts in inside of our innovation engine are knowledge, imagination, and attitude:

  • Knowledge provides the fuel for your imagination
  • Imagination is the catalyst for the transformation of knowledge into new ideas
  • Attitude is the spark that sets the innovation engine in motion

Looking outside our innovation engine we, see resources, habitat, and culture.

  • Resources are all the assets in your community.
  • Habitats includes the people on your team, the rules, rewards, and the physical space.
  • Culture is the collective beliefs, values, and behaviors in your community.

The following video gives you a nicer explanation about the innovation engine from Tina, so don’t miss it!

Seeing old things in a new way!

When we used to look at things in a way, we tend to create patterns that unlock us from seeing other alternatives.

A creative persons is someone who always on the look for what’s new in what’s old, its just a matter of changing the perspective. This can only happen by unlocking the power of observation, which is is an active process that help us gain knowledge and find solutions to problems we have.

An experiment was done by Richard Wiseman where he invited people to count the number of images in a newspaper. He then invited people how thought they are luck and those how are not! What happend is that people who are thought they are not lucky started counting the images in the newspaper and reported the number after couple of minutes.

Going back to the newspaper, it was not any ordinary newspaper! The front page had banner with big font saying “Stop reading the newspaper, there are 43 images in it”. People how thought they are lucky, looked beyond the question and reported the answer in matter of seconds.

Sometimes solutions to our problem are hidden in plain sight! Its just a matter of changing how we look at the world, and this is where new opportunities can be unlocked!

Connect and combine!

Pablo Picasso is claimed to have said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”! 

Most of innovations result from building upon existing ideas, and connecting and combining them in unexpected ways! That’s why connecting unexpected people, places, objects, and ideas can provide boost to innovation.

We had the assignment as team to find two objects and connect them in a new way, the results? See for your self!

One very video that shows you how connecting and combining can bring creativity is the video in titled “Elements of Creativity“, enjoy it by watching clicking on the image below!


Click on the image to watch the video!

Reframing problems

Finding the proper question to ask is the main element of finding solutions to problem. Being able to question and reframe problems can help us change our point of view.

Asking questions is a key to find and unlock new potentials.

If I asked you to build me a bridge, your immediate answer maybe I cannot!

But if you started to ask why? you may know that I need to get the other side, and there are many ways to do that. Just by asking why we can find and unlock answers to problems we thought before not solvable.

Can we look at the chewing gum in a new way?

Our team tried to look at how can we use to chewing gum in a new way! We got a lot of ideas from the session, here are the best final nine ideas that we thought it can provide unexpected ways to use a chewing gum can be viewed here!

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 7.03.44 AM 1

Challenging assumptions

The first answers to any problem are not always the best answers. In fact, much better solutions are usually waiting to be unearthed. The best approach to pass the first obvious ideas is brainstorming, brainstorming enables us to get past the first set of ideas pretty quickly and on to those that are much less obvious.

Brainstorming is more like chess, you know the rules but its hard to implement them in reality. The same apply to brainstorm rules like “defer judgment”, its looks easy, but in reality its very hard to do.

When we look at brainstorming we need first to look at WHO is in the room? A brainstorm session is only as good as the people who are coming up with ideas.

Second, WHAT are we brainstorming about? We need to carefully think about the problem you are solving. We have to frame it right to find the best solutions!

Third, WHERE will we brainstorm? We need to create a space that can foster idea generation.

Finally, HOW does a brainstorming session run? We need to make everyone aware of the brainstorming guidelines, how much time you will spend on the session, and what will happen at the end.

Can we talk to animals?

One of the assumptions we have today, animals can not understand us! But what if this is not true?

As a team we created this video (which is a combination of many videos), about a concept called Pet Language Translator. The aim of it is to expand our thinking about how we can bridge the gap between a human language and an animal language.


Mastering the creative mind

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work

To have a creative mind you need to adapt your self to failure. You need to experiment and try many ways till you find what work. Every failure revels a new truth of the world. Successful innovation comes from trying lots of approaches to solve a certain problem, which will result in discarding a lot of ideas, and that is the nature of innovation.

Its also an attitude, some have the fear of being or getting wrong, but those who throw there fears in favor of the fear of missing out, they are the more likely to take large challenges.

More from Tina

The author of the online course Tina Seelig has book on that expand on the subject, titled inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, you can consult it for more information on how to unlock creativity in detailed way.

inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

About the Crash Course on Creativity course

This course was provided as a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) by the Stanford Venture Lab (Now NovoEd). The course was provided in mid 2013 and was held for 6 consecutive weeks.

For more information about the future course schedules and timings, please follow the link for NovoEd web site. Its worth noting that the course name may have been changed, so search for the course based using “Tina Seelig” name 🙂

I have successfully finished this course in June 2013 and the following still image provide a verification of my course completion.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.01.41 AM

About the author

Mussab Sharif, an innovation manager and practitioner in a leading Middle East telecom operator. Having a major of computer engineering and in the process of finishing my MBA specialized in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea university for applied sciences in Espoo, Finland.

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